Friday, February 8, 2013

Kashmiri biryani (A royal culinary masterpiece)

Tonight's Menu
Kashmiri style chicken biryani
Cucumber raita
Garden salad
Wine Pairing: Any full bodied red wine
Chicken Biryani

Developed in the royal kitchens of Nawabs and Rajas, Kashmiri biryani is a royal culinary masterpiece. Biryani is always a crowd pleaser and this version is surely made for special occasions with its rich and silky texture, bold flavours and and eye pleasing colour. Engulfed in flavourful chicken, delicate vegetables and a plethora of nuts the rice acquires a heavenly taste. A must try for all.

Ingredients and preparation:

For the chicken
1 lb boneless chicken thighs cubed into 1 inch pieces (substitute paneer for the veggie version)
1 cup plain yogurt beaten well
Kashmiri red chilli powder (for colour and desired heat level)
salt to taste
1 large red onion chopped fine
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
More kashmiri red chilli powder if desired
Marinade spices:
1/4 teaspoon each of whole dry cumin and coriander,
3 whole cloves
1 long stick cinnamon
4 green cardamoms
1 black cardamoms
Few black peppercorns
¾ teaspoon anardana powder (dry pomegranate powder)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
Cooking the chicken:
  1. Take all the marinade spices and lightly toast them in a dry skillet. Let cool and coarsely grind them together in a dry grinder or mortar and pestle. Do not powder them fine, keep them grainy. 
  2. Combine these spices with the yogurt and salt and kashmiri chilli powder to form a marinade. Marinate chicken pieces in this for a minimum of 4 hours. 
  3. To cook the chicken, heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add chopped onion and fry at medium high, stirring constantly till they turn pink. 
  4. At this point add the ginger garlic paste and continue stirring for 2 minutes. 
  5. Add the marinated chicken mixture along with tomato paste, and coat them well with the onion mixture. Fry for 2-4 more minutes. 
  6. Add all the other spices and 1 tablespoon of water and stir well. Reduce the heat a bit. At this point the aim is to infuse the chicken with all the wonderful spices while slowly cooking it. 
  7. When the chicken is about half done increase the heat. Continue cooking while stirring making sure nothing burns. 
  8. After about 5-7 minutes the chicken will be almost done. The best way to tell is when you see the entire concoction leaving oil from all sides. At this point remove from heat. There should not be too much liquid in the pan and chicken should be surrounded by a little bit of gravy.

2 carrots peeled and grated
1 cup of grated yellow squash
handful green beans cut at a diagonal
Cooking the veggies:
In 1 tsp oil sauté the veggies for 5-6 minutes till tender crisp. No need to add any spices or salt. Keep aside.

For the rice
2 cups long grain basmati rice
6 cups water
1 teaspoon ghee
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking the rice:
  1. Wash the rice well with cold water. 
  2. Soak rice for 30 minutes. Drain. 
  3. Bring the 6 cups of water with salt and ghee to boil. As it comes to a rolling boil add the soaked rice. Stir. Wait till it comes back to boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Check the rice grain at this point. It should be only three quarters cooked. 
  5. Remove from heat and drain out all the water. Rice is now ready to layer.

Other ingredients
Few strands of saffron soaked in 1 teaspoon of hot water (for 2-3 mins)
2 tbsp dry mint (or 1 cup fresh mint chopped fine)
1 cup fresh coriander chopped fine
2 large red onions sliced, fried till golden brown
½ cup mixed nuts (cashew nuts and almonds) lightly toasted in 1/2 tsp oil

Assembling the Biryani:
  1. Preheat the oven at 375 F. 
  2. In a large greased casserole, start layering.Layer half the rice at the bottom. Top with half the toasted nuts, followed by half the fried onions and half of the prepared veggies, mint and coriander. 
  3. Sprinkle saffron water randomly over the rice. Top with half the chicken. Now repeat the layers again.Do not try to mix the rice and chicken together. 
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes till rice cooks completely. 
  5. Give a random light stir to the entire concoction and see the beautiful colours and aromas blending together. 
  6. Serve steaming hot with Raita.
Paneer Biryani

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