Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thalassery style Chicken Biryani

Thalasserry, a city on the Malabar coast of Kerala has always been popular for its amazing food including the biryani. In our eyes, this is the Biryani to die for, the very best in its kind. And ever since this blog came into existence, this is one item we endlessly talked about making. Though it comes with such a delay and such a tedious procedure, its truly worth a try.  

Prep Time: 2 hrs
Ingredients
Chicken (medium size pieces): 1 cup
Jeerakasala rice* : 2 cups
Onions (finely sliced) : 4-5 medium sized
Tomatoes (medium size chopped): 3
Green chillies: 5-6
Ginger (crushed): 1 teaspoon
Garlic (crushed): 1 teaspoon or 2 pods
Coriander leaves (chopped): 1 bunch
Mint leaves: 1 bunch
Cashew nuts: handful
Raisins: handful
oil: 1/4 cup
Ghee: 1/4 cup
Lemon Juice: 2 tablespoon
Saffron Milk : 5 -6 saffron strands mixed in 3 tablespoons of warm milk

Spice powder : 3/4 - 1 tablespoon (Adjust to your liking)
Dry roast the following on low flame and  grind into a fine powder.

Cardamom: 2
Cinnamon stick: 1
Cloves: 4-5
Nutmeg (grate  a pinch)
Javithri/Mace: 1/4 teaspoon 
Saunf: 1 teaspoon
Shahi Jeera/Caraway seeds:  1/2 teaspoon
Pepper: 2 teaspoons
Cumin seeds: 1 teaspoon

* Jeerakasala also called Kaima / Jeerakasamba  rice is a special type of Indian rice mainly used in Biryani preparation. It has shorter grains compared to Basmati rice, but is equally aromatic and flavorful.
* You can fry the onions fully in ghee or like we did, in a mix of oil and ghee.
* Deep fried onions are called bista in local thalasserry slang
*  Rice/water ratio = 1 cup rice : little more than 3/4 cup or 85% of  1 cup
* Frying the cashew and raisins are optional since it will anyway get steam cooked in the Dum procedure.

Heat oil and ghee (1/4 cup each) in a deep dish/kadai to deep fry the onions until golden brown. Make  sure you fry onions in batches else the water content will make it mushy. Keep aside 3/4 rth of the fried onions  for the chicken and the rest is for Dum/garnish. In the remaining oil fry the cashew nut and raisins.

Heat a deep heavy bottom dish (like a stockpot). Add the chopped tomatoes and stir. Its not like we missed the oil, this recipe doesn't call for any oil to make the chicken base. Add 2-3 table spoon water to cook the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes start softening add the crushed ginger, garlic and green chilies and stir. When the raw smell fades away, add the cleaned chicken pieces and mix well. Add salt and chopped mint leaves. Cover and cook. Make sure it doesn't burn at the bottom. If its drying up too much add 1/4 cup water and mix. 

When the chicken is almost cooked, add 3/4 of the fried onions and stir well. Let it simmer. Add the spice powder, lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves. Keep it on low flame and mix thoroughly until  the gravy thickens. It should be a semi dry to dry consistency. Adjust the salt. If you want it to be more spicy, add some more pepper powder.  Turn off the heat.
Parallelly cook the rice in a deep dish. We usually cook the rice in a pressure cooker. Boil the water, add salt, 2 teaspoons ghee, 5 gloves, 1 cardamom pod and 2 cinnamon sticks. Add the washed rice to the boiling water. Cover it with the pressure cooker's lid without the whistle until steam starts to come. Now keep the whistle on and cook at medium heat for about 10 mins. Remove it from the heat and keep aside. Fluff it up with a fork.
To do the final Dum procedure, add the fried onions and chopped coriander leaves on top of the cooked chicken. Now spread the rice evenly over it. Sprinkle the saffron milk. Add the cashew and raisin. Top it off with any leftover fried onions. Cover it tight and leave it either on the gas stove on low flame or in the oven at 350F for 15 - 20 mins. 

Mix well before you serve.  Typically this Biryani is served it with coconut chammanthi, pappadam and dates pickle.

After a thousand searches we hit the right note with this recipe courtesy Taste of Kerala, Amrita TV.  

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