Sunday, June 15, 2008

Egg Biryani finally makes it to the Hall of Fame!

An excerpt from the speech made by Egg Biryani at the National Biryani Fest 08….

“My dearest gastronomists…….till yesterday, I was this undiscovered jewel, in the deep sea leading a dreary life ………when all my peers made it to the glitz and glam of the dining table receiving great raves from the guests, I was sitting there, with a heavy heart, waiting for the day I will be finally asked to come to the spotlight……but I was always that neglected cousin……many thought of me only when meat loaded freezers and vegetable studded crispers got empty and they had no other option but to dress me up with some curried masala and herbs and then layer and mix with some ghee rice. Yet, I could not impress anyone until the day an artist gave me a much needed makeover……I was given layers of flavour and an identity of my own…..the artist moulded me into a scrumptious delicacy people would crave for, even in their dreams!! ………………”
This dish is our recent discovery, a new favourite and addition to our repertoire. On one of my aimless leapfrogging on the World Wide Web, I happened to get a glimpse of handful of recipes from ‘The Epicure Cookbook’ by Ms.Ummi Abdulla who captured the essence of Malabar cooking in her cookbooks and introduced this piquant cuisine to the world. The moment I glanced through the recipe, I knew there was something different about it as egg omelette constituted egg masala instead of hardboiled eggs, which in this case was only used as a topping and more than a garnish. Secondly, one more layer of flavour was added to the ghee rice by spicing it up with a green chilly-ginger-garlic paste which gave a real kick to the entire dish. The egg masala was again a surprise as it missed the regular spice parade of coriander powder, chilly powder etc.

As much as I was bowled over by the recipe, there were some areas I wanted to add my personal touch. The original recipe does not call for mint leaves and personally I cant imagine a Biryani without the refreshing fragrance and taste of mint leaves and hence I added some; again while layering the dish, I sprinkled some ghee and Biryani masala for an added layer of aroma and flavour; also fried the hardboiled egg with a dry spice rub to jazz up the topping; you may skip it and use plain hardboiled eggs. All these additions gelled well with the original recipe, giving us a real masterpiece.

Mutta/Egg Biryani - Malabar Style ( Serves 4 adults )
(Recipe Source: Adapted from 'The Epicure Cookbook' by Ms. Ummi Abdulla)

Step 1: Make Biryani Masala/Dry Spice Mix

  • ½ tsp fennel seeds/Perinjeerakam
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds / Jeera
  • ½ tsp Shahjeera/Caraway seeds/Sahjeerakam
  • 4 cloves (Gramboo)
  • 1 cardamom/Elakkaya
  • 1 flat cinnamon ( 1” inch length)/ Karukapatta
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg (Jaathikka)
  • 1 whole mace (Jaathipathri)
Grind everything to a fine powder. This yields around 2 tsp masala but you will require only 1 ½ tsp for making this dish.

Step 2: Cook Flavored and spiced up Rice
  • 4 green chillies
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 1” inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium size big onion, thinly sliced
  • 3tbsp ghee
  • 4 pods of cardamom
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 ½ ” inch flat cinnamon stick, broken into 4 pieces
  • 2 ½ cups Basmati rice (around 1/2 kg)
  • 5 cups water
  • Salt to taste
Grind green chillies, garlic and ginger into a paste and keep aside.

Wash and drain the rice on a paper towel. When it is medium dry, heat ghee in a large skillet and throw in cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Now add thinly sliced onions and sauté till it is transparent; then add the ground paste, stir well till it gives out an aroma. Add rice and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes in low heat. Microwave Method: Transfer everything to a microwave safe bowl with 5 cups of water (2 cups of water for 1 cup basmati rice) and adjust the salt and pop it in the microwave and cook for 23-25 minutes or until rice is done. Stove-top Method: Boil water in a heavy bottom cooking vessel, and when it comes to boil, add all the ingredients and bring it to a boil again and then reduce the flame and cook covered in low-medium heat, until rice is fully done and water is absorbed. Using a fork, gently fluff/separate the rice, so as not to get sticky.

Step 3: Make Omelette and Egg Masala
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tbsp grated coconut
  • A pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • ¼ tsp chilly powder
  • 2 Indian green chillies, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 tsp Oil
Beat the eggs and add all the other ingredients and mix well. Heat half of he oil in a pan, pour half of the egg mixture and make a thin omelet. Repeat the process for the rest of egg mixture to make a thin Omelette. When done, remove it to a chopping board and cut them into small bite size pieces and keep aside.
  • 1 ½ cup big onions, chopped
  • 4 green chillies
  • 6 big garlic cloves (approx. one small pod)
  • 3” inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 ½ - 2tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ tsp Biryani Masala
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp oil
Grind ginger, garlic and green chillies into a paste and keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan and cook thinly sliced onion, till they turn transparent; now add the ground paste and sauté till it gives out a nice aroma. Add chopped tomatoes and fry for a few more minutes. Now add the Biryani masala, and combine well with the base. At this stage add bite size piece of omelette and blend well, followed by chopped cilantro/coriander and mint leaves. Sprinkle lemon juice, mix well. Do a taste test here and adjust the salt. Turn off the stove and remove from heat.

Step 4: Layering and Final cooking
  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 2 pinches of Biryani Masala
The final part of the cooking can be done either in a conventional oven or on stove top. Decide on your preferred cooking method and based on that decision, choose your cooking vessel. Pour 2 tbsp ghee into your cooking vessel; spread half of the rice at the bottom, followed by the egg masala and sprinkle two pinches of biryani masala; spread rest of the rice as the top layer and drop 2 tbsp ghee. Conventional Oven Method: Preheat oven to 350 F. Close the oven –safe dish with aluminum foil and cook for 30 minutes. Stove top Method: As per the original recipe, remove half the rice ( from the vessel you cooked rice earlier) to a plate ; pour the egg masala, sprinkle biryani masala and then transfer the rice, set aside in the plate, back to the cooking vessel. Keep a tight fitting lid and cook over very low heat for 5 more minutes. Note: I haven’t tested this method and hence I am not sure of the outcome.

Step 5: Fry Hardboiled Eggs
  • 4 hardboiled eggs, halved
  • A pinch of Biryani Masala
  • A pinch of pepper powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2tsp Oil
While rice is at the final phase of cooking, hard-boil 4 eggs and when done, halve them. Sprinkle biryani masala, pepper powder and salt on halved eggs and shallow fry them in oil for a minute. Remove from the pan.

To Serve: After the final phase of cooking, let the dish rest undisturbed for minimum 30 minutes on your kitchen counter. Before serving, stir the entire dish gently, mixing rice with the egg masala and plate it. Place fried eggs on top and serve with Pickle, puli inji, Pappadam and Onion-yogurt salad (Thinly sliced red big onion, 1 small green chilli chopped and mixed with yogurt and a dash of salt) or any one of these condiments.

Cooking schedule I followed:
  • Wash and drain the rice
  • Hard boil 4 eggs
  • Make Biryani Masala/Dry Spice mix
  • Make the chilly-ginger-garlic paste for rice and get the onions ready for rice
  • Roast and cook rice
  • While rice is cooking, make omelette and egg masala
  • Layering and final phase of cooking
  • Fry hard-boiled eggs while rice is at the last phase of cooking
  • Serve.
Verdict: Fantastic! That is the only word I can find for this recipe and dish. I made it on a Saturday, had it for lunch and dinner and again for lunch on Sunday; Monday and Tuesday, both of us silently fantasized its taste and aroma and on Wednesday, it came out, “That egg biryani was really tasty…….feel like having it again now” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you trust me, go ahead and make it….it is delicious :)

Other Rice specials from this blog:

Fried Rice Vegetable Ghee rice Chicken Biriyani Kanji & Payar Kuthari Choru


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