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
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.
2 pounds of boned leg of lamb, cut into ¾ 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 ¼
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
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
10 cardamom pods with shell on
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
½ 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