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HYDERABADI BIRYANI

In Hyderabad's 400 year history the Hyderabadi cuisine has, like its culture, stood high and unmatched by any other state in India. In fact Hyderabad was known for the spectacular way its aristocracy entertained. The feast at these banquets usually contained a selection of Mughlai dishes which would be decorated with varq (a very fine pure silver leaf).

The must try of all in Hyderabadi cuisine is the Ghosth Dum Biryani or the Kucte Ghosth ki Biryani - well done Basmati rice cooked with succelent pieces of meat laced with safforn and pure ghee, fresh out of the clay handi. The Biryani is aromatic flavoured with safforon. It is presented with great flair in the clay pot itself, which is sealed with dough and flicked opened expertly in front of you to reveal the insides.

What makes the Hyderabadi Cuisine special is the use of special ingredients, carefully chosen and cooked to the right degree. The addition of a certain Herb, Spice, Condiment, or an Amalgam of these add an unique taste and texture to the dish. The herbs and spices used and the method of preparation gives the dish its name. "Murgh do pyaza" gets its name from the onions that are added twice to the dish in two variations.

The Masalas or the rich blend of herbs, spices and condiments give the dishes a base, or what is popularly known as "Gravy". Some of these blends are a well-kept secret that pass only down the family line or from the Ustad(Teacher) to his Shagird(Pupil). The head cooks or the "Khansas" were an asset to the house hold, and were treated with due respect.

The word "Nawabi" is as synonymous with the Hyderabadi cuisine as "Shahi" is with Luknowi. These terms conjure delicacies that are rich in taste and texture with mouth-watering aromas. The "Kebabs" in Hyderabad need a special mention, the "ShammiKebab" is one such popular dish. The Kebabs are originally from Greece

The two major variations in the Biryani are "Kacchi" and "Puccki" Biryani .The difference lies in the Preparation and the Pre cooking respectively .The heart of Biryani lies in Marination and the "Dum " (Steaming with live coals).

The "Kucchi Biryani " is made with uncooked meat and the marination time for the meat for this preparation varies from 90min-360min.The Marinate includes raw papaya peel , hung curd, spices and condiments. Some chefs use black and white pepper instead of red chilly powder.

The par boiled rice and the marinated meat are then arranged in layers with mint leaves, fried onions and saffron as garnish between the layers; the handi is then sealed and then handi is allowed to steam between layers of live embers. The seal of the Handiis broken only during the meals time and the delicious smell of the Biryani is allowed to waft in the dastorkhan whetting the appetite of the dinners.

The "PUCCI BIRYANI" is made similarly except for the fact that meat is pre-cooked before being arranged in layers for the dum. Of course, the marination process and the marinade will considerably differ for both these Biryanis.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of boned leg of lamb, cut into inch cubes

  • One large white onion thinly sliced and deep fried in oil until light golden and crisp. Refined peanut oil is recommended but sunflower will do.

  • 5 tablespoons od whole Greek yoghurt

  • Juice of 2 lemons

  • Chopped fresh herbs – equal quantities of mint (handful) and coriander (handful) mixed with two green chillies (finely chopped).

  • Ghee (clarified butter) or oil

  • 1 teaspoon saffron (or 10 threads of fresh saffron), boiled in litre milk

  • Rice (long grain or basmati)

  • Simple pastry dough mixture for the top – mixture of plain flour, butter and water with a pinch of salt. Alternatively a lid can be used to seal the dish.

Spices for Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoons papaya paste (tenderising agent)

  • 2 tablespoons Ginger / Garlic paste\

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons turmeric

  • 2 teaspoons red chilli powder

  • 1 Cinnamon stick

  • 2 cloves

  • 10 cardamom pods with shell on

 

Method

First, marinade the meat in the spices. This is a great recipe to get your fingers mucky:

Get a flat copper dish and lay the juicy tender lamb pieces flat to cover the bottom of the dish. Add all the spices for the marinade to the meat in the above order and mix in to the meat with your hands.

Crush the fried onions onto meat and mix with hands. Add yoghurt and mix again. Add temon juice, fresh herbs and 2 tablespoons of the oil which is leftover from the onions.

Leave to marinade for 40-45 minutes for the flavour to develop.

Meanwhile, par boil the rice. When the rice is still crunchy in the middle, cover the meat with it.

Pour over the top the Ghee (or 3 tablespoons of oil) mixed with litre of the water from the boiling rice.

Place the saffron on top of the rice.

With pre-made plain flour and water pastry, roll a tick tube and stick to the copper pan. Roll out the remains of the dough and stretch over the top of the dish to act like a lid. Alternatively you can place a lid over the dish, but do not remove it until completely cooked.

Cook in oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 40 minutes.

Serve with Nan bread and salad

Serves 4

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