To any South Asian kid (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or any others I’ve missed out), Biryani is generally synonymous with celebration. The first thing that comes to mind for me at the thought of biryani is a lavish wedding reception or an intimate Eid dinner, with the cooks (or family members) slaving away for hours on end to produce the rice and meat filled marvel at the end of it.
A dish that could well be what sets apart the good parties from the bad ones and the competent home cooks from the mediocre ones, biryani as delicious and varied as it is, is not a task most take up in their kitchens because of the sheer intimidation factor that comes with it.
On a not so related topic, all South Asian kids also know about the long standing rivalry between India and Pakistan even if they don’t hail from these countries. From the Kashmir issue to more serious problems like our cricket matches (not a joke, I swear), Indians and Pakistanis have long since only agreed to disagree and that’s an attitude neither country seems all too willing to give up
But this recipe seeks to blow to smithereens the above two misconceptions in one shot- that biryani can be easy, and that yes, there might just be one medium where India and Pakistan could get along.
Mom and Dad’s first neighbours at Damam, Saudi Arabia circa 1992 was a really sweet Indo-Paki couple. This also happened to be the time mom was pregnant (with me) and they would make it a point to send her food every other day- this “Jaldi biryani” being one of those dishes.
All you really need is two hours and a will to multitask and you should have some pretty authentic biryani on your table without too much of an issue.
750 grams Basmati Rice (washed thoroughly and soaked for at least 30 minutes beforehand)
750 grams bone in chicken (washed and cut in medium sized chunks)
3-4 green chillies slit lengthwise (can be reduced or increased based on spice tolerance)
2 dried red chillies, cut (may be deseeded to reduce the spice)
4 medium onions, cut lengthwise
8-10 cloves of garlic, cut lengthwise (our garlic cloves are small so substitute accordingly)
3 large tomatoes, diced in small cubes
2 tablespoons unsweetened yogurt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons clarified butter/ ghee
1 inch cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods (if you get your hands on the really fragrant black cardamom instead, you could substitute with 4 of those)
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
Half a lemon, to garnish (optional)
Salt to taste
1. Wash the chicken and sprinkle half a teaspoon of turmeric and a pinch of salt. Coat the meat and set aside. Also prep all the vegetables necessary and ensure the Basmati Rice has been soaking
2. In a heavy bottomed pan, fry the sliced onions on medium heat in 4 tablespoons of oil for 3 minutes or till they begin to brown
3. Add the chicken to the onions and fry for about 5 minutes or till you notice the meat looks less raw/pink
4. Add 5 cloves, the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods to the chicken and onions alongwith the cut green and red chillies and garlic. Stir the ingredients thoroughly for another 5 minutes
5. Cover the mixed ingredients with a thick layer of the diced tomatoes, turn the heat back to a low setting and cover the pot with a lid.
6. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes or till the chicken is cooked. No water needs to be added because everything cooks in the liquids from the tomatoes to form a fairly thick gravy.
7. Add salt to the cooked meat, turn off the heat and mix in the yogurt and set aside.
8. While the meat is cooking, drain the soaked rice.
9. In another pot, add 2 tablespoons of clarified butter. Add in the remaining 2-3 cloves and the two dried bay leaves and fry lightly for a minute.
10. Add in the drained rice to the pot and fry again for another 2 minutes till the rice grains seem coated with a thin film of clarified butter and the spices are mixed in.
11. Add 1.5 times water to the amount of rice added and salt to taste, cover the pot with a lid and cook on medium heat till all the water is absorbed and the rice is done.
12. Take the pot off the heat, remove the lid and let the rice cool down to avoid it getting mushy.
13. Mix the rice and chopped coriander into the cooked chicken mixture. You could also choose to alternatively layer the rice and chicken till they’re equally mixed.
14. Set the pot again on low heat and simmer for 10 minutes till the gravy has completely mixed into the rice. Squeeze a little lemon juice atop and serve hot
And that’s all there is to it, really.
I paired it with a simple shredded cucumber and yogurt raita, papad and some of grandmom’s home made lemon pickle but even a dollop of yogurt alone goes a long way.
It’s spicy, tomato-ey and comforting in every bite without the crazy amount of time and fat that goes into the OG version.
Who knew India and Pakistan could get along this well?