If you set the scene back to 90’s and walk into our house in Hyderabad you will find a bunch of kids and adults at the dinning table getting ready to eat. Observe closely and you will see everyone on the table including the adults, are nervous as if they were in a very serious game show. The last person to join the table is an elderly man in his white Kurta pyjama, with a television remote in his hand and a bottle of buttermilk. As he settles at the table, he maintains his stern look but does not make eye contact with anyone. The food is served and everyone is trying hard to focus on their meal, eat quickly and escape whatever is going to happen soon. But, you cannot avoid the inevitable and a deep voice cuts the silence. ‘Who is the current irrigation minister?’ is the first question put to the kids and the vein of questions follow during the course of the meal. The adults are expected to answer, when the kids fail to give the correct answer. That person who terrified us with his voice, looks and questions is my most beloved grandpa.
A retired air force personnel, grandpa is a hero for us in the family. He enjoyed narrating stories and jokes from his service days. Although most of the times he used to burst into laughter even before he finished the joke and we used to stand there waiting for the joke to be finished . Meanwhile, my grandmother used to get so annoyed waiting that she used to sulk and walk away. Sometimes, he used to take control of TV for hours which again annoyed my grandma. But there are times he showed how protective and caring he could be of her that really wowed many of us. He is, just in that matter a typical indian husband who does not express his love for his wife but definitely show it when the time comes. He was very fascinated by the world affairs. He followed the news and read so much about the west that he spoke about the brands and the local brands, habits and people as if he lived there. Tinned sardines and tuna from london were his favourite.
One of the positive side effects of old age is, people get more relaxed and open up as the years pass by. Exactly, the same thing happened with my Grandpa. I was so shocked, when my son, who my grandpa calls ‘Napoleon’ said ‘ I am not afraid of Grandpa the great’ ….I was like what do you mean you are NOT afraid, everyone is scared of Grandpa :) ..But then I realised the bond they had was completely different. Grandpa’s face used to lit up when he saw his great grand son. He starting showing the numerous stamps and coins he collected all his life, which he never let anyone see them, let alone touch them. Napoleaon also admired ‘Grandpa The Great’ (that’s what he calls my Grandpa) and was amaze by the fact that he was in air force. The duo even had a flying lesson via skype.
I am dreading this years visit to India where I will not get to see grandpa anymore. The last 45 days have been very difficult for me since he passed away. I thought living far away from them and not being a part of the rituals and ceremony’s would be good in a way because I can keep myself busy in my daily routine and forget about everything.But I was wrong, being far away, you don’t get the closure you need, the wound never heals.Making plans to go to India has never been so painful.
Coming back to Grandpa and the things he loved, he had admirable passion towards food. He used to declare his desire to eat a specific dish from a specific place and sometimes at specific time. He loved his food. Fish and chicken especially were his favourites and one of them have to be cooked on sunday. He always made sure coconut rice and potato kurma was prepared on a certain day. He declared himself Mulslim only to celebrate Ed and eat biriyani. We kid is actually believed him to some extent. He tried all the biriyani places in Hyderabad and secunderabad. He could even tell from where the biriyani came.
On his 90th birthday today, I am sharing his favourite Hyderabadi chicken Dum Biriyani recipe. Hyderabadi biriyani is the most popular Biriyani’s ever. People from all over the world visit Hyderabad to try the Biriyani. They say it is a blend of flavours from Moughul and telugu kitchen which was invented by the Nizams. The recipe itself is usually kept very much under covers by most chefs. So, I never got the recipe from the person whose Biriyani I liked. So I just tried and tested so may recipes untill I hit the nail (I think I did) last month. This a Kacchi Biriyani where the meat is marinated at least for 5 hours and layered raw with rice which is cooked on ‘Dum’ ie., steam.
This recipe makes enough biriyani for 10 people.
For the marinade:
1.5 kilos Chicken
5 Tbsp Yogurt
3 Tbsp Chilly powder
4 Tsp Cumin powder
4 Tsp Coriander powder
2 Tsp salt
4 Tsp Garam Masala powder
3 Tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
For The Rice :
750 Grams Rice
3 Tsp B lack Cumin
6 Bay Leaves
6 Cinnamon sticks
5 Star Anise
For the rest of the method :
Orange Food Color
Juice of 1 lemon
Few strands of Saffron soaked in 2 Tsps of milk
8 Green Chillies
3 Star Anise
4 Bay Leaves
1 Tsp Black Cumin
5 TBsp Oil
Oil for frying Onions
Slice the Onions and deep fry them in oil till they turn light brown in color. Keep them aside.
Boil 1Ltr water with all the spices from the ingredients listed for the rice. Let the spices boil in the water with the lid closed for at least 10-15 minutes. The idea is to extract all the flavours into the water.
Once the water is ready, add another 500 ml of water and the rice.
Add salt and 1 TBsp oil or purified butter. Let the Rice cook for about 8 minutes or until the rice is half-cooked.
Drain the rice and cool it instantly by running cold water to stop it from any more cooking. keep the rice aside.
In a huge vessel , heat 5 Tbsp oil, add half of the fried onions, green chillies, spices and saute them for 2 minutes
Add the marinated chicken and saute it again for not more than 2 minutes.
For the next few steps, keep the flame really low.
Remove all the chicken from heat except some to form the first layer.
Place the rice as the second layer, garnish the layer with 1 tsp of lemon juice, few fried onions.
Repeat layering chicken and rice alternatively while garnishing the fried onions and lemon juice.
On the top layer, sprinkle the saffron along with the milk . The color will be absorbed by the food vertically giving it a nice multi coloured rice.
Do the same with the orange food color. Sprinkle it on the top layer.
Now the tricky Bit – DUM
Dum is essentially cooking on trapped pressure or steam. In out kitchens we can use various tools to achieve this.
Keep the flame medium. Place a huge pancake pan and then place the vessel you are the biriyani in. This is moderate the heat and avoid the bottom getting burnt since it’s not direct heat.
Cover the lid and secure it with kitchen foil so the steam does not escape.Place a heavy utensil or a brink on the lid to make sure the steam does not escape.
Let the biriyani cook on dum for 45 mins. Check if the rice and meat has cooked. Pop everything back on if it isn’t and give it another 10 minutes. Serve the biriyani hot with raita. And when you serve make sure you do not mix the layers . The proper way to serve Biriyani is in its layers.
Enjoy making this mouth-watering ish from Hyderabad and do share your biriyani pictures. I would love to see how your Biriyani turned out an if you have any other tips to share.