Pakistani-style biryani

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The appeal of this dish lies in the gentle flavours it carries.

By Food24 October 14 2014
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Ingredients (18)

1 kg chicken
2 onion — medium, chopped
2 cloves garlic — cloves, finely chopped
1 masala — paste
1 tsp turmeric
250 ml yoghurt — natural
coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp cumin — ground
1 tsp masala — powder
8 tomatoes — chopped
1 pinch saffron — soaked in boiling water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 star anise
3 cinnamon — stick
butter — for frying
1,5 cup basmati rice — uncooked
1/2 cup lentils — uncooked
butter — for frying
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Chop some of the coriander leaves and mix with the yogurt. Add the turmeric, some salt, masala powder and cumin. Mix thoroughly. Add the chicken and marinade for at least half an hour. I removed the skin from the breast and thighs. Cut the chicken into manageable pieces. I find that the marinade does not penetrate the skin, so I remove chicken skin as far as is sensible. Cut the breast pieces into double thumb sized chunks. This dish is chunky.

After the meat has been properly marinated, start the cooking. As usual, we start by frying the onions in the butter until at least translucent, but preferably caramelized. Add the garlic at the end, frying it for about fifteen to twenty seconds. Then add the meat. You don’t need all the marinade, so chuck it. It will clutter your final dish and make it soggy.
Main dish
In the mean time, cook the rice and lentils on the side.

Fry the meat until it is well cooked, then add the chopped tomatoes.  Add the cinnamon sticks and aniseed at this stage. Turn the heat down to minimum and simmer for at least twenty minutes. The juices need to cook away a bit and the resulting masala needs to be on the dry side. Watch out for burning, you don’t want that, it will make the dish bitter.

Remove the meat and masala from the pot and keep warm on the side. You will now start to build the final biriyani.

Put  a layer of rice in the bottom of the pot, then add some of the meat and masala. Cover this with another layer of rice and add the rest of the meat part. Don’t add the mushy gravy part; your biriyani will come out soggy. Cover the last meat layer with the last of the rice and lentils. Garnish this with some lemon slices and some coriander leaves. Add the saffron tea to the dish now, cover and simmer at the lowest heat for at least twenty minutes. Then switch off the heat and let the dish rest for another twenty minutes to develop flavour.

Mix everything up before dishing up. Add salt as required. This dish has a very subtle set of flavours, so perhaps it is not a good idea to pair this with a heavy red wine. In Pakistan this is served with a raita, a sauce made of yogurt and spices.

Recipe reprinted with permission of The Hungry Sailor. To see more recipes, please click here.

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