Sitting in the thinnai (a concrete sit out constructed in Tamilian houses), gazing at the neighbor’s huge koolam ( a sand painting done with rice powder in front of the house), admiring those tiny ants running around it, I was sipping a cup of steamy milk. I was savoring the moment of silence before the world wakes up. The moist early morning air gently caressed my cheeks and ran through my hair which I had left loose. The soft curls of my short hair tickled my neck every time the breeze passed over me. Inside, perched on an antic table was the 1980’s 2-in-1 radio playing the All India Radio (AIR)- morning news and outside, my grand father, white-haired man was busy plucking hibiscus for his morning prayers. In the dining area, my bossy grandmother, clad in a soft cotton saree was giving the list of vegetables to chop to the house maid. My grandmother is as tough as an old bird and one can never win an argument with her. She is a very intelligent cook, who knows her spices and brilliantly plays with it. From a women of that age, one wouldn’t expect different kind of menu coming from her kitchen. Surprise is the word during the meal time.
We would eat our breakfast/lunch/dinner on the floor, on a bamboo mat and eat with the fingers of the right hand. The food will be served on a fresh cut banana leaf placed in the front and my granddad would carefully cut the leaves and wash them clean in the backyard before bringing it inside the house. This fresh, green organic platter as he calls it, is our alternative to use-and-throw plates.
Everyday at 10.00 am the electricity goes off and this is a routine which is done to save power for the EID-Parry factory. That’s the time when everyone in the family would gather to sit and gossip about that relative, this movie, the local news and crack silly jokes about each other. To cool herself and to stop the sweat from dripping through her forehead, she would grab a brown hand-fan, and quickly wave it across her face and also on mine. A gentle breeze of love will touch my heart. When the power comes back, which will be after two hours, she would plan to re-enter the kitchen and on that day , she had planned to prepare an easy chicken biryani with her signature chicken curry. As I write this, I can feel my grand mother’s presence around me and my eyes are turning moist thinking about her.
Today I am sharing her version of Paradesi Style Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani. Every biryani has its unique recipe; some add tomatoes to it, some add onion-whole spice paste and my son’s favourite version is made with pre-cooked basmati rice, fried onions and marinated chicken. This biryani is cooked by dum style where the chicken and rice are let to cook together by placing an airtight lid to the vessel. This is one of the easiest recipe ever. Instead of using fried onions, I microwaved the onions for 20-30 minutes until they caramelized. This saves a lot of calories and oil. I will marinate the chicken with whole spices, yogurt and spice powders in the morning and cook the biryani for lunch. My son loves it as it is not spicy and we love it as it is packed with flavor. My achi’s chicken biryani warms my heart and can brighten up any day. I made some last weekend to share with you today.
PARADISE STYLE HYDERABADI CHICKEN DUM BIRYANI
Recipe: My grandmother
Cooking Level: Easy
Yields: Serves a family of four
For the rice:
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cardamons, 4 cloves, 1 bay leaf
- Water to soak and cook
For the fried onions:
- 3 large red onions
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the chicken marinade:
- 2 pounds chicken pieces
- 2 inch ginger, 10 garlic, 4 green chillies paste (grind them together)
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 5 cardamons, 5 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 1 star anise, 2 large black cardamon
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablesp0on coriander powder
- 1 cup cilantro-mint leaves
- 1 cup yogurt
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoon warm milk
- Soak basmati rice in enough water for 2 hours. In a large bottomed cooking vessel, add enough water to cook the rice. Bring it to a boil. Add the soaked rice, olive oil, whole spices and cook until 3/4 th done . It will take about 8 minutes. Switch off the flame and strain the water. Set the pre-cooked rice aside.
- Marinate the chicken with the ingredients listed under “chicken marinade” for 3-4 hours. Set them aside.
- Slice the onions finely thin, sprinkle oil and cook in the microwave for 20-30 minutes, until the brown and caramelize well.
- Using a 5 litre pressure cooker or any large vessel, arrange the marinated chicken as a single layer. Cover them with pre-cooked basmati rice and microwaved onions.
- Mix turmeric powder with milk and sprinkle it over the rice.
- Cover the vessel with layers of aluminum foil. I did three layer. Seal them tight along the edges and place a cast iron pan on top.
- Cook on medium low flame for 45 minutes. Switch off the flame and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the aluminum foil and fluff the rice wit a fork. Mix the rice and chicken gently to combine. Serve hot with raita or chicken curry.