Hyderabadi cuisine shows a cross-pollination of ingredients and cooking techniques from the Middle East, Central Asia, and Persia with local Andhra style food. The result is a refined and colourful medley of flavours.
A beautiful reminder of the rich and royal Mughal era in the Indian subcontinent is Dum Biryani – a meat, rice and spice dish cooked by dumpukht method (persian slow oven).
The Nizams of Hyderabad and Nawabs of Lucknow hugely appreciated the subtle nuances of biryani, further innovated with ingredients and perfected the technique. Each royal house had it’s own biryani recipe. The chefs were very secretive about their particular recipe, so much so that it was passed on only to the new brides and that too if they married into their family.
The royal families travelled with their own kitchen staff and the richness of food reflected the prosperity of the family. If a girl was thin, it was believed either she was unwell or the family was going through a rough financial patch. Plain food was served only when a family member fell sick. So obviously this biryani is rich in quantity of meat and ghee.
The Mughlai Dum biryani, when reached Hyderabad, was converted to Kuchchi Biryani, also called kachey gosht ki biryani (raw meat biryani) or kuchchi yakhni (raw gravy). It is a delicacy like none other which is unique from all other biryani preparations in the region in its cooking method.
Mostly biryanis are prepared in three steps – the meat is cooked in onions, tomatoes or yogurt masala separately, rice are parboiled and then meat and rice are layered in a pan and cooked again together in a tightly closed pan.
In Hyderabad, the meat is not an add-on. The rice and meat mingle, cooking together in one pot, the sweet fragrance of ghee(clarified butter) binds together all ingredients.
Kachchi dum Biryani is considered a bit tricky because it’s kind of blind cooking. I used to be quite apprehensive of cooking biryani this way because you are not sure whether the rice would be fluffy or not or whether the mear would come out completely cooked because once the pot is sealed, you dont know what’s going on inside. But now I think it’s a lot less hassle than usual biryanis, if we take care of a few things like proper temperature, sealing the pot airtight and leaving just enough liquid inside to cook the rice and meat.
You can imagine the magic of whole spices, like cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves mingling with flavours and aromas of mint, saffron, lemon and caramelised onions in one steaming pot. Each and every grain of rice soaks up this magic and meat comes out super tender, ready to fall of the bones.
1 kg chicken or mutton cut ups
4 cups long grain basmati rice
3 medium onions sliced, almost 3 cups
1 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves or curry leaves
Seeds from 4-5 green cardamoms
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
5 teaspoons salt or to taste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 cup thick yogurt
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 tablespoon Rosewater or 1 teaspoon kewra or a few drops pandan essence
A few strands saffron, soaked in 1/4 cup milk
Green chillies (optional)
1 cup ghee(clarified butter) or cooking oil
This Is What You Do:
Caramelise all the onions in a little oil/ghee till golden brown.
Mix yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, red chilli powder, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder and 1 teaspoon salt in a big bowl. Add meat cut ups and 1/3rd of the caramelised onions to the mix too. Save the remaining onions to use in this recipe later on.
Cover and refrigerate the meat for at least 1 hour, best overnight.
To cook dum biryani, rinse and soak rice for thirty minutes.
Boil rice with 4 teaspoon salt and all the whole spices till 1/3 rd done.Check by pressing a grain between your thumb and index finger. If the rice breaks into 3 parts, it’s ready. Drain and keep aside.
Place a skillet/Tawa or heavy frying pan on the stove. Choose a wide mouthed heavy metal or ceramic pan to cook biryani. Place the cooking pot over tawa or frying pan.
Add half of the oil/ghee in the pan, add the marinated meat along with the marinade to the cooking pan. Spread a layer of half of the partially cooked rice. Top it with half of the fried onions and all the mint leaves.
Spread the remaining rice over. Top them with fried onions, soaked saffron, green chilli peppers and rose water or kewra.
Drizzle the remaining oil on along the sides of the pan so that rice don’t stick to the sides. Tightly seal the mouth of the pan with foil sheet or put the lid on and seal all around with thick dough.
Cook for first 10 minutes on medium heat to get the cooking process going. Then reduce the heat to minimum possible. Let biryani cook on dum or steam for another 35-40 minutes.
Serve it hot with cumin flavoured yogurt.