My Citizens! The undimmed light in the East – the jeweled radiance who ALONE is TFD! – is pleased to share with you recipe #4 in our week of Indian delights, this one from the great city of Hyderabad!
Established in 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, Hyderabad remained under the rule of the Qutb Shahi dynasty for nearly a century before the Mughals captured the region. In 1724, Mughal viceroy Asif Jah I declared his sovereignty and created his own dynasty, known as the Nizams of Hyderabad.
The Nizam’s dominions became a princely state during the British Raj, and remained so for 150 years, with the city serving as its capital. The city continued as the capital of Hyderabad State after it was brought into the Indian Union in 1948, and became the capital of Andhra Pradesh after the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.
Since 1956, Rashtrapati Nilayam in the city has been the winter office of the President of India. In 2014, the newly formed state of Telangana split from Andhra Pradesh and the city became the joint capital of the two states, a transitional arrangement scheduled to end by 2025.
Relics of Qutb Shahi and Nizam rule remain visible today; the Charminar—commissioned by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah—has come to symbolise Hyderabad. Golconda fort is another major landmark. The influence of Mughlai culture is also evident in the region’s distinctive cuisine, which includes Hyderabadi biryani and Hyderabadi haleem.
The Qutb Shahis and Nizams established Hyderabad as a cultural hub, attracting men of letters from different parts of the world. Hyderabad emerged as the foremost center of culture in India with the decline of the Mughal Empire in the mid-19th century, with artists migrating to the city from the rest of the Indian subcontinent. The Telugu film industry based in the city is the country’s second-largest producer of motion pictures.
Hyderabad was historically known as a pearl and diamond trading center, and it continues to be known as the “City of Pearls”. Many of the city’s traditional bazaars remain open, including Laad Bazaar, Begum Bazaar and Sultan Bazaar.
As for the glory that is biryani, it is a mixed rice dish with its origins among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. It is popular throughout the Indian subcontinent as well as among the diaspora from the region. It is made with Indian spices, rice, meat (chicken, goat, beef, prawn, or fish), vegetables or eggs.
Biryani is a Hindustani word derived from the Persian language, which was used as an official language in different parts of medieval India by various Islamic dynasties. One theory is that it originates from birinj, the Persian word for rice. Another is that it derives from biryan or beriyan, which is to fry or to roast.
The exact origin of the dish is uncertain. In North India, different varieties of biryani developed in the Muslim centers of Delhi (Mughlai cuisine), Lucknow (Awadhi cuisine) and other small principalities. In South India, where rice is more widely used as a staple food, several distinct varieties of biryani emerged from Telangana (specifically Hyderabad), Tamil Nadu (Ambur), Kerala (Malabar), and Karnataka, where minority Muslim communities were present.
Andhra is the only region of South India that does not have many native varieties of biryani. During the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736) in Persia, a dish called Berian Pilao (Nastaliq script: بریان پلو) was made with lamb or chicken, marinated overnight — with dahi, herbs, spices, dried fruits (e.g., raisins, prunes, or pomegranate seeds) — and later cooked in a tannour oven. It was then served with steamed rice.
According to historian Lizzie Collingham, the modern biryani developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire (1526–1857), as a confluence of the native spicy rice dishes of India and the Persian pilaf. Indian restaurateur Kris Dhillon believes that the dish originated in Persia, and was brought to India by the Mughals. However, another theory claims that the dish was known in India before the first Mughal emperor Babur came to India.
The 16th-century Mughal text Ain-i-Akbari makes no distinction between biryanis and pilaf (or pulao): it states that the word “biryani” is of older usage in India. A similar theory, that biryani came to India with Timur’s invasion, appears to be incorrect, because there is no record of biryani having existed in his native land during that period.
My version of this classic recipe is traditional in the extreme, and uses the classic dum method of cooking.
Dum means to ‘breathe in’ and pukht means to ‘cook.’ Dum pukht cooking uses a round, heavy-bottomed pot, preferably a handi (clay pot), in which food is sealed and cooked over a slow fire. The two main aspects to this style of cooking are: bhunao and dum, or ‘roasting’ and ‘maturing’ of a prepared dish.
In this cuisine, herbs and spices are important. The process of slow roasting gently allows each to release their maximum flavor. The sealing of the lid of the handi with dough achieves maturing. Cooking slowly in its juices, the food retains its natural aromas.
In some cases, cooking dough is spread over the container, like a lid, to seal the foods; this is known as pardah (veil). Upon cooking, it becomes a bread which has absorbed the flavors of the food. The bread is usually eaten with the dish. In the end, dum pukht food is about aroma when the seal is broken on the table and the fragrance of a Persian repast floats in the air.
Redolent of rare spices, flower essences and the history of the Emperors of old, I hope you will enjoy this dish of dishes, Citizens! 🙂 You can buy culinary-grade Bulgarian rose essence (the best in the world!) here black cumin seeds here and kewra water here.
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- For the marinated chicken:
- 1 lb skinless and boneless Chicken breast, washed and cut into cubes
- 1 tsp Ginger Paste
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- ¼ cup Mint leaves, finely chopped
- ¼ cup Cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Kashmiri chili powder or hot paprika
- ¼ cup whole milk yogurt
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp Garam Masala Powder – 1 tblsp
- 1 jalapeño, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 tbsp Ghee
- ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp garam masala (lightly roasted in a pan on low heat for 30 secs)
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- ¼ cup Oil for deep frying the onions (do not use left over oil in the marinade after frying onions. Discard or save it for a different dish)
- Salt to taste
- 1 ½ large onions, thinly-sliced
- Saffron – 2 pinches soaked in ¼ cup whole milk
- ½ tsp Kewra Water
- ½ tsp Rose Essence
- ⅛ cup Cilantro Leaves, chopped finely
- ⅛ cup Mint Leaves, chopped finely
- ½ tsp salt
- Pinch of red orange color dissolved in 2 tbsps milk or water (optional but recommended)
- Bread dough to seal the pot
- For the rice:
- 2 cups Basmati rice – Rinse under cold water 2-3 times until water runs clear and soak for 30 minutes, then drain in a strainer and set rice aside
- 4 whole green Cardamoms, remove seed pods
- 3 Cloves
- ¾ tsp Black cumin seeds (Shahi jeera)
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 Star Anise
- 4 Black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 4 tbsp Salt
- 10 cups water for boiling
- In a saucepan, heat about ¼ cup of oil and deep fry marinade onions until dark brown. Remove the onions and drain them on the kitchen towel. Once cool, crush them and set aside. They are ready to be mixed in the marinade. (Do not use leftover oil in the marinade, it can be used for another dish)
- The first step is marinating the chicken:
- In a large bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients until well combined. Cover and let it rest overnight to let the chicken absorb all the flavors of the spices and enhance the taste of your biryani.
- Cooking the basmati rice:
- While the chicken is marinating, place a deep sauce pan on the stove with 10 cups of water over high heat + one tbsp oil or ghee to keep the grains from sticking. When the water gets to boil, throw in the spices and cook for a minute.
- Now gently add in the drained rice to the boiling water and let it cook on high heat until it boils again (takes 4 minutes).
- Immediately drain the rice along with the spices in a strainer. Let all the water drain off. Set aside.
- Place a heavy wide-bottomed deep pot or vessel on the stove top and turn it on high heat. Allow the pot to get hot for about a minute.
- Now arrange the entire marinated chicken (except the jalapeño halves, discard those) at the bottom of this pot. This is your first layer.
- Then arrange the half-cooked rice on top of the chicken. This is going to be your second and last layer.
- On top of the rice, add sliced onions, cilantro leaves, mint leaves, kewra water, rose essence, saffron-soaked milk and ghee. Cover the pot with a lid and cook on high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Do not cook more than that because your chicken might get burnt.
- Meanwhile heat a dosa pan/flat bottomed skillet on high heat till the pan is hot. Once hot reduce the flame to the lowest setting and place the chicken and rice pot on the tawa.
- Remove the lid and pour in the red orange color water around in the center. This would give your rice the restaurant-style look with some of the rice grains looking orange in color.
- Now seal the pot with bread dough. This allows the flavors of your chicken and rice to remain inside. Cook for 30 minutes undisturbed on the tawa on the lowest setting. Switch of the flame and let it rest for 10 mts.
- Just before serving open the lid, gently mix in the chicken at the bottom with the rice. Serve it hot with mirchi ka salan or raita and enjoy.
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