I have a delicious dum biryani recipe on the blog, made by layering cooked rice and meat masala, and then slowly steaming it to meld the flavors together. In certain regions, biryani is prepared by cooking the rice, meat and various spices and herbs together, creating a richer, more colorful and spicier version. This process makes it a true one-pot meal. But one would argue that makes it a pulao. Trust me, it is not. This biryani involves a careful layering of all the flavors, making this a true culinary delight like none other.
This recipe is for Tamil Nadu style mutton biryani, where the different spices and herbs are first ground to release all their flavors (super important step to retain the authenticity), then sauteed and cooked with the mutton to produce a flavorful biryani. This is how my mom prepares it and it is my all-time favorite. It was a regular feature at home on most Sundays and other holidays throughout my childhood (and even now). I can never ever tire of it. And there have been days in the US, when I would suddenly crave it so bad, that I could close my eyes and almost smell it!
This biryani is best made with fresh ingredients – freshly ground ginger, garlic, green chilies, and herbs. This means that you need to plan for it and prep the ingredients, but it can be done up to a day or two in advance and stored in the refrigerator till you are ready to cook the biryani.
This is one of those dishes I used to happily help my mom with when I was younger. I was not much of a regular helper in those years. Sorry, ma. But if it was biryani day, you would find me in the kitchen.
I helped pick and clean the fresh herb leaves, chop onions and grind ginger and garlic.
Meanwhile, mom would scrape fresh coconut and extract the milk.
She would start cooking the mutton, I would wash and lightly toast the rice in ghee.
She would trust me to pour just enough liquid for the rice and meat. This is very important when making this biryani. You can fix it if you use lesser cooking liquid initially, but if you go over the limit, then nothing can be done.
Here, in the States, I make chicken biryani this way for Boy, but never with mutton, until now that is. We are not big fans of lamb, and surprisingly, good mutton is hard to come by here. So when I found the perfect cut at our Asian store, I greedily grabbed a small packet, got fresh cilantro and mint and planned for our big day, because homemade biryani makes even a regular day seem like a special one!
The ingredient list is a tad long and the process might seem a bit laborious. But trust me, it’s totally worth it!
MUTTON OR GOAT BIRYANI (TAMIL NADU STYLE)
You will need:
To semi-cook the mutton,
- Mutton – 2 lbs
- Onion – around 1/2 of an onion, chopped
- Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
- Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
- Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – 1/2 tsp
To grind to a paste,
- Ginger – a 2-in piece
- Garlic – 8-10 cloves
- Green chilies – 3-4
Herbs to grind,
- Cilantro – a big bunch (around 1 cup chopped)
- Mint – 1/3rd the amount of cilantro
For the biryani,
- Basmati rice – 2 cups (or Khyma, Jeeraka samba rice may be used)
- Ghee/Oil – 6 tbsp, divided
- Whole spices – 1 dry bay leaf, a 1-in piece of cinnamon, 3 cloves, 3 green cardamom pods, a small piece of star anise
- Onions – 3 large ones, finely chopped
- Ginger-garlic-green chili paste – the aforementioned quantity
- Cilantro-mint leaves paste – the aforementioned quantity
- Tomato – 1 large, chopped
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- Red chili powder – 2-3 tsp (as per heat level desired)
- Coriander powder – 3-4 tsp (depending on how much red chili powder is used)
- Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
- Semi-cooked mutton – 2 lbs (see above)
- Coconut milk – at least 2 cups
- Salt – to taste
- Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
- Cashew nuts and golden raisins – a small handful each, for garnish
- Clean, wash and cut the mutton into medium-sized chunks. In a pressure cooker, add the mutton along with 1/2 of one chopped onion, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook on high heat for 1 or 2 whistles, reduce heat to low, cook for 5 more minutes and allow the pressure to escape naturally before opening the cooker. The mutton will be semi-cooked now. Remember, we will cook it again with the biryani masala and rice. Drain the stock and reserve it for later. (You can also cook the mutton in a regular pan, though this will take a longer time. Use a big deep pot like a Dutch Oven).
- Grind the ginger, garlic and green chilies together. Also grind the cilantro and mint leaves together with a little water. This step can be done a day in advance. Store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
- Wash the rice well and drain the water completely. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp ghee on medium heat and roast the rice till it is fairly dry and well-coated with the ghee. Keep stirring the rice constantly, so that it does not turn brown. Remove from heat and keep aside.
- In a large capacity pressure cooker or other large pan like a Dutch pot, heat the rest of the ghee. Add the whole spices and let them sputter and turn fragrant.
- Add the chopped onions and saute well till golden brown. Add the ground ginger-garlic-green chili paste and saute till the raw smell is gone. Add the cilantro-mint paste and saute well till it releases a nice aroma and the oil separates.
- Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder and mix well. Add the chopped tomato and saute for a couple of minutes till tomatoes soften. Then add the semi-cooked mutton pieces and combine well with the masala.
- Measure 3 1/2 cups of liquid using the stock from cooking the mutton and coconut milk and add to the pot. (This makes the biryani so flavorful than if you use just water). Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice also. Bring to a gentle boil and add the rice. Season with salt.
- If you are using a pressure cooker, put the lid and weight on, cook for one whistle on high heat, then simmer on low for 5-7 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally before opening it.
- If you are using any other cooking vessel, close it with a tight-fitting lid and place something heavy on top, like a saucepan full of hot water. This is to create a ‘dum’ or steamed effect. Cook on medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes or till the rice is completely cooked. (Take a peek in between to see if it needs more water. If your rice needs more water to cook, sprinkle hot water as needed, close and continue cooking.)
- Once done, mix the biryani well, taking care to use a light hand and not mash the rice. Keep biryani covered till ready to serve.
- Just before serving, garnish with a small handful of cashew nuts and golden raisins fried in a little ghee.
- Serve biryani hot with a cool raita or thick yogurt, fresh vegetable salad, Indian pickle and pappad.
- It is always better to use some bone-in mutton pieces for added flavor.
- I like to garnish with fried golden raisins to compliment the spiciness, but you can leave them out if you wish to.
- Keep the biryani pot tightly closed till serving time, so that the flavors meld together beautifully.
- You can also serve boiled eggs with the biryani, though I personally prefer eggs with chicken biryani.
- For lamb or chicken biryani, there is no need to semi-cook the meat first. Simply marinate the meat with a little spices, add to the sauteed masala and proceed.
- For vegetable biryani, add 2 cubed potatoes, 2 diced carrots and 1/4 – 1/2 cup of green peas to the sauteed masala and proceed. You can then garnish this with some pan-fried paneer.
Biryani is a great one-dish meal. This mutton biryani is so flavorful and is even better the next day, when the flavors have had time to develop!
Try it and let me know if you like it.
I am linking this up at these awesome blogs.
- A Blossoming Life
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- By Stephanie Lynn