I have always loved travelling by train. I love the comfort that train provides. You get to relax by the window watching beautiful scenery and read comfortably or you can spread your legs and sleep peacefully. My memorable journeys are the one's that includes a train journey. One such journey that I remember well is from Mumbai to Mangalore. I and my aunt were on our way back from Mumbai chatting happily with co-passengers. Suddenly the train came to halt, we expected that we were waiting for signal. After few minutes when we did not notice any other trains pass by people got impatient and started getting down. That is when one of the passenger told us that there was landslide ahead and it would take few hours for the tracks to be cleared. Since we were ladies travelling we were worried and we had no water to drink. We had carried a bottle of water and had decided to purchase the bottled water on our way. Our compartment was the at the rear end of the pantry car and the food/water supply had got over by the time the it reached our compartment. One gentleman was kind enough to get some fresh water from a spring! My aunt had packed a big packet of Potato chips for us to carry home. I opened it and shared it with co passengers! One elderly man was kind enough to give me a Sidney Sheldon novel to pass my time. When the road got cleared and the train whistled all of us were relieved. At dinner time, We got down at Goa station and bought a packet of piping hot Biryani. The aroma of the Biryani was mind blowing and when I opened it I was shocked to see plain white rice at the top. When digged further there was some chole type gravy at the bottom. Not sure if it was the hunger or the aroma, The biryani was enjoyed to the last bite. I was expecting a vegetable pulao type and this was completely new but tasty! Since then I have had a soft spot for Biryani's.
I never dared to make Biryani in my kitchen when I started cooking. Thinking about the dum cooking and the lengthy process got me worried. When I started blogging in 2008, I had all the time in the world to learn new dishes. That's when I chanced upon Nupur's Biryani. I was bowled over the recipe and the step by step pictures and decided that I had to make it. We did not get mint leaves easily then and this made me take few deviations from her recipe. But the inspiration is from her post! Thank you Nupur.
Now I have access to fresh mint leaves and I made this dish again after 3 years and I was surprised that it came out wonderful and was loved by everyone!
Here is what's needed:
For the rice:
1.5 cupsc Basmati rice
2 green Cardamoms
1" Cinnamon stick
2 Bay leaves
1 Star anise
3 cups Water
salt to taste
For the Gravy:
2 Carrots peeled and chopped
12-15 Beans stringed and chopped
1 Potato peeled and chopped
a small head of Cauliflower cut into bite sized florets
10 Mushrooms cleaned and quartered
1/2 cup green Peas
To be chopped roughly
1 tsp Poppy seeds
2 tbsp Curds/Yogurt (Beat until smooth)
1.5 tsp Shan biryani Masala (This masala is very spicy and has red chilli powder in it. So I skipped using chilli powder)
1/2 tsp Ginger Garlic paste
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Garam masala (optional)
1 tsp Kitchen King masala
Salt to taste
2 medium Onions sliced thin
1/2 cup minced Coriander leaves
1/2 cup minced Mint leaves
12-15 Cashews split
1/3 cup Raisins
2 tbsp Ghee
1/4 cup Milk
1 tbsp of Saffron
Preparing the Rice:
1) Wash the rice in water until it runs clean and it in water for at least 10 mins. You can make rice in an open pan or in cooker. Normally I make rice by cooking in a large vessel with lots of water and whole spices and salt until 3/4th done and then drain it. Spread it on a plate to cool it until the time of using it. But this time I followed my friend's suggestion of making it in cooker. Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a cooker, add the whole spices and salt to taste followed by drained rice. Put the lid of the cooker without whistle. Place a steel glass inverted over the steam outlet and cook on high for 8 minutes switch off and let the cooker cool. Fluff with a fork and cool it on a wide plate. You can even add a tsp or two of ghee to enhance the flavor of the rice and make it non sticky as well.
Preparing the gravy:
1) Steam the veggies except mushrooms until tender. Keep aside.
2) Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and throw in the onions followed by ginger garlic paste. Saute until onions turn transparent and add the tomatoes. Cook until mushy. Cool.
3) In a blender add the onion mixture and poppy seeds and blend into a smooth puree.
4) In the same pan heat a tsp of oil and add in the mushrooms and cook until they have wilted and soft. Add the puree followed by the spice powders. Cook for 2-3 minutes and add the steamed vegetables and salt. Bring the flame to low and add yogurt. Mix well and give it a boil. Switch off and let it cool.
Preparing the garnishing:
1) Heat a tbsp of ghee and fry the cashews until golden. Add the raisins and let them puff up. Keep aside to cool.
2) In the same pan heat another tbsp of ghee and add the sliced onions. Fry it on a low flame until they turn golden. Keep aside.
3) Mix the minced coriander leaves and mint leaves in a bowl.
4) Microwave or boil the milk on stove until it is warm and add the saffron strands by crushing it slightly with the fingers.
Assembling the Biryani:
1) I used a pyrex 9x13 inch dish as suggested by Nupur. Use any dish that is large enough to hold the biryani and also suitable to used in a oven. Lightly grease the pan with ghee.
2) Spread 1/2 of the rice in the greased pan evenly. Using a spoon pour 1/2 of the saffron milk evenly on the rice. Top it off with 1/2 of the fried cashews, raisins, coriander leaves and mint leaves. Pour the gravy and spread it to cover the rice. Add the remaining rice followed by the saffron milk, fried cashew and raisins, mint and coriander leaves.
3) If desired a tsbp or two of ghee can be added. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven with temperature set to 400 degrees F.
I have made this without oven too. By first adding a tbsp of ghee followed by a layer of thinly sliced potato in a cooker or thick bottomed vessel and then assembling the Biryani as mentioned in the baking method. Cover with tight fitting lid and cooking on low flame for 20 - 25 mins. This method was taught to me by my brother and the Potatoes that are used at the bottom of biryani tastes awesome!
1) You can use only Biryani masala and omit the garam masala powder and Kitchen king masala. I find that the masala powder that I used was aromatic but was too spicy. So the next time I decreased the quantity of the biryani masala and added kitchen king masala.
2) When I am making this to be served at a dinner party ,I make this biryani early in the morning and refrigerate after assembling until I am ready to bake and serve.
3) Fried onions that are easily available can be used for garnishing instead of the homemade.
Serve the Biryani hot with Raita!