A biryani is definitely one of India’s most elegant and elaborate party dishes.
This one, based on a Hyderabadi version, is as delicate as any other biryani where the rice is as important as the protein. Serve with a raita and if you feel like it, a vegetable side. I like to serve this with some pan-fried aubergines served with some seasoned Greek yoghurt and topped with some pomegranate, fresh coriander and mint.
• Vegetable oil as needed
• Large pinch of saffron soaked in 4 tbs hot milk
• 20 g butter For the seasoning:
• Chopped coriander for garnish
• A large handful of crispy fried onions
For the rice:
• 2 tbs ghee
• 400 g Basmati rice
• 750 ml water
• 5 cloves
• 5 green cardamom
• 1 dried bay leaf
• 2 small onions, finely sliced For the chickpeas:
• 2 x 400 g cans boiled chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 2 small-medium onions, finely chopped
• 4 fat cloves garlic, grated into a fine paste (around 2 good tsp)
• 1 good tsp ginger paste
• ¼-½ tsp red chili powder or to taste
• 2 tsp coriander powder
• 2 tsp cumin powder
• ½ tsp turmeric powder
• 2 tsp garam masala powder
• 4 tbs plain yoghurt
• 2 medium tomatoes, roughly cut up
• 3 tbs each chopped mint and coriander
For the rice:
• Wash the rice really well in several changes of water or until the water runs clear. Leave to soak.
• Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil and the ghee in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan which has a lid. Add the whole spices and cook for 30 seconds or until aromatic.
• Add the onions and half a teaspoon of salt and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, then turn the heat up and cook until golden. Meanwhile, drain the rice and add it into the golden onions. Stir well over a high heat to dry off any excess water and coat the rice in the oil for about two to three minutes.
• Add your water to the pan, taste and season well. The water should taste a little salty or the rice will be a bit flavourless. Bring to a boil then cover and turn the heat right down.
• Cook undisturbed for six minutes, taste a grain, it should be nearly or just done. Take off the heat and set aside, covered, for five minutes. Spoon onto a large open plate so it doesn’t overcook. You can use this pot for the final assembly.
For the chickpeas:
• Blend together the tomatoes and yoghurt. Heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a medium-large sized saucepan. Add the onion with a good pinch of salt and cook until really soft then turn the heat up and cook until properly golden.
• Add the ginger and garlic and cook gently for 40-50 seconds or until the garlic smells cooked. Add the powdered spices, seasoning with a splash of water and cook until the water has evaporated.
• Add the blended tomato mix and cook over a high flame, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and then reduces to a thick paste (this stops the yoghurt splitting). Now turn the heat down a little and cook until the paste darkens.
• Add the chickpeas and enough water to come half way up the chickpea. Bring back to the boil, taste, and adjust seasoning. Simmer for five to six minutes.
• Add the mint and coriander, taste and adjust seasoning. There should be some liquid in the bottom of the pan, if not, add a little boiling water or reduce to a watery curry.
• Break up the butter into cubes and place half on the bottom of your pan. Cover with half the rice, drizzle with half the saffron. Pour over the chickpea masala and top with the rice and then remaining saffron and butter.
• Cover with a tight fitting lid and place on a really low heat for 20-25 minutes or until it is steaming. You can leave this, off the heat, for 15 minutes now and it will stay hot.
• Spoon onto a platter and scatter crispy onions and coriander for garnish.