“Mutanjan” is Persian for ‘fried in a pan’. A classic recipe from the Sultanate era (1206-1526) in the Indian subcontinent. The Muslim food during that phase was mostly inspired by Central Asia. Many of those dishes have survived the test of time and are still cooked in Pakistan and India with a few changes in ingredients and cooking techniques. Olive oil has been replaced by ghee(clarified butter) and food has become spicier and more complicated to suit the local taste buds.

Pulao Mutanjan recipe is one such classic dish has reached us somehow but has been much altered in the process. Most people only know it as a colourful dessert – a more formal version of zarda (sweet rice). The fact is that Mutanjan is a rich, meat and rice dish with both sweet and salty flavours combined, few basic fragrant spices and lots of dried fruits and nuts.

The meat is cooked till very tender with onions, ginger, garlic, yogurt and a few spices. Then sugar is added to glaze the meat and coat it in a sweet sauce. Rice are partially cooked separately with aromatics. The dish is finished by layering rice and meat with saffron, dried fruits and nuts in a pan by “dum” method which was an important cooking technique in the classic Persian cuisine. Dum means to cook a food on very slow heat, in an air tight pan, to infuse maximum flavour and aroma in the dish.

Most cooks these days make the dish over sweet like zarda, add candied and preserved fruits, mithai(sweets) and khoya (milk fudge) on top to make it even richer and more colourful for weddings and festive occasions. A good Mutanjan should have mild sweet taste in the meat and meat sauce and fragrant, saltines in the rice. The dried fruits and nuts are quite enough to add richness and texture. While pomegranate seeds and fresh mint leaves help bring all the flavours together without overpowering the dish with loads of sugar and sweets.

To be honest, this pulao Mutanjan Recipe is main course and dessert all rolled in one. A beautiful dish to glam up any special occasion.

Ingredients:

1/2 kg chicken or mutton cut ups
3 cups long grain basmati rice
1/4 cup olive oil or ghee(clarified butter)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
1/2 cup plain yogurt
4 tablespoons sugar
1+3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 sticks cinnamon
4-5 green cardamoms
4-5 cloves
8-10 black peppercorns
A few threads saffron, soaked in 2 tablespoons of milk
A few drops red and green food colours (optional)
1 cup mixed nuts and raisins
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds/pearls
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon cardamom powder

This Is What You Do:

Heat the oil/ghee in a deep pan, add sliced onions and fry till golden brown.

Add the meat and ginger-garlic paste. Fry for 2-3 minutes till the meat is golden on the outside. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 4-5 black peppercorns, 2 green cardamoms and 1 stick cinnamon. Add yogurt and a little water (less for chicken, more for mutton).

Cover the pan, cook on medium low heat till the meat is really tender and liquid sufficiently reduced. Add sugar. Cook another 5 minutes or till the sugar melts and glazes the meat. Turn off heat.

Boil rice with the remaining dry spices, lemon juice and 3 teaspoons of salt. Cook till the rice are 70 % done but not completely. To check press a rice grain between your thumb and index finger, it should break into three bits at this stage.

Drain the rice. Layer rice and meat in alternate layers in a deep pan with a wide mouth.

Pour over the saffron infused milk. Add a pinch or few drops of green and red food colour (if using), sprinkle mixed nuts, raisins and cardamom powder on top.

Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Place the rice pan over a tawa/skillet then cook on the lowest possible heat for 10-20 minutes.

Mix before serving. Serve hot, garnished with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.

Serves 4

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