I never realised the delicacy of a proper Biryani until my trip to India. It is not simply rice and curry mixed together. It is a lengthy process that takes dedication and a good spice rack. For this reason, most restaurants in England will make it completely incorrectly to save time which results in a dish no where near as satisfying. Like microwaving a jacket potato instead of baking it slowly. It makes ALL the difference.
Ingredients: (feeds 6)
One Lamb shoulder (cut into pieces - bone and all)
4 Onions (sliced)
2 Star Anise
2 big sticks of Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons of Cumin seeds
3 Black Cardamom Pods
6 Green Cardamom Pods
8 Whole Black Peppercorns
Whole Dried Red Chillies (2 for flavour or more for heat)
2 large Dry Bay Leaves
2 teaspoons of crushed ginger
3 teaspoons of crushed garlic
2 cups of plain yogurt
3 cups of dried Rice
4 large potatoes quartered and boiled
Couple of drops of red food colouring mixed with 2 tablespoons of water (optional)
Fry the meat in oil (need quite a lot of oil) and set aside. This seems pointless but believe me it is essential to seal the meat for flavour. Use the same oil to fry the 4 sliced onions until golden and then throw in all your whole spices (star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black cardamom, green cardamom, peppercorns, chillies, bay leaves). There should be enough oil in the pan to fry these spices rather than steam/boil. The dish will start to smell like a proper biryani already.
Once you are happy that the onions are fried and the spices nicely toasted, add the fried meat along with the ginger and garlic. Give it 10 minutes and add the boiled potatoes and the yogurt. Cook it through until the oil separates and the meat is soft. Add some water if it is going dry before the meat is cooked but be careful as our end product needs to have a thick sauce with little liquid remaining.
Cook the rice "al dente" (remove from the heat a few minutes before usual). Use a casserole style dish or anything that is oven proof, big enough to fit it all in and has a lid (use foil if not). Now you need to layer your rice and meat mix into the oven dish. A layer of rice, a drizzle of colouring, layer of meat. Go again and finish with a layer of rice and drizzle once more (if you really want to push the boat out you can top it with fried onions). Finally bake for 30-40 minutes on a very low heat. Phew...
As a biryani is quite dry it is often served with a basic vegetable curry and/or an onion Raita. If you want to get closer to the Biryani in Hotel RRR (above) then you need to get a flight booked and head over to Mysore. Good luck...