During a Whatsapp conversation, someone in my family mentioned meeting over a plate of biryani. When we tried to find a good dum biryani restaurant on the net, we could not decide on one. So then, I volunteered to cook a big pot of dum biryani as it was either that or continue to have a hankering for biryani.
Dum Biryani is actually a Persian dish brought over to India by the Mughals. The word ‘biryani’ comes from the Persian word ‘birian’ which means “fried before cooking. ‘Dum’ actually means the rice and meat are partly cooked separately before they are layered in a huge pot and cooked together over a very low flame. The result is an extremely fragrant and satisfying one-pot meal that is usually paired with a raita (cucumber-yoghurt salad).
Dum Chicken Biryani
Serves 5 large portions/ 10 small portions
For the chicken marination
- 1-1.3 kg chicken, cut into 10 pieces
- 100 g natural yoghurt
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the chicken sauté
- 3 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil ( I strongly recommend ghee. If unavailable, use a mixture of butter and vegetable oil as ghee is clarified butter)
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 8 green cardamoms / 4 black cardamoms
- 5 cloves
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 3 large red onions, sliced thinly
- 7 green chillies, sliced thinly
- 3 very ripe, large tomatoes, sliced
- 4 tbsp ginger-garlic paste ( ginger-garlic in a 1:1 ratio ground to a paste)
- 3 heaped dinner tablespoonfuls biryani /meat curry powder, mixed with a few tablespoons of water to make a slightly wet paste)
- 2-3 tbsp salt
- 1 chicken stock cube (optional)
- 100-150 ml hot water
For the par-boiled rice
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 cups long-grained basmati rice, washed thoroughly & soaked for 30 mins
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 3 green cardamoms/ 1 black cardamom
- 1 star anise
- 8-10 cups water ( or as many cupfuls as indicated on your rice packet)
- 200 ml hot milk with a pinch of saffron strands
- 2-3 tsp pure rosewater extract
- 2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
- 1 big handful of chopped coriander leaves
- 1 big handful of chopped mint leaves
- 3 tbsp fried shallot slices
- small handful of raisins
- handful of toasted pistachios / almonds/ cashews
- saffron spray (optional)
Marinate the chicken pieces in the yoghurt, turmeric and salt for 30 minutes.
In a medium pot, bring the water, rice and whole spices and salt to a boil and boil rice till it’s partially cooked, al dente. Check your rice packet on how long it takes to fully cook the rice and boil the rice for 1/2 of the cooking time required for it to fully cooked. Drain rice and discard whole spices. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a another medium-sized pan, over a medium flame, heat ghee/oil and fry the cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves and bay leaves until aromatic. Add sliced onions and green chillies and sauté till onions are golden brown on the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Add sliced tomato and sauté till they become mushy/pulpy.
Next, add the ginger-garlic paste, curry powder-paste and sauté till they’re fragrant. If mixture starts to brown too much, add a little hot water & reduce flame. hen, add chicken with all the marination juices and chicken stock cube. After 1 minute, add some hot water to create a thick gravy. Cook over low heat until chicken is 3/4 cooked. Turn off the flame.
In a large heavy-based pot/ dutch oven pot, pour a little oil and spread it evenly. This is to prevent the rice grains from burning. Next, put half of the partially cooked rice evenly on the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle some rosewater, orange blossom water, some saffron milk, fried shallots, toasted nuts, chopped mint, chopped coriander and raisins. Pour all the chicken pieces and gravy and spread it out evenly over the rice. Then, top chicken with remaining rice and top with the similar ‘trimmings’ as the first layer of rice, leaving some mint, coriander for the final garnish. Cover rice with foil and place the lid on top to prevent any steam from escaping. Cook gently over very low heat for about 45 minutes.
To serve, remove lid and foil, lightly spray some saffron (if you have one) and sprinkle the remaining mint and coriander leaves.
For a simple Cucumber Raita, cut 2 cucumbers and 2 tomatoes into cubes and mix with some finely chopped mint, coriander, deseeded chillies, salt and yoghurt.
Your cooked biryani should mostly be white with some red/orange speckles from the saffron. Mine looks quite orangey in the pictures due to the extra spray of saffron and the first picture is actually of leftovers which had already been mixed with the thick gravy.
This is a perfect one-pot meal to make when you’re having a dinner party as it is delicious and can be made a day ahead and warmed up in a rice cooker. In fact, it tastes much better the next day as all the flavours would have had the chance to ‘mingle’ and become awesome together. Just a word of caution though, once you’ve made this you’ll keep wanting to make it again and again as your home will smell amazing while it’s slowly cooking and it would probably taste better than the store-bought version which are usually full of MSG and artificial colouring ( as real saffron is expensive). Do not let the long list of ingredients and steps daunt you. The result is worth every bit of extra effort.
I’ve made this with quinoa and chicken breast and it cooks faster. If using only chicken breasts, add the chicken stock cube to enhance the flavour.