Monday, October 1, 2007

Chicken Biriyani

My husband hails from Mahe in Northern Kerala. One of the specialities of the region is biriyani. Though made by cooks all over Kerala, the Northern Kerala biriyani is special and different. I learned to make it from my mother-in-law who was a talented cook.

Biriyani is not an everyday dish. Made mostly on special occasions, it is a complex dish and may take a few trials to master. To make an authentic biriyani, you have to be generous with your spices, don't hold back!

Traditionally, biriyani is made with the whole chicken. Using the chicken whole, increases the flavor. Traditional biriyani also use a lot more of ghee than the recipe below. I have cut it down significantly in the interest of health and to be honest taste!


Chicken whole - 1 (approximately 4 - 5 lbs)
rice - 4 - 5 cups

garlic - 1 pod
ginger - 4" piece
*green chilies - 25 - 30 (increase or decrease to suit taste and endurance level!!)

onion - 2 sliced thin
aniseed - 1 tbsp powdered
garam masala powder - 1 tbsp
medium tomato - 2 sliced
yogurt - 1 cup
cashew nuts - 1/2 cup
raisins - 1/4 cup (optional)
coriander leaves - 1 cup chopped
ghee - 1/2 cup ( may use softened butter instead)
vegetable oil for sauteing onions
salt to taste

*(Don't be alarmed at the number of chilies! This spicing is for the whole dish including rice, which serves 6 - 8 people. I use the small Thai bird chilies. They are spicy!! Depending on what you have on hand, any spicy green chili may be used. If you are not used to handling chilies, may want to wear gloves.)

Clean and joint chicken. Cut into smaller pieces.

Using a food processor/blender blend garlic, ginger to a smooth paste with some water and keep aside. Grind green chilies to a coarse consistency.

Heat a pan and add a tbsp of vegetable oil and a tbsp of ghee/butter. Add 1/2 of the sliced onions and fry till it has an even brown color. Add cashews and raisins to the onion and fry for a few more minutes. Remove onion, cashew, raisin mixture and keep aside.

Heat oil in a heavy pot (large enough to hold the chicken) Add the remaining sliced onions and saute till soft. Add the ginger/garlic paste and saute till the raw smell is gone. Add ground green chilies and saute for a few more minutes. Add tomatoes and saute till the tomatoes are mushy. Add aniseed powder and cook the whole mixture for a few more minutes till blended uniformly.

Now add the cut-up chicken and stir to coat the spices on the pieces. Add salt and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add yogurt, stir well, cover, and cook the chicken till almost done.

While the chicken is cooking, clean rice and cook in plenty of salted water. When the rice is almost cooked remove and strain. Keep a close eye when the rice is cooking. It is important to strain the rice before it is fully cooked. It should be only 3/4 cooked. If you don't keep a watchful eye, it is very easy to over-cook the rice and spoil the whole dish!

Now the dish is ready to be assembled and baked. A heavy pot with a tight fitting lid (I use a large cast iron pot) is best for this purpose. Alternatively, use a large baking pan and aluminum foil for covering.

Preheat oven to 350*c. In the pot, add a tbsp of ghee/butter and spread it around. Add a layer of rice and spread. Add 3-4 ladles of chicken pieces along with juices over the rice. Add another layer of rice to cover the chicken. Now spread a layer of browned onion, cashew, and raisin mixture. Add a sprinkling of garam masala and a handful of coriander leaves. Add few spoonfuls of ghee/butter. Repeat the layers till all the rice, chicken, and other ingredients are completely used up ending with rice. Cover with lid or aluminium foil and bake for 30 - 35 minutes. Take out biriyani and stir well. At this point all the moisture is absorbed by the rice and the chicken is completely cooked. Adjust seasoning and serve hot with raita and chutney.

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At November 11, 2008 at 3:04 AM , Anonymous Leimomi said...

You write very well.

At November 15, 2008 at 2:04 AM , Blogger Spice Coast Kitchen said...

Thank you!


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