I have always loved Biryani. I suppose it comes from all my childhood memories of cinnamon, and of course where it was used – apple pie, with sugar on pancakes, mixed into Mum’s banana custard – all wonderfully sweet and heart-warming dishes. So now the use of it is always associated with comforting, warm moments – and I am doing my best to add it to my own children’s sensory memories.
True Biryani is made by pan-frying a spice, onion and meat mix, then adding to par-cooked rice and finally baking the lot in an oven. All this takes about 2 1/2 hours. In these days of gadgets, I make mine in (gasp!) a rice cooker. I cook the meat seperately, because I like to keep it browned and crispy, and although you could serve this spiced rice with anything, from barbecued lamb kebabs to garlic tiger prawns or even on it’s own, I like it with chicken.
- 1kg Chicken Drumsticks
- a big pinch of saffron – soaked in warm water for a minute or two
- a big pinch of salt
- a glug of honey
- a glug of oil
- a little pinch of white pepper
- two cups of basmati rice
- two medium carrots – julienne
- two celery stalks, fine dice
- frozen green peas – about 1 cup
- two onions (I like the red – they are sweeter), sliced finely
- crushed garlic (to taste – I like 2 cloves)
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 5 cardamom pods (split)
- a little pinch of clove powder
- 1 chicken stock cube
- oil for pan-frying
- for the chicken – mix ingredients, then roll drumsticks in the liquid. Place on an oven tray, sprinkle a little more salt, and then bake at 180ºC for about 45 minutes
- For the rice – pan-fry onions and garlic until they are deep dark brown, then add carrots and celery, stock cube and a small amount of water and cook for about 5 minutes
- Put this mix, and the rest of the ingredients in the rice cooker with the appropriate amount of cold water for your cooker (in mine, this is another 2 cups).
I like to serve with a yogurt and chilli sauce – but you could also make a gravy with the scrapings of the baking pan, some extra salt, pepper and honey, and flour and water if you like it thick, or water and lemon juice if you like it thin.
You will notice that the onions will lose their colour. The reasons for browning are two-fold. One, the colour is absorbed by the rice, and two, the flavour of caramelized onions lends a more appropriate flavour.