Everyone loves good biryani - aromatic rice layered with soft and juicy chicken, mutton or vegetables. No wonder it's often served at different festivals and celebrations. Making biryani is quite a time consuming process so most of the time we end up ordering it from a local restaurant rather than cooking it at home. There is simply not enough time left at the end of a working day. But once in a while, when you are expecting a dear guest or simply for a family dinner on a weekend or a holiday it's worth all the work. I really enjoyed making this biryani with all the lovely aromas at every step of it. It's one of my husband's family recipes that everyone was raving about. It was a bit different from biryani I tasted before, maybe it is a Kerala recipe, but it was absolutely delicious!
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1. Mix chicken pieces with yogurt, turmeric and salt and let it marinate while getting other ingredients ready.
2. Chicken will be the tastiest and softest if you cook it in a pressure cooker. [If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can make it in a regular pot as well, just cook it for a longer time until chicken is done.] Heat some oil in a pressure cooker and first fry 4 cardamon pods, 3 cloves, 5 cinnamon pieces and bay leaves until the spices release their lovely aroma.
3. Add 3 of the chopped onions and fry it very well on a high heat. When the onion starts browning, add the garlic, ginger and green chillies and fry for another minute.
4. Next, take out the marinated chicken pieces, add them to the pot and fry them evenly on all sides for just a few minutes before adding the yogurt, in which they were being marinated. Finally, pour a little bit of water, cover the pressure cooker and let it cook for 5 minutes after the first whistle. Remove the pressure cooker from the heat, let it cool down a little bit and open it carefully. Strain the juices from the chicken pieces and onions with all the spices (should be about 1.5 cup of liquid) and keep it all aside.
5. While the chicken is cooking, you can start making the rice. Heat some oil in a pot and first fry the rest of the spices (cardamon, clove and cinnamon) for a couple of minutes.
6. Add the rest of the chopped onion and fry it well until it browns. Remove a little bit of caramelized onion and keep it aside for garnishing.
7. Finally, add the rice and first fry it until it starts changing the colour (for about 5 minutes), stir it from time to time so that it doesn't burn at the bottom. Pour 1.5 cup of water, sprinkle some salt, bring it to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer until the water evaporates. Then pour the juices you separated from the cooked chicken, cover it again and let it simmer until the water evaporates again and rice is done.
8. Preheat the oven to 170-180 C. In a big ceramic or glass dish that can be used in an oven, start layering the biryani: put 1/3 of rice on the bottom, next put half of the chicken pieces and onion with spices, sprinkle with half of chopped mint and coriander leaves and 1 tablespoon of lime/lemon juice. Don't put too much of lime juice as there will be some sourness from the yogurt already. Repeat it one more time and cover it with a top layer of rice. Sprinkle the top with one teaspoon (or as much as you want :o)) of melted ghee/butter.
9. Cover the dish and cook the biryani in an oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve it right away. Just before serving, top it with caramelized onions.