“Until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything” (Julia Child). I always encourage people to make home-cooked meals. There is just so much to it than just food, it’s moments created with ones you love, it’s curiosity that awakens and kindle the explorer inside of you, it’s memories being embedded in food that will be remembered, it’s giving meaning to food that will be carried forward as someone’s legacy, it’s learning and it’s not being scared of burnt cooking as “no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” (Julia Child) and when all is peeled, chopped, cooked and ready to be served, it’s showing your profuse love for the ones that are what your life is all about. Ofcourse, it’s all about knowing yourself too as Truman Capote avers, “I adore to cook. It makes me feel so mindful in a worthwhile way” and I couldn’t agree more.
In an Asian household, no food offers abundance in love and togetherness as a Biryani. It just somehow brings people together, it’s a dish that holds the crown of Indo-Pak cuisine. From cradle to grave, Biryani is a part of every East Asian’ s life. Growing up the best day of the week for me and my siblings was Friday and we would anxiously and eagerly wait for it. I remember, the night before, every single week, I would find myself extremely happy for no reason, so much so that I couldn’t sleep. As I lay in bed, I would think of the coming day and how it is going to bring Biryani my way. Yes! my mom had declared Friday as Biryani Day in my home growing up. Every Friday, it was always Biryani on the menu and we just couldn’t get enough of it. My mom makes the best biryani, hands down even to this day. Friday’s were days when our house was enveloped by the fragrant aroma of the Biryani, minty, warm, earthy and oh so delicious. I would be taking a bite out of the succulent smell wafting from the kitchen. Once on the table, we would just attack it as if a lion pouncing on it’s prey and the whole day, we would just eat Biryani when we got hungry. She would make Yogurt sauce called “Raita” in Urdu and a basic cucumber, onion and tomato salad along side and oh my God! that was my heaven right there. It’s truly that, absolute divinity.
When you walk into a house where Biryani is cooking away in the kitchen, you are immediately welcomed by the feastly aromas filling up the house. The atmosphere is welcoming and soothing at the same time making the house feel cozy.
This Biryani is a delightful twist on the Classic Biryani with tandoori flavours. The meat is cooked with curry leaves and green chillies in a tomato based gravy spiced with tandoori masala and fragranced with coriander leaves. This is a perfect dish for those who are time pressed and also, offers variation in the every-day classic biryani with scrumptious zest. This Biryani recipe is not the same as the Classic Biryani I made before rather a whole other take on Biryani. This recipe is made with chicken cubes with curry leaves and the addition of the Ready Spice Mix of Tandoori Masala. The Masala Spice Mix are very common now anywhere you go. Every retailer who is just about any retailer will carry them in their store. The tandoori flavour to the rice is very appetizing. It has an earthy flavour to it and that which is enhanced by the flavour contributed by curry leaves. Though curry leaves maybe small, they are packed big with extremely strong curry flavour. Once they hit steam or oil, the wafting aroma of curry will engulf your house in seconds. The flavour is also extremely dominant, so if you use a whole lot, they will invade other flavours in your curry or gravy and take over, which will not be so much appealing. However, fresh curry leaves are much stronger in smell and flavour as compared to dried curry leaves which are robbed of their flavour as they dry out, so if you use dried curry leaves, you might want to use a little more than required as compared to fresh curry leaves. Unfortunately, where I live, fresh curry leaves are hardly accessible, so I have no option but to use drìed. So, if you are using fresh, cut the quantity by half listed in the recipe.
Coming to the tandoori masala, it is wholesome when smoked which gives a smoky tandoori fragrance. If you are one of those who like the BBQ smoked edge to your meat, feel free to smoke the gravy before adding in the rice. However, me, personally, like this without a smoky effect. The spice blend is simply perfect and it is not too heavy on the palate. I really don’t want to loose the light heartedness of the whole dish by smoking it. Then again, it’s on liking preference.
Of course, the traditional Biryani is made using Mint as the soul herb of the dish. It’s mint that differentiates Biryani rice from any other. It is what makes biryani, Biryani; but, like I said this is a tandoori version of the classic dish and hence, I used coriander to perfume my rice. It amplifies the tandoori flavour and adds a fresh zest to the rice.
This tandoori biryani is absolutely gorgeous. It is ideal if you are time pressed, it’s quick and efforrtless even though seemingly complicated, its really pretty simple. If you have never made biryani, don’t be afraid of it, and especially don’t be overwhelmed by the ingredients, it is truly a cook friendly, time friendly and palate friendly dish and honestly very simple. The Friday Biryani tradition in my home, growing up in Saudi Arabia, is very dear to me because, because of that tradition, Biryani is memories of my mom cooking away in the kitchen boiling the rice and making gravy and whipping up the yogurt sauce and chopping away the salads, and any leftovers, it tasted even more heavenly the next day; it’s all etched into my mind and any time I am making Biryani, my house instantly smells of my Mom’s cooking, “I don’t know what it is about food your mother makes for you, especially when it’s something that anyone can make … but it carries a certain taste of memory”.
Doesn’t that look so feastly regal.
1. Chicken Boneless cubes — 1kg
2. Chopped Tomato tin — 1
3. Green chillies whole — 5
4. Ginger Garlic paste — 2 tsp
5. Dried Curry leaves — 12-16
6. Salt — 2 tsp
7. Cloves — 6
8. Black peppercorns — 8-10
9. Green cardamom — 8-10
10. Red chilli flakes — 1 tsp
11. Cumin Powder — 1 tsp
12. Tandoori Masala — 8 tsp
13. Lemon — 1
14. Garam Masala Powder — 1 tsp
15. Onion — 2
16. Rice — 2 cups
17. Yellow Food colour dissolved in water — 4 tsp
18. Coriander leaves chopped– 1 cup
19. Oil — ½ cup
20. Turmeric powder — ½ tsp
a. Wash and soak the rice for 20-30 minutes.
b. In a cooking pot, heat oil and add the diced onions.
c. Add the whole spices; cloves, black peppercorn, green cardamom and cumin.
d. Add the green chillies as whole for flavour and less spiciness.
e. Fry the onion until they become light brown.
f. Add the curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds.
g. Add the ginger and garlic paste and fry for another 30 seconds.
h. Add the washed boneless chicken cubes.
i. Add salt, red chilli flakes, turmeric powder and tandoori masala.
j. Stir to fry for a minute and add the chopped tomatoes.
k. Dice the lemon in half and add it to the gravy mix.
l. Add half of the chopped coriander leaves and the garam masala powder and stir to mix for a minute.
m. Cover and cook until the chicken on high heat for 8-10 minutes and lower the flame and cook the chicken until it is completely cooked through and the oil has separated from the gravy.
n. In the meantime, boil the washed rice with a little salt until 95% cooked.
o. Drain the water and add the rice as a layer on top of the gravy mix.
p. Pour the yellow food colour over the rice and sprinkle the other half of the chopped coriander leaves on top.
q. Cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel and put the lid on top.
r. Steam for 10 minutes and turn the flame off.
s. Let the rice stand for 5 minutes before opening the lid and serving.
t. Serve with Yogurt Sauce and any leafy salad.
~ Yogurt Sauce ~
1. Yogurt – 1 cup
2. Salt – 1/4 tsp
3. Red Chilli Powder – 1/4 tsp
4. Cumin Powder – 1/2 tsp
5. Cucumber chopped – 1/4 cup
6. Tomatoes chopped – 1/4 cup
7. Red Onion chopped – 1/4 cup
- Mix together all in a bowl.