It goes that Biryani has its origin in PERSIA and might have reached India through various routes. Derived fro the Farsi word 'Biriyan', meaning 'fried before cooking'. History says it could have reached India via Afghanistan to North India. It could have been brought by the Arab traders via Arabian Sea. Then it was a royal dish for the nawabs and nizams.
Legend say Timor,the lame brought it down from Kazakhastan via Afghanistan to Northern India. Another legend say Mumtaz Mahal conceived this dish as a complete meal to feed the army. Some other say it originated in West Asia where the nomads buried an earthen pot full of meat, rice and spices in a pit, eventually the pot was dug up and Biriyani was made.
Will not go further beyond this discussion because that will need deeper research on history. What I know is that the Islamic restaurants in Kolkata make fabulous Biryani, mainly the Awadhi one as it originated when Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was deposed in Kolkata by the British in 1856. Me and my brother's love for Biryani is in fact legendary. I am much in control now and he is not. I am so much in control now that I did not have it for a single day on my last visit to Kolkata in spite of the fact that we have 3 outlets of the famous Biryani makers in our neighbourhood. My brother is still going on. But I do prepare it at home, at times in the most authentic way and sometimes on the microwave..... depending on how much time I have in hand, how hungry my family is and my energy level on that particular day.
Today's version is a microwave one, hence not authentic. Authentically it is slow cooked in dum in a handi with its lid sealed with a dough made of flour. My recipe is dedicated to the working mothers. I always prepare a Biryani masala powder and store it. This really helps. We usually garnish with caramelised onions, I just skipped that day. Usually big pieces of meat are used in biryani but i do with small ones.
INGREDIENTS [for the biryani masala] :
Cinnamon : 25gm
Green Cardamom : 25gm
Black Cardamom : 10 gm
White Pepper Corn : 10 gm
Cloves : 10gm
Mace : 5 gm
Nutmeg : 5gm
Star anise : 5gm
Tailed Pepper/kabab chini : 10 gm
Shahi Jeera : 15 gm
Bay Leaf : 5gm
INGREDIENTS [for the biryani] :
Basmati Rice : 2 cups
Mutton : 500 gm
Ghee [clarified butter]:3 tbsp + 1/4small cup
Ginger Paste : 2tsp
Garlic Paste : 2tbsp
Onion : 2
Plain Yogurt : 250 gm
Salt : As required
Cinnamon : 1inch piece 3
Green Cardamom : 6
Cloves : 6
Bay leaf : 4
Shah Jeera : 1tsp
Biryani Masala : 2tsp
Rose water or Kewra : 3-4 drops
Saffron : 6-7 strands[alternatively 2 pinches of yellow food colour]
Milk : 1/2 small cup
Dry roast all the ingredients of the biryani masala and grind them together to get a powder. Store in an air tight container.
We have to marinate the mutton overnight. Wash the mutton nicely and marinate with beaten yogurt, salt and half of ginger and garlic paste. Refrigerate in a airtight container . Next morning take out 1 hour before cooking.
Peel, wash and slice the onions. Heat ghee in a wok. Temper with a bay leaf, 2 green cardamom, 2 cloves, 1inch cinnamon. Add the sliced onions and fry till brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste, fry till the spice mix separates from the ghee. Add the marinated mutton along with all the marinade, mix well and cover. We have to check very 5 minutes and stir. Put the heat at low.
While the mutton is cooking, let us prepare the rice. Take a soft white cloth and put 4 green cardamoms and cloves, 3 bayleaf, and 2 cinnamon sticks. Tie a knot tightly.Put it in the vessel used for cooking rice. Cook the rice in enough water along with the tied whole garam masalas and salt till 60% done. Drain the water and discard the garam masalas.
Check the mutton. When it is almost dried up, add 1tsp biryani masala and mix well. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Once done, switch off. There has to be some gravy in it. Let rest for 1/2 an hour. Soak the saffron strands in warm milk.
Take a microwave proof big bowl . Put some rice. Add one tbsp ghee, one tsp saffron milk, 2drops of rose water and sprinkle 3 pinches of biryani masala. Lightly mix with a fork. Over it put few pieces of mutton with gravy. Repeat the process 3-4 times with rice at the topmost layer. Cover with a microwave proof plate and microwave at high for 5 minutes. Its done.
Serve with salads and raita!!