The name Biryani is derived from the Persian word beryā(n) (بریان)
This royal dish is believed to find its roots in the rustic kitchens of the Mughal Emperors in 1800.
The traditional method to cook biryani was by a method called “Dum” it simply means to breathe in. A very heavy bottomed pot is used for cooking in which the food is tightly sealed with a “Purdah” also known as veil which is a simple dough made of water and flour used to seal the pot with the lid and the food is cooked on slow fire. This process of slow cooking releases maximum flavour and aroma.
The legend has it that the Biryani was brought to India from Persia through Afghanistan by the Arab traders, another source indicates that the biryani was brought by Emperor Taimur Lang from Persia to India as early as 1394.
Although there are many legends regarding discovery of biryani in India, the Islamic Persians have made the biryani popular in India. In 1856, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah introduced Biryani to Calcutta which became Calcutta Biryani. This Biryani was cooked with meat and whole boiled potatoes.
The Biryani from Lucknow is also know as the “pulao” and is supposed to be a more refined version. Its prepared in a different way as compared to the Biryanis prepared in the other states of India. A major difference is using “Yakhni” which is a rich mutton stock. Its also supposed to be quite delicate to the palate.
Below is the detailed recipe and a brief video to guide you through. I have slightly tweaked the recipe however the authenticity of the dish is maintained.
Serves 8-10 people
Cooking Time – 3 Hrs
2 kg Leg of Lamb diced on the bone
1kg Basmati Rice
8 medium size Onions
3 Large Potatoes (Optional)
1 cup Ginger and garlic paste
4 Star Anise
12 Green Cardamom
2 stick of Cinnamon about one inch each
6 Bay Leaves
12 Whole Black Peppercorn
6 Whole Kashmiri Red Chillies
11/2 tbsp Cumin Powder
11/2 tbsp Red chilli Powder
11/2 tbsp Garam masala powder
1/2 tbsp Nutmeg Powder
1tsp of Saffron Strands
100 ml of Rose water
100 ml of Kewra(Screw pine) Water
1 Cup of Milk
1 cup of Ghee
1/2 cup of Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp of Lemon Juice
Salt to taste
Preparing the Yahni (Stock):
1. Take a cooking pot and add about 5 Ltr of water. Add 21/2 tbsp of salt, 1 cup of Ghee, 1 cup of ginger-garlic paste and half a cup of oil. Add all the whole spices, leaving 6 cloves, 4 green cardamom and saffron aside. Add the powdered spices keeping aside half tbsp each of cumin powder, red chilli powder and the garam masala powder. Add 50 ml of rose water and 50 ml of kewra water. Bring it to a boil.
2. Ask your butcher to dice slightly large pieces of the leg of lamb on the bone. This is also termed as “biryani boti” as the biryani uses a larger cut of the leg, compared to curry pieces. Once the broth comes to a boil add the lamb pieces. Cover with a lig and cook for approximately 1.5 hrs on medium heat until the meat is tender.
3. While the yahni is cooking, finely slice the onions and deep fry until golden brown. Remove from the fryer and drain on kitchen towel. Peel the potatoes and dice into 4 large pieces each. Boil the potatoes with 1 tbsp of salt and 1 tsp of turmeric. Keep aside once cooked. Wash and soak 1 kg of good quality basmati rice for at least an hour. Take half a cup of cold milk add saffron, rose water and kewra water, mix well and refrigerate.
4. Once the lamb is cooked remove the pieces with a pair of tongs or slotted spoon. Strain the stock through a muslin cloth or fine sieve. Your stock should have been reduced by half now. Discard the spices.
Assembling the biryani:
5. In a heavy bottom cooking pot add 1 tbsp of ghee, once heated add the lamb pieces, sauté for a couple of minutes and add the fried onions, 3/4th of the yakhni or the strained stock, 1 cup of milk, 1/2 tbsp of cumin powder, 1/2 tbsp of chilli powder and half tbsp of the garam masala powder. Cook for further 10-15 mins stirring continuously on high heat until the liquid comes to a slight syrup consistency. check for seasoning. At this stage the salt should be on a slightly higher side Remove from heat, add the boiled potatoes and keep aside.
6. In another cooking pot bring water to boil and add 3 tablespoon of salt, 6 cloves, 4 green cardamom, 1 tbsp of lemon juice and add 1/4 of the yakhni or the strained stock. Once the water comes to a boil, drain the rice and add to the pot, cook until 3/4 done.
7. Drain the rice in a collander and layer it on the mutton broth. Once you have transferred all the rice to the pot, level it with a flat spoon. Sprinkle milk and saffron mixture on the rice and seal the pot with aluminium foil making sure the steam doesn’t escape the pot. Add a lid on top and cook on Dum (simply means to breathe in. A very heavy bottomed pot is used for cooking in which the food is tightly sealed with a “Purdah” also known as veil which is a simple dough made of water and flour used to seal the pot with the lid and the food is cooked on slow fire. This process of slow cooking releases maximum flavour and aroma.) for 45 mins. I have used aluminium foil to seal the pot as its an hassle free substitute compared to sealing it with a dough.
There are two ways to give “dum” you could place a flat heavy bottomed tawa on your gas burner on low heat and place the pot on it or place the pot in a convection oven at around 100 degree Celsius for 45 mins.
8. After the “dum” remove the lid and the foil. Once you remove the foil using a flat spoon very delicately mix the rice bringing the meat to the surface. Spoon onto a serving dish accompanied with a mint or a cucumber raita.
Biryani or Pulao has always been a complicated dish to pull off. However a few tips will surely make it more easier.
1. While cooking the lamb and potatoes make sure not to over cook them as later when we layer the rice and the lamb broth it will cook further 45 mins on Dum. I always cook my lamb and potatoes 90 % and let them finish cooking on dum resulting in fork tender meat and soft and fluffy potatoes.
2. Make sure you check your seasoning at every stage of cooking.
3. As soon as the rice is cooked, drain and immediately layer it on the broth. If you leave the rice in the colander for long the steam in the rice will overcook the rice as a result your end product will be a lumpy overcooked Biryani. Timing and precision are very crucial while cooking the rice.