Sunday, 24 March 2013

Mutton Biryani

The ultimate savoury rice, proper biryani (sometimes called dum briyani) are often prepared in a massive pot over wood fire where the lid is sealed to the pot with fresh dough, turning it into a pressure cooker. This dough is not broken off until the contents of the pots are cooked- something that requires impeccable timing! Traditionally, this North Indian dish is laden with meat and spices and flavoured with mint leaves. Over the years, however, there are many variations on preparing this rice and here's one I formulated. As with most rice dishes, I'm making this in my trusty little rice cooker, but it could also be done on the gas or electric hob/cooker.

0.8- 1 kg mutton or lamb, with the fat trimmed off and meat cut into small cubes
2 cups of basmati rice, washed
2 tablespoon ghee
1 onion, diced
6 large garlic cloves and 5 cm ginger, blended into a paste
1 bunch of fresh coriander leaves; pick out and leave the leaves whole, chop the stems
1 cup of thick yogurt (make it two cups if using runny yogurt)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (or 4 medium sized fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 heaped tablespoon meat curry powder
2 heaped tablespoon kurma powder
1 desert spoon coriander powder
1 desert spoon chilli powder (optional)
30-50 g cashewnuts
juice of half a lemon
4 boiled eggs
salt for seasoning

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 star anise
2 large cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods
8 cloves

Raita (salad in yogurt)
1 cucumber, cubed
1 small tin of pineapple chunks, drained
2 tablespoons of thick yogurt (or 1 cup of runny yogurt)

Over low love heat, gently melt the ghee in some cooking oil. Before the oil gets too hot, add the spices and sauté for two minutes. Pour in the ginger and garlic paste and cook further for two minutes. Add the onions, coriander stem and meat to this frying mix, season with salt and stir well. Leave it with the lid on for five minutes.

Stir the yogurt, curry and spice powders, lemon juice and chopped tomatoes into cooking ingredients. Leave it to cook over low heat until the meat is cooked thoroughly (which may take up to 30 minutes for small pieces of mutton), stirring it occasionally to avoid it burning at the bottom. You can speed it up by turning the heat up but the slow cooked meat will impart more flavour into the rice later.

All the meat and its gravy will be transferred into the rice cooker pot, together with the washed basmati rice and 3 cups water. Add half the cashews and coriander leaves too, and leave it to cook. Again, stir periodically to stop the rice from burning at the bottom of the pot.

Making the raita is just a matter of stirring all the ingredients listed above together. Serve the rice with tomato chutney, boiled eggs and raita, garnished with the remaining coriander leaves. This recipe serves four.

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