I shall call this Mutton Biryani – Cyberabadi Biryani for lack of a better name. And I expect you to treat it with respect, just like the Nizams revered their Biryani. It may not be the authentic kachchi Biryani the royalty of Hyderabad is used to having, but quite close.
Close enough for second helpings.
I have many Biryani-loving friends in the real and virtual world – Finely Chopped, who can have biryani for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The very enthusiastic Tojo Roy, who waits and demands that Biryanis be made and posts be written without any delay. And our dear Amarnath Babu who has every right and reason to denounce any attempts towards Hyderabadi cuisine if it isn’t authentic. After all, he has a Blog of Hyderabadi recipes.
I have made this pakki biryani for a dinner tonight and will serve it with some cucumber raita and salad. A glass of red is paired well with a biryani like this.
The basic recipe is from here, though I have tweaked it a bit. So while I document it, you go watch the YouTube video and come back to my post.
For the meat:
1.5 kg goat meat, bone in (you can use lamb, but I wouldn’t recommend chicken)
A little over 1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup fried onions
2 tablespoons green chili paste
2 heaped tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste
Half teaspoon mace powder
Quarter teaspoon cardamom powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
Half teaspoon red chili powder
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
2 black cardamoms, crushed
2-3 green cardamoms, crushed
1 stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
Handful of coarsely chopped mint leaves
Handful of coarsely chopped coriander leaves
Quarter cup vegetable oil
Ask your butcher to cut the goat meat in bigger than regular curry pieces. Lean mean is not needed for biryanis, so its okay to keep some fat on the meat pieces. I would recommend you ask for a baby goat’s shoulder portion.
Find a heavy-bottom pan from your kitchen and transfer the marinated meat into it. Place it on low-medium heat and let it cook for 15 minutes. Once the heat spreads to the pan and the meat starts to show signs of being “cooked”, crank up the heat. This way the yogurt in your meat will not curdle. Add salt.
Cover and cook the meat till it starts falling off the bones. It should take you about 45 minutes to get your meat cooked on medium heat.
While the meat is getting done, we will simultaneously do the rice for the Biryani too.
Ingredients for the Biryani rice are:
3 cups Basmati rice, washed, and soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained in a colander
One and half teaspoons shahi jeera/ black cumin
2 bay leaves
2 black + 2 green cardamoms
1 stick of cinnamon
Half teaspoon grated nutmeg
Half tablespoon desi ghee
Heat water in a big saucepan. Add the whole spices – shahi jeera, bay leaves, cardamoms, cinnamon, nutmeg, ghee and salt.
Boil the water with the spices for about 5-7 minutes and then add the rice. The idea is to extract the fragrance from the spices and infuse it with our rice. The rice takes very little time to cook. Make sure you are stirring it and watching over it all the time. Check a few grains to see if its done. Drain in a colander and keep aside.
Since a pakki biryani is typically layered, we will ready the ingredients ahead in time and not wait till the meat and rice is done. The essential item for layering any biryani is – crispy fried slivers of red onion. Some biryanis also have boiled potatoes and eggs in between. I did not want to use eggs in this Biryani today, but since I did have a few baby potatoes, I thought they’d go well.
Ingredients for Layering are:
2 medium size red onions, very thinly sliced
1 or 2 potatoes, boiled and peeled
Fresh mint leaves, torn
Saffron strands, soaked in warm water
Few drops of Kewra essence
Oil for frying the onions
Slice the onions and deep fry them in hot oil to get a caramelized color on them, remove with slotted spoon.
I boiled the baby potatoes, peeled and fried them for a couple of minutes in the same oil the onions were fried.
The layering of the biryani is the most interesting part of the post-cooking phase.
The thumb rule to layering in pakki biryani is that the base and the top layers always have to be rice.
Here is the sequence I follow for my pakki biryani – rice, meat (without any of its gravy), fried onions, potatoes, mint leaves, little drizzle of saffron and kewra, and then rice again. Complete the layering when you have used all the meat and rice. Remember to garnish with mint leaves and fried onions and saffron and drops of kewra on the top.
Save the gravy to be served with the biryani later.
Keep covered. You can heat the biryani vessel on your stove top by place a pan or a tava at the bottom, so that the base of the vessel does not come in direct contact with heat. If the bowl is microwaveable, you can of course microwave!