On one such day when I was enjoying my morning tea and CJJ was reading out a few comments I received the previous night, we came across a comment from someone named Liz who introduced herself and said how much she enjoyed my posts and the way she appreciated me, made my day!! She became a regular here and also showed her interest in sharing some of her family favourite recipes with me. In between she kept contacting me through the comment section clearing her doubts on the Blackforest Cake recipe. And one fine day, I received a mail from her with a picture of the Blackforest cake she made, based on the recipe I posted! If you are a food blogger, you can imagine how thrilled and excited I was receiving such a beautiful gift from one of my readers!! The story does not end there, she shared a couple of her family favorite recipes with me and Chicken Biryani was one among them. Liz is married to a Muslim family and when she shared her MIL’s classic Chicken Biryani, that was one more reason to try it out immediately for me who was already on top as this was the first time I received such a gift from one of my readers. I really felt good! Since this Muslim Style Chicken Biryani- Indian Rice flavored with spices and herbs in ghee & layered in curried meat, was a hit at our place, I thought of sharing it with you all. This was a gift for Mishmash! and now this is a gift for you all from Liz:)
Before I go to the recipe writing, let me write something for my non-Indian readers and bloggers. The number of ingredients and the steps involved in cooking might stop you from trying this dish. Cooking Biryani is time consuming and process oriented but it is worth the effort. An easy route to enjoying a Biryani is probably hitting a good Indian restaurant in town, but to relish an authentic Indian Biryani, one has to go through all this process and it is worth the effort, not just because of the taste but the fact that if there is some leftovers, you can enjoy it the next day too and that’s when it tastes the best!! What you might taste from an Indian restaurant is nothing compared to the home cooked authentic Biryani. Recipe follows:
Kerala Muslim Style Chicken Biryani: (Serves 4-5 adults)
Ingredients for cooking rice:
- 4 cups Basmati Rice (I use Tilda )
- 8 cups water or more depending on the cooking method*
- 10 Cloves
- 8 Cardamom pods
- 5-7 small ½” inch long Cinnamon sticks
- 1-2 bay leaves (Optional)
- A handful of fresh mint leaves
- 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Salt to taste
Step 1: To shallow fry the Chicken:
- 1- 1 ¼ kg (Approx. 2 ½ lb) cleaned & cut chicken pieces
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ¾ tsp red chilly powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- Salt to taste
- Oil for shallow frying.
Step 2:A) For the spicy paste:
- 1/3 cup sliced garlic (Approx. 50gms)
- 1/3 cup sliced ginger (Approx. 50gms)
- 20-26 Indian Green chillies (Approx. 75gms) (adjust as per your tolerance level)
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 4 cups thinly sliced big onions (Approx. 300 gms)
- 2 cups chopped or 2 big tomatoes
- ½ cup yoghurt
- ½ - 1 tsp red chilly powder
- 4 tsp coriander powder
- ¾ tsp turmeric powder
- 1/8 cup lightly packed chopped coriander leaves
- ¼ cup lightly packed chopped mint leaves
- 10 cloves
- 8 cardamom pods
- 3-4 small 1” inch long Cinnamon sticks
- ½ tsp Shajeera
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 6 mace
- 15 whole cashew nuts
- 5-10 almonds
- 1tbsp poppy seeds
- ½ cup raisins (preferably golden raisins)
- ¼ - ½ cup cashew nuts
- 1 medium size big onion, thinly sliced
- 3tbsp + 2 -3 tbsp ghee + more ghee/ oil for frying onions
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves.
- A pinch of saffron
- 2tbsp warm milk
- 2-3 cloves
- 2 cardamom pods
- 3-4 small ½ “ inch long cinnamon sticks
- 2 tbsp ghee
- Make the Chicken Kurma : To shallow fry the chicken first, make a marinade with turmeric powder, red chilly powder, garam masala and salt with some drops of water and apply it on the chicken pieces and leave it in the room temperature for 30 minutes and then shallow fry in oil, not more than 4 minutes, including both the sides. This phase of cooking is done mainly to enhance the taste of the chicken as well as to keep the pieces slightly firm in the cooking process to follow.
In a big cooking vessel, heat 2 tbsp ghee and sauté thinly sliced onions, until golden in colour; make a fine paste of ginger, garlic and green chillies (Step 2: A)and add the same to the cooked onions and sauté till they turn a nice brown colour (Note: This will fetch you a darker brown colour for the chicken Kurma, as shown in Liz’s picture. I did not cook till they turned dark brown and hence the lighter shade for my Kurma.) At this stage, add tomatoes and mix well; add chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves and combine well; add the ground Masala powder (Step 2: C), chilly powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder and mix well with all the ingredients and sauté, until the raw smell of the spices is gone, for a couple of minutes. This is base of the Chicken Kurma masala and it will be dark brown in colour. Once the raw smell is gone, add the shallow fried chicken and cook covered in medium heat. If the chicken was not shallow-fried for a longer time, then this stage will produce some water from the chicken, during the cooking time; but if the chicken is dry and there is no gravy at all, cook with very little water and salt. When the chicken is half-done, add the yoghurt and cook covered and when it is almost done, just before turning off the stove, add the nutty paste of nuts, almonds and poppy seeds (Note: Nuts, almonds and poppy seeds should be soaked in water for 30 mins before grinding them into a fine paste) and cook for a couple of minutes. Chicken should not be overcooked at all or it should not fall off the bones. The Kurma will be a thick, creamy and rich gravy. (Note: Adding the nutty paste will change the really dark brown colour of the chicken kurma to a lighter shade.)
- Cook the Rice:
Microwave Method:Wash Basmati rice well. In a microwave safe bowl, pour 8 cups of water, add rice and whole spices mentioned above, in the respective section, along with bay leaves and a handful of mint leaves and salt to taste and cook until the rice is just cooked. Since my microwave compatible bowl is not large enough to accommodate so much of rice and water, I halve the ingredients, i.e 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water with half of the spices and herbs and microwave for 23 minutes. This way, you can make sure that no two grains stick to each other. Immediately after the microwave cooking, using a fork, gently separate the rice, so as not to get sticky and sprinkle 2 tsp fresh lemon juice. Please note that you should halve the quantity for lime juice too, if you are cooking the rice in two batches.
Stove-top Method: Liz follows stove top method for cooking rice and she does that in the old fashioned way where in a huge vessel is heated and when water is fully boiling, add the washed rice and whole spices and herbs and cook the rice uncovered, for 12-15 minutes. When the rice is cooked (do not overcook), drain the excess water immediately and sprinkle the fresh lemon juice.
- Prepare the garnish:
For the aromatic masala powder used in between the layers, heat 2tbsp ghee and fry the whole spices, mentioned in the respective section; and grind these into a fine powder. Save this ghee in a small bowl for later use.
Fried Nuts and raisins: In the same pan, add 3 tbsp ghee, fry the raisins, stirring continuously until they turn plump or look like golden grapes and keep them aside; fry the cashew nuts in the same oil, till they turn golden in colour and keep aside.
Fried caramelized onions: Add more ghee or oil to the same pan, to fry the thinly sliced onions till they become golden brown; at this stage sprinkling a pinch of sugar to the onion, while frying, to get a taste of nice caramelized onions is a good idea; remove the fried onions from the oil with a slotted spoon and let them drain on paper towels.
Saffron Milk: Heat 2 tbsp milk and a pinch of saffron
- Get your work-area ready for layering with Chicken Kurma, spices and herb flavored cooked rice, fried nuts, fried raisins, fried onions, saffron milk, ground aromatic masala powder and the leftover spice flavored ghee and some 2-3 tbsp fresh ghee and finely chopped fresh coriander leaves.
- Final layering: This Chicken Biryani can be prepared either in a conventional oven or through the Dum method. Click here, to get a better idea for the Dum Method. Choose your cooking method and depending on your choice, choose your cooking vessel. Grease your cooking dish generously with some ghee. Randomly place some chicken pieces along with gravy in the bottom of the dish; then spread some cooked rice, (do not stack); sprinkle a pinch of ground aromatic masala powder; some fried nuts, fried raisins, fried onions and finely chopped coriander leaves; sprinkle some spice flavored leftover ghee (the one used for frying the spices for making the aromatic masala powder) and also a few drops of saffron milk. Repeat this layering process 3 or 4 times, depending on the quantity of the rice and meat as well as the largeness of the vessel. Reserve some fried onions, nuts and raisins for final garnishing before serving.
- Final cooking:
Conventional Oven Method: Preheat the oven to 350F. Close the oven safe dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20-30 minutes.
Dum Method: Perfectly seal the lid with the dough and cook in low heat for 20-30 minutes.
- Serving: After the final cooking, keep the dish covered for minimum 30 minutes. Ideally, a window of 30 mins to 2 hours is suggested, to get a better taste, and for all the flavors to set in thoroughly. Place your individual serving platter; Just like you slice a cake, dig with a bigger serving spoon and transfer it to the serving platter; you should not mix the rice and meat; it’s already layered and hence just transfer it to the platter and garnish with some fried onions, nuts and raisins. Serve with Raitha (Coarsely chopped onions, tomatoes and cucumber mixed in yogurt and seasoned with a dash of salt and pepper), Indian pickle, Pappadam (Indian wafers) and a chilled Diet Coke or Pepsi :)
- Cut and clean the chicken; marinate the chicken pieces.
- Chop the onions, cut the tomatoes peel and slice the garlic, ginger and green chilly, and chop the herbs.
- Make the spicy paste of green chilly, ginger and garlic
- Soak the cashew nuts, almonds, and poppy seeds
- Grind and powder the Masala powder
- Shallow fry the chicken
- Prepare the Nutty paste
- When half of the chicken is fried, start sautéing the veggies and make the base masala for the Chicken Kurma
- Prepare the chicken Kurma.
- While chicken is being cooked, wash and cook the rice with spices and herbs.
- Fry the whole spices in ghee and grind and powder them into aromatic masala powder and reserve the leftover ghee.
- Fry the nuts and raisins and onions
- Prepare the saffron milk.
- Get the work area ready.
- Final layering
- Final Cooking
Verdict & Recommendation: When I finished preparing the Chicken Kurma, I was sure this is going to be a super hit in our place and when I finished cooking and served it , the first response was, ”Adipoli” meaning ”Excellent”!!. It has a nice aroma and the Chicken Kurma is medium spicy which gives a distinct character to the Biryani. The chicken Kurma on its own is very tasty and can be served with Nan or Roti (Indian breads). Though the rice preparation is different from the general method of washing and draining the rice and then roasting that in ghee along with whole spices, it does not reduce the look or taste of the flavored rice. I will be making this again on special occasions and to treat my friends and guests. Liz suggests one more method to make the look appealing; she suggests mixing some lemon juice with a pinch of turmeric powder or saffron and add it to ½ cup cooked rice and reserve and sprinkle this on the top layer to get some colour, as she has done in her picture. This dish taste better the next day but since we cannot serve one day old food to our guests, better to prepare it in the morning if guests are invited for dinner! The amount of ghee given in the recipe is my personal choice , one is free to use more than the noted measurements, it will only increase the aroma and taste.
I have thanked Liz enough already for this very sweet gesture of hers but it is ok if I tell this one more time, "Thank you, sweetie :) "
On another note, I thank all of you who dropped a comment checking on me and visited my blog the last one week. Thanks a lot for showing interest and I appreciate that a lot. Now that I am back, I will catch up with all of you in your blogs :)