Saturday, January 3, 2009

Biryani Is The Ultimate Love Potion

For those of you who have made this dish before, you know exactly what I mean. If your man is a good 'ol boy from the motherland (Pakistan), and you make this for him on a lovely weekend afternoon, you know you can talk him into letting you get away with ... well, anything! Even though Bombay Biryani is a great party dish, it's even better when it's just you and your guy (and maybe the kids ... lord knows they won't leave the two of you alone!). Even as you're cooking it, the smell will be so intoxicating for him that he'll be poking around the kitchen every few minutes, repeatedly asking "is it ready yet?!". Then when he's finally able to dig into it, he'll keep shooting you worshipful glances with those puppy-dog eyes. Now listen, I don't encourage you to take advantage of your guy in this vulnerable state. BUT ... this may be a good time to mention that KitchenAid Stand Mixer (or any other desirable item) you've been lusting after.

With such charitable thoughts in mind, and knowing that 2009 needed to start off on a high note, I made this dish. For those of you who aren't too sure about it, biryani is a rice dish from the subcontinent (India/Pakistan/Bangladesh), usually containing meat, chicken or seafood with a mixture of spices and sometimes vegetables. There are many different styles of biryani, some more spicy than others, using different combinations of flavorings. These days companies like Shan Foods are producing packaged masalas (spice mixes) for the various types of biryanis. Personally I don't recommend using these spice mixes for everything you cook, but even I have to admit that Shan's Bombay Biryani mix is pretty spectacular.

Bombay Biryani (Serves 6-8)

1 chicken, skinless, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp canola oil
3 large onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp ginger paste
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups of water
1 whole packet of Shan's Bombay Biryani mix (available in any indian grocery store)
4 1/2 cups basmati rice, washed
1 tsp salt
Handful of chopped cilantro
Yellow food color OR small pinch of saffron soaked in 2 tbsp of warm milk (optional)
Handful of pre-fried onions (optional)
1 tbsp butter (optional)


1. Heat up a large pan with a lid. Add the sliced onions and saute till golden brown, on medium-high heat.

2. Add in the ginger and garlic. Mix around for a minute.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, mix, turn the heat down to medium, and cover the pan with the lid. Let the tomatoes soften for 5-7 minutes.
4. After tomatoes have become a little darker and have cooked down to a mush, add in the chopped potatoes.

5. Follow this immediately with the chicken, yogurt, masala mix and 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring everything to a boil, then cover the lid, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer for about 20 mins.

6. Take the lid off after 20 mins, turn the heat up and keep stirring the mixture till it thickens and reduces somewhat. Chicken and potatoes will be completely tender by now. Turn off the heat.

7. Cook your rice the way you usually do. For biryani, I take my stockpot, fill it 3/4 of the way with water. Put in one big cardamom pod and half a cinammon stick. When the water starts to boil, I put in the washed rice. Give it a stir and add the salt. I keep checking it every few minutes. It usually doesn't take more than 8-9 mins. Once the rice is just done (not mushy), I immediately pour out the whole thing into a sieve, so that all the water drains out from the rice.
8. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
9. To assemble the biryani, layer the bottom of a large pot (12" or more in diameter, and high sides) with the plain rice. Then layer the chicken mixture evenly over the rice. The remaining rice will go on top of the chicken, covering it completely. Then I sprinkle some fried onions, cilantro, food color/saffron milk and bits of butter. Make sure you cover the pot tightly with its lid, then put it in the oven for 15-20 mins.

10. Take it out of the oven, remove the lid and let it rest for about 5-8 mins. Then take a large serving spoon and gently mix the whole thing, so that the chicken mixture gets distributed. Serve immediately with raita (whipped yogurt with cilantro/green chilli paste). Leftover biryani will stay in your fridge for 4-5 days, as long as you keep it in an airtight container. Take it as your lunch to work and drive everyone nuts with the aroma!
Let me be honest. So far I've only said what this dish does to the guys. But ladies, you know if your guy actually made this dish for you, all by himself (picture him in an apron), would you not turn into a puddle of love at his feet? Admit it!


Roumopod said...

lol, well said!
the biryani looks "worth dying for". but yes, every one back at pak has her/her mother's/her mother-in-law's own version of biryani.
I m going to try your recipe (strictly yours, every step of it) and will let you know what I think of it.
And i really enjoy your blog a lot.
take care, keep cooking and keep posting.

Muneeba said...

Thks Ophiuchus ... appreciate your encouragement! Great to see a pakistani blogger on here! Would love your honest feedback on the recipe when you try it out.

Anonymous said...

u are so right about the biryani!
i can happily eat home-made (especially my mom's) biryani day in and day out for the rest of my life!!

try shan's sindhi biryani... just as good!!

one handy tip - sieve the shan masala and get rid of all the tiny bits of bay leaves and cinammon sticks ... they are just annoying, especially the bay leaf - when it gets stuck between ur teeth... cinammon is good but when u bite into a small piece *ugh)=*....

Muneeba said...

Excellent tip Meshu! I never thought abt sieving it. But you're right about those bits of bay leaves. And yes, have tried the sindhi biryani & agree that it's just as good!

Anonymous said...

Could you describe which spices are in your biryani mix? I've never seen one in Australia and would like to recreate it.

Muneeba said...

I don't know all the ingredients, but these are most of them: Salt, Red Chilli, Dried Plums, Fenugreek Seed, Dill Seeds, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Cumin, Nigella Seeds, Bay Leaf, Fennel, Brown Cardamom, Green Cardamom, Ginger, Garlic, Clove, Black Cumin. If you don't find a Shan biryani mix, there are other companies that sell them too, like National. Just go to your closest indian store and ask!

Anonymous said...

I got married a couple months ago and my husband is a biryani lover! I haven't made it before (without mom's supervision). I love that your method includes pictures:) I'm going to try your method but was wondering if I can use chicken breast instead of the whole chicken with bones?

Muneeba said...

Congrats on your recent nuptials, Anonymous! (I'm sure you have a lovely name, but since you didn't provide it, you're "anonymous" for me!). You can use chicken breast meat only, BUT I gotta tell you, there will be a lot more flavor if you use the whole chicken. Still, there's enough masala in the Shan packet, so it will be delicious regardless ... as long as you make it with love. That's the key!

Anonymous said...

Hello Muneeba! This is 'Anonymous' and I just wanted to tell you that I tried out your biryani method and it turned out great! I made biryani for the first time on my own without my mothers supervision :) We had a dinner party and invited about 9 people guest. Everyone loved it. Thanks so much for sharing:)

Muneeba said...

Whoa ... 9 ppl is a fair amt of mouths to feed .. CONGRATS on a successful dinner party! You must feel so great to have done so well on your own (without mom's help)!! I'm really happy for you, and glad that I managed to help someone through my blog! THKS SO MUCH for letting me know :)