Thursday, May 10, 2018

The World's Best Chicken Biryani

Most of us non vegetarian urban Indians will say that Biryani is our favourite dish. Each one has his own favorite version, and most of us are happy being served spiced meat with rice in any form.


Source - Arpan Anand at behance.net

The eternal debate around whether Hyderabadi or Lucknowi or Calcutta Biryani is the best is going to go on till humans exist on this planet, and continue calling this dish biryani. What truly matters is everyone loves spicy meat served with rice.

Source - https://www.fortunefoods.com

What sets Biryani apart from rest of the meat and rice dishes is that a truly well made Biryani is a work of art and the one who can cook it to such a level is definitely a great Chef.

I am penning down this note because finally after a year long tryst with trying to cook various biryanis and learning my lessons, I finally was able to dish out what can be called as my best Biryani attempt till date. You can look below for yourself.


What do you think?

Since you can't actually taste this amazing biryani which well, doesn't exist anymore, I will share the recipe with all the points which will help you make it for yourself.

This biryani is an amalgamation of various biryanis that i love, with certain techniques incorporated from various cuisines i have experimented with, till date. You will learn about those techniques as well.

Assumption - You are fairly acquainted with the art of cooking and have attempted biryani at least once. The recipe is not meant for beginners as the basics will be assumed from my end and I won't explain those. You can very well read on, but only if you are thorough with your fundamentals, will you be able to conclude this on a delicious note...;)

Indicated quantities will yield a portion which Serves - 3

Step 1 -  Marination

A good biryani should have tender and well spiced pieces of chicken, which should also have a good coating of spice.

To achieve this, take around 250 gms of cubed boneless chicken and marinate it with

  1. 0.5 teaspoon of turmeric
  2. 1 teaspoon of red chilli powder
  3. 1 teaspoon of dhania powder
  4. 1 teaspoon of garam masala powder
  5. 1 tablespoon freshly prepared ginger garlic paste (don't use the packed versions, they are horrible)
  6. 2 tablespoon white vinegar
  7. Salt to taste

This needs to marinate for a minimum of 8 hours in the refrigerator. I had marinated the chicken in the morning and prepared the biryani in the evening.

After 8 hours.....................

Step 2 - Preparations

1. Prepare rice - Take 2.5 cups of good quality Basmati rice (I prefer Dawat brand. Not really happy with the others.) Wash it properly with water 3 times till clear water runs. Keep it soaked in water for 30 minutes.

2. Prepare ginger garlic paste from 8-10 cloves of medium sized garlic and an inch piece of ginger.

3. Prepare a puree of two medium sized tomatoes with 1 green chilly in a mixie.

4. Prepare onions for Brista - Chop 3-4 medium sized onions lengthwise for preparing Brista or browned onions.


Brista. Source - http://pakrice.pk
The browned onion is actually one of the key ingredients of Biryani which gets overlooked many times. This separates a mediocre biryani from the best. I have seen average biryani being transformed with addition of this amazing ingredient. Preparation requires a bit of time, but it is a very necessary investment. Many people will want to skip it, and if you too are one of them, forget about making lip smacking biryani.



4. Prepare the spices + curd mix - Take a 2 tablespoons of curd and whisk it so that it forms into a smooth paste. Now add the standard desi spices - 0.5 tsp turmeric, red chilli powder, dhania powder and garam masala powder as per your taste and mix them well with the curd.

5. Prepare the chopped greens - Chop coriander and mint leaves finely, as per preference. 2 cups of chopped greens is good to go.

Step 3 - Cooking

Till now, 30 minutes must have passed and the rice would have properly absorbed water.

1. Cooking Rice - Place a cooking pot with more than a litre of water. Add some turmeric and some garam masala powder and a tablespoon of salt. Keep on the stove to bring this to a boil. Also add some whole garam masala - pepper, shahi jeera, cloves etc. as per availability (I also added Marathi Moggu which i had purchased during my Coorg trip)

When this starts boiling, add the rice and cook it till it is 75 percent done. Once done, drain out all the water and keep this aside.

Notes 

  • Shahi Jeera and cloves in the cooked rice give it a very Hyderabadi Biryani signature.
  • Cooking the rice till 75% since we will be assembling it with the meat and dum cooking it to finish

2. Frying the onions - In the vessel you will use to prepare biryani, take around 6 tablespoons of oil. Place on the stove and once heated up, add the chopped onions along with 1 tsp salt. Salt helps the onions to release moisture quickly and get browned. Saute the onions occasionally till you see that they start browning, once properly done, take them out, ensuring that all the excess oil is squeezed out in the pan, with the help of the ladle.

Tip - When the onions are just about to be done, I add two sprigs of curry leaves as I really love the taste. Gives it the Bhatkali flavour to it.

3. Pre-frying the chicken - The oil will now have a lot of savoury, caramelized taste of the onions. We will now infuse these flavours in the chicken by frying the marinated chicken pieces.

Before that, break an egg in the chicken and add 2 tablespoons of maida/cornflour into it and mix well.

When the oil heats up, fry these chicken pieces in batches for not more than 5 mins per batch. Take care that the chicken in cooked from all ends.

Notes 


4. Preparing biryani gravy - In the remaining oil, add whole garam masala of your choice and ginger garlic paste, saute well, and add the tomato-chilli puree. You may add oil to this as per your wish, if you see there is too little oil. Cook this till the oil separates. Now, add the spices + curd mix and saute well till oil starts separating. Add 1/3rd of the fried onions to this stir well and add 2 cups of water to the mix.

The gravy items are almost cooked at this point. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add 1.5 cup chopped coriander+mint leaves and the fried chicken, and mix well.

Critical - Check and adjust salt and any other spices you feel are required at this point. Remember that the rice is already seasoned while boiling, so don't overdo the salt.

5. Assembling - The assembling method I have used is derived from Maqloubeh, which can also be called as ulta biryani.

Maqloubeh. Source - http://tasteofpalestine.org

Instead of multiple layers of rice and meat, there is a layer of meat at the bottom of the pan, and rice on top of it, while dum cooking. Only while serving it, the vessel is inverted and the chicken comes on top.

The chicken and gravy should not be too thin and not too dry, as we will be doing dum cooking for 15 mins next. Note that rice is only 75% done, and the dum process will finish the rice, along with adding the chicken aroma in it. 

This is exactly the point of cooking biryani on dum. As a bonus, the chicken retains its tenderness as well.

Once the chicken mixture is bubbling, lower the flame and add half the rice. Now spread out the remaining brista over this layer and add the remaining rice on top of it. Flatten it out. Using the back side of the ladle, push it through the layers at two places in the assembled biryani, so that the steam from the chicken mixture comes to the top and cooks the rice through.

Such a vessel is best suited for ulta biryani.
Source - https://mycookalicious.files.wordpress.com
Cover the vessel and cook on dum, by placing a weight on top of the lid. Place this on the smallest burner on your stove and keep the flame minimum/sim.



My idea of dum cooking - Slowly cooked with an attempt to seal as much flavour as possible. You don't really need to make the dough lining to seal your vessel, but if you can, nothing better than that. I prefer keeping a heavy mortar on top of the vessel lid, to prevent the steam from escaping, so that items get dum cooked properly.


Step 4 Serving

After 15 minutes, close the flame and open the lid to allow excess steam to escape. Note that the rice is properly cooked now. Take a tablespoon of pure ghee and dot on top of the rice. Close this and keep as it is for 5 minutes to allow the ghee flavour to infuse in the rice.

Take a huge plate, Keep on top of the vessel and invert. Lift the vessel and enjoy the delicious smell and sight of your labour of love.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, fried cashews and kishmish and cut boiled eggs, if desired.



All the best...:)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Dont give your power away

For some men, submission unto the wishes of someone who is super-idiotic in their opinion is not a good way of wasting time. They may better read something or sleep away than give away their power to such assholes.

I have given power to one such asshole wishfully thinking him to have an iota of sense but its been the worst mistake I have committed till date. It has caused me lose complete power over myself and all the weak points have become uncovered only to be attacked by the consequent faulty thought process.


Src - http://boardofwisdom.com
 
I henceforth will do only what I believe must be done instead of following what assholes tell me to do, however senior they may be in the role hierarchy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Its all getting cheap

There were times when one had to spend years learning an art and honing it and only post that was one able to exhibit it. Years later only could one even imagine of earning a livelihood from art.

Today upstarts call themselves artistes and are able to trade their wares for a decent sum of money, without any focus on continuous improvement of art.

Yes its easy to be an artiste today. But the value of such art is also cheap.

As cheap as a disposable razor.



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The design of modern life

Modern human life is based on the building of a bright future. People work hard to earn money which they can 'enjoy' in parties, vacations etc. Humans buy huge separate homes so that they can enjoy privacy with their spouse or their small nuclear families.

Human life is also based on the premise of an unpredicatable future. Crores of money are earned by insurance companies because people think their immediate families will be inconvenienced if they happen to fall a victim to the whims of the Grim Reaper. People want to be buy homes in places where there are hospitals so that in case of emergencies, help should be nearby.

Reconciling the two divergent basis of the lives of present day humans, we can conclude one thing - we are far more affluent today and wanting to be reliant on our selves so that we can shape our day to day lives and take care of ourselves and our small worlds.

Yet we see that the pursuit of self reliance has made us the most loneliest we have been in entire human history. The concept of joint familes is almost extinct today, and the concept of helpful neighbours is going out of vogue soon. Man is at the mercy of the money hungry establishments and as long as he has a source of income, all seems well. All hell breaks loose in the old age, and with inflation and devaluation of all the hard earned cash stashed in the banks as a security.

And the entire machinery is made up of similar human entities leading similar lives, being a cause of each others miseries and feeling alone at the same time! Kya design hai jee. Ekdum badhiya...:)

Monday, February 22, 2016

On Understanding Abstract Lyrics

I am more of a music listener than a lyrics listener. But then there are songs which are rich on content, and I have to listen to what the lyricist has tried to say. Such instances are rare and make me very happy. I saw Masaan a few days back and was spellbound by its songs.

Source - indiatimes.in
This short post is inspired from Varun Grover's take on his songs in Masaan. I thank him for the beautiful lyrics and also his effort to explain his thought process succintly.

Understanding Abstract Lyrics

Those who say that they understand the lyrics of a song are only able to see what their experience helps them see in the painting painted from the unique life, mind and experiences of the lyricist. If the words are direct, its easier to see the meaning, like the painting of a scene from history. But great lyrics are like abstract art. Its a glimpse into the unknown universe of the artist which somehow catches our eyes as we can see some familiarity in the scene from the universe which the artist has presented as form of the abstract art. The lyricist is an abstract artist too, and to say that I understand what the song means is describing one perspective of the lyrics. It is not necessarily what the lyricist meant  to convey.

I believe, lyricists should explain their thoughts at-least a year after people have had the opportunity of internalising a song and deriving its meaning on their own terms. Then it would be interesting to note how close our observations are to that of the lyricist. This exploration of parallel universes will be very interesting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

FB Friends Day Video - How to download

Today, on the occasion of FB's 12th anniversay, you must have seen your customised Friend's day video. I was delighted with the one made for me, but had no intent of sharing it.

But I wanted to download it. I am sure, even you want to download it and enjoy. Here are the steps (for Google Chrome);

 1. Right Click on the video and click 'Inspect'


2. A window opens with the HTML layout. Scroll to the layout for the video.




3. You can see the video link here. Double click on the src field to select the link. Right Click and Copy.




5. Paste the link in a new tab, and the video opens




6. Right Click on the video, and select 'Save Video As'. On the prompt that appears next, give a suitable name and save on your machine.



7. Enjoy maadi:)


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pranayama - From an Old Book

I came across this description of the procedure of Pranayama in an old book and found it worth reading and practicing. This isn't available in the text format on the internet, hence typed it down. I hope, dear reader, you will find some good insights from this article.

Pranayama
From The Vishnu Sahasranama Translated into English 
by R. Ananthakrishna Shastry
(1927)

From - http://www.yoga-manchester.co.uk/
The utility and importance of this fundamental Yoga practice have not been fully realised by us. Vyasa says in a hymn 'The Lord Vishnu himself is Yoga and the leader of all the Yogins(slo. 16), the Yogi and the Lord of the Yogins(slo. 104)'. The ancients have perfected it to a science, but it is lost to us to a considerable extent through our own folly. It is the sacred duty of every true Arya to revive it. The desire for material advancement has supplanted the yearning for spiritual progress. At present, the yearning for Swaraj has well nigh become universal; but the people have not yet realised that unless and until they are healthy - physically, mentally and morally - they can never hope to become a Nation and attain Swaraj. In ancient times, the Aryas were a very strong and powerful race, imbued with the highest of virtues, so the word Arya came to connote strength and Anarya, weakness. The Aryas attained and retained unto death their bodily and mental perfection by the simple but effective method of Pranayama. To them death had no horrors. Just as one throws off one's worn out garments, even so they cast off their body by their own free will by the power of Yoga. 

The Shastraic method is to get up at Brahma Muhurta i.e. before the breaking of the dawn, and finish the morning ablutions. After Achamana - sipping water -  perform the breathing exercises, the Pranayama, in a well ventilated place. Sit cross-legged facing east or north, with the back straight, chest well expanded and thrust forward and the head erect. First exhale(Rechaka) all the air slowly through one or both the nostrils, and then inhale(Puraka) slowly and deeply, and exhale as before. While exhaling and inhaling produce a low humming sound in the throat. Repeat the Rechaka and Puraka alternately for about ten minutes. Next, restraint of breath or Kumbhaka must be practiced. Inhale slowly, with the production of the humming sound in the throat as before, but retain the breath as long as possible without straining yourself and exhale completely all the air out. Again inhale slowly and deeply, restrain and exhale as before. Repeat this process for about five to ten minutes and gradually increase the duration of Kumbhaka.

While performing Rechaka, Puraka and Kumbhaka, it will be easy for beginners if they use one or more fingers to close up one or both the nostrils. When one has made some progress in Pranayama, then by merely willing, the air can be made to flow in or out through any nostril or it may be kept in Kumbhaka.

The third practice is Bhasra (bellow) and it is done for the next five or six minutes. Sitting erect as before and with the lips closed, blow out the air, with the hissing sound of a starting locomotive engine, rapidly. While blowing in this way the trunk of the body is steady, but the abdomen becomes concave and flat in quick succession, due to the alternate contraction and relaxation of the abdominal muscles. The naval region swings inward and out with maximum amplitude The Bhasra can also be practiced in the evening provided the stomach is empty. By this practice, the intestines get exercised, the digestive powers are greatly improved, the free circulation of blood is facilitated and the lungs are strengthened. The bowels also are kept in order by removing constipation.

Success in Pranayama can be attained only if the diet is a well regulated one. Any non-stimulating, simple and nutritious diet will do. It is well to remember and practice the Vedic ordinance 'Ekavaram Dvivaram Va' which enjoins only one meal a day or at the most two. Seven hours at least must elapse between the two meals.

This may be practiced by all persons irrespective of age or sex, excepting women in the family way, who should not attempt the Bhasra. But chronic patients afflicted with bowel or lung diseases should be carefully guided by a scientifically trained instructor.

It is very depressing to note that generally Indians and especially South Indians, have become physically degenerated; the more educated they are the more physically depressed they have become. The golden precept enjoining Brahmacharya(restraint) on a Grihasta by our Shastras, has been totally ignored. Excessive indulgence in stimulants, coffee, tea etc. and in matters pertaining to sex, irregular and hurried meals - meals noted for their flavor alone but not for their sustaining qualities -  and want of regular exercise for the body, have brought about this present condition. Systematic practice of Pranayama by our young men with a well regulated diet and observance of the principles laid down for the conduct of Brahmacharins and of the Grihastas will in a generation or two regenerate them into a virile people.

By the grace of the Divine Physician, 'Daivyah Bhishak', the Lord, all the incurable diseases are cured. May our degenerate young men take up these practices and become healthier, is the pious wish of the author!