Much before Independence Day draws near, the colours of our flag light up a million spaces and invariably my thoughts turn to the beautiful combination of saffron, white, and green. Around this time of the year my floral decorations do not steer away from these colours. And this biryani had been on my mind for a while...
I have done a post on biryani before but today it was these colours that I concentrated on. Coriander and mint were used for the green and a large pinch of saffron for the topmost colour. This biryani is for 4-5 servings. I also made a cucumber raita to go with it.
Ingredients for the rice:
3 cups basmati rice (I used Dawaat)
1 bunch coriander leaves
1 bunch mint leaves
2 medium carrots
15-20 cashew nuts
A handful of raisins
3 onions sliced fine and fried
50 grams butter, cubed
Whole spices like cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon sticks, black pepper
400 grams of chicken cut into regular pieces
1 tablespoon grated garlic and ginger
4 medium onions, coarsely ground
7-8 green chillies, ground to a paste
1 tsp coarsely grated pepper
Salt to taste
3 tbs vegetable oil
Garam masala paste made with:
1 stick of cinnamon
(The quantity of meat isn't much and I didn't want it to overpowered by spices).
Wash the rice and soak it for about an hour.
Marinate the chicken with the ginger/garlic/green chillies/onions for about 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the tejpatta and the marinated chicken. Cook by stirring at regular intervals. Season with salt and pepper. When the meat is almost done, add about 2 cups of hot water. Let it cook till only some moisture remains. Add the garam masala paste, give it a good stir and remove from the fire. Set aside.
Drain the washed rice in a colander.
Wash the coriander and mint leaves and grind to a paste.
Soak the saffron in about 2 tbs warm milk. Grind to a paste using a mortar and pestle.
Wash and peel the carrots. Grate them. Set aside.
Wash the raisins, pat dry with a kitchen towel and lightly fry them in vegetable oil.
Fry the cashew nuts till golden brown. Remove then add the grated carrots in the same oil. Fry for a couple of minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Drain on kitchen paper.
Divide the rice into 3 equal parts. Usually for biryani, a lot of water is boiled with whole/bruised spices and the rice is added and cooked till almost done. However for this recipe, I cooked the rice in a small pressure cooker with a few whole bruised spices till one whistle went off.
Start with the plain rice. Transfer to a greased bowl when done.
For the green rice, add the coriander/mint paste. I squeezed out all the green liquid and cooked the rice with the addition of water.
For the saffron, I cooked the rice by adding the paste I had prepared.
Grease a baking dish with butter. Since I used a shallow dish and there was no space for the usual kind of biryani layers, my first layer was a thin spreading of (white) rice. On top of that I added the chicken along with the thick gravy. The gravy could have been added on the top too but I didn't want the (dark) break in the colours/layers. Half of the fried onions were scattered all across. The dish was dotted with butter and baked in a preheated oven at 180C for 30 minutes.
After it was removed from the oven the prepared carrots went on top of the saffron. Some chopped coriander were sprinkled over the green and the entire dish was decorated with more fried onions and the fried cashews and raisins.
To go with the biryani, I made a cucumber raita.
1 medium cucumber
350 grams thick yoghurt
Pinch of rock salt
Fine sugar, about a teaspoon
Half tsp dried mint leaves
A quarter tsp red chilli powder
Peel the cucumber and grate fine.
Squeeze out the water. (I usually reserve the water to make a refreshing drink by adding rock salt and roasted/powdered cumin).
Beat the yoghurt by adding salt and sugar till the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add the cucumber and mix well. Chill in the fridge till required.
Before serving, decorate with red chilli powder and dried mint.
And this how it looked on the plate. I made sure all the layers came with the meat pieces and the (remains of ) the gravy.
Happy Independence Day!