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Taste & Create: Biryani – From India to Kansas, USA

This was a very exciting Taste & Create  month, as my partner was Simran of
Bombay Foodie.

What a wonderful experience for me … thru Simran I was able to bring a little of
Mumbai, India  to  Gardner, Kansas!

Biryani - a glamouous dish from the Mughlai cuisine.

Biryani - a glamouous dish from the Mughlai cuisine.

Meeta of “What’s for Lunch Honey” , hosts a Monthly Mingle cooking group Simran belongs to.   In April of 2008,  Meeta challenged her members to prepare a glamorous and elegant dish fit for the red carpet as part of the Bollywood theme she had chosen.   Simran chose biryani, a dish from the luxurious Mughlai cuisine.  Biryani is a layered rice dish.  Plain white rice and colored rice (usually colored by using Saffron) is layered with the chosen meat, packed in earthenware dishes and left to slow cook for hours.  Her recipe is a little less time consuming and a recreation of a vegetarian biryani served at a much loved local restaurant.

A regal dish, Mughlai Biryani is fit for a king and was probably eaten by many too.
This makes the perfect one-dish meal … kind of an Indian caserole!

I have included Simran’s recipe and instructions below.  I have added my comments in red to explain how I adapted to the recipe.

The preparation for this biryani starts the previous night. Soak 1/3 cup of black chane overnight. For the uninitiated, black chane are a smallish brown variety of chickpea grown in India.  (I was able to find a small light brown dried chickpea at Whole Foods.  I was unable to determine if they were of the black chane variety.  I covered the chickpeas in cold water and put them in the fridge to soak for 8 hours.)

Boil until done the next morning and drain.   (I used a 3 to 1 ratio of water to soaked chickpeas.  Once they came to a boil, I reduced the heat and let simmer for about 2 hours til softened.)  Also boil 2 potatoes, peel and chop into small cubes.  (I used Yukon gold potatos, diced them into small cubes and boiled until soft.)

You need two cups of long grain basmati rice, cooked one cup at a time.  (I used long grain brown basmati rice and followed the instructions on the package for cooking.)   For the first cup, simply boil rice in 2 cups salted water until done. (I chose to cook the rice with chicken broth.)  Cook the second cup of rice the same way, but also add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder to water. (I added tumeric powder to one of the pans of rice.)  I don’t like saffron myself, but you can always replace turmeric with a few strand of pure saffron.

Now we will make a spicy paste for our filling. This is a rather long list of ingredients, but feel free to add/substitute. I always do!  So you need:
3 medium onions, grated or chopped   (I used sweet, Georgia Vadilia onions.)
1 tbsp chili flakes
1 tbsp coriander seeds (or powder)   (I used powder.)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp sesame seeds   (I used white sesame seeds.)
3 pods garlic, peeled   (I used 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic.)
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder   (I used a wonderful Vietnamese Cassia ground cinnamon.)
4 cloves   (I used 4 whole cloves.)

Heat 1 tbsp ghee and roast all these ingredients until they start giving out a fragrant aroma. (Ghee – is clarified butter.  Whole Foods carrys an organic Ghee, by Purity Farms, that honors a traditional method of cooking pure organic butter to coax out water and milk solids.  What remains is traditional, delicious Ghee — a luxurious, golden, semi-soft spread with a rich buttery taste and aroma.  It can be used in place of butter for cooking, baking or sauteeing.)  Cool and grind to a paste with a little water.  (I put this mixture in a food processor with a bit of water and pulsed to almost a pureed state. I left a little bit of texture.)  Heat 2 tbsp ghee in a pan and fry the paste till the ghee separates.   ( The ghee will start to appear in small puddles on top of this mixture.)  Puree 3 tomatoes and add to the pan.  (I used a 14.5 ounce can of organic plum tomatos and pureed in the food processor. )  Cook until the mixture starts looking fairly dry. Add the boiled chane (chickpeas) and potatoes plus salt to taste and simmer for a few minutes.  (I chose to add some chicken to this mixture.  I roasted chicken thighs and pulled the meat from the bones.)

Now we have all the parts of our biryani, so let’s assemble it.  Grease a shallow round dish with ghee. (Liberally grease the dish.  I used an 8 inch casserole dish, 3.5 inches deep.)  Spread yellow rice to fill 1/3rd of the dish.  (I pressed it down a bit to even out the layer and slightly compact the rice.)  Next, add a layer of the chane/aloo (chickpea, potato mixture) mix and finally top with a layer of white rice. Press down and smoothen the surface, then place in an oven preheated to 180C (350 degrees) for 5-10 minutes. (I baked for the full 10 minutes.)  Remove, unmould and garnish with fried onions.   (I sauteed one half an onion in ghee and reserved for the garnish.)  It’s hot and spicy, so serving plain yogurt alongside the biryani is always a good idea.  (I encountered no problem in unmolding the biryani … came out perfectly!)

Simran, I hope my interpretation of your recipe comes close to the actual dish.    I certainly had a great time researching the Mughlai cuisine, searching for ghee and checking the soaking chickpeas about every hour to see how they were doing!

Biryani ... a layed rice dish.

Biryani ... a layed rice dish.


Look at the beautiful layers!
Look at the beautiful layers!

4 Responses

  1. Wow! You are amazing – this is as close to true Mughlai cuisine as it gets.

    Thanks for picking one of the most difficult, but one of my most loved dishes.

    • I so enjoyed making this dish. I will be watching your blog for more ideas, as I want to now more about this style of cooking! I may be asking you questions along the way. Thank you for the introduction to the Mughlai cuisine. Debbie

  2. Wow, that’s beautiful!

  3. that looks really good. i’d try making it myself except knowng me it’ll end up as a runny yellow inedible pile of mush

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