When presented with this challenge it got me excited. I immediately began to think about either the middle east or India. Having cooked and prepared many dishes using a number of classical techniques from the European culinary world, I was thinking about which part of the world would challenge me. Where would I have to go to be less familiar with their techniques or cooking methods? I’ve always been partial to Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. I love the flavors and spices.
The exquisite aromas when walking into an Indian restaurant. Heavy smells of curry, cardamom, turmeric, chilies, and many more spices all wafting in the air forming a never-ending parade of unique scents for the palate to begin to savor. The anticipation of what is to come on the plate. One can’t help thinking about the early tradesmen from Europe traveling east, on the spice route, to discover the plethora of flavors, colors, and scents that awaited them when they hit the regions of Persia, Arabia, India, China, Java and more. For me this what I can’t help thinking of when I am experiencing the foods of the region. Many of these spices eventually made their way into many classical European dishes that we eat to this day.
The dining experience in an Indian restaurant is a feast for the senses. One small dish after another being presented at the table with a whole host of condiments from spicy to sweet to sour, each paired so well with the different flavors of the entrees. Food that I love but yet am not too familiar with its preparation.
So the question is where do I go. Is it technique or the road to discovery. I chose the road to discovery. Which ended up being Indian Cuisine. The next challenge was to decide on a dish to prepare. My first instinct was Tandori Chicken which I knew was a challenge however I don’t have a grill readily available so after doing a bit of research online I discovered that Chicken Biryani, which I had underestimated as being a simple chicken and rice dish is not that all. After looking into it I discovered that it was a complex dish made up of many spices and steps to prepare.
It’s interesting that Biryani was brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Muslims.
Each region in India has its own form of biryani. Some are exclusively vegetarian and others are with meat or chicken. Non-vegetarian Hyderabadi biryani is savored in all parts of India and forms an integral part of Indian cuisine. The Nizam’s kitchen boasted of 49 kinds, which included biryani made from fish, quail, shrimp, deer, and hare. The most famous of all, Hyderabadi Biryani is called the “Kachi Akhni” Biryani as both the marinated meat and the rice are cooked together. – (“Wikipedia”) This is the type of biryani that I have decided to make. Basically it’s Chicken Biryani.
My first task was to find out how to make this dish. So glad for YouTube and Sanjay Thumma. His videos Vah-Chef have many great recipes and dishes. This dish was interesting in that the meat and rice are cooked together. Being a trained chef myself I am used to working without recipes and just an ingredient list and also cooking by taste. I also looked up a few recipes for this to find any that matched what he was cooking. I came close but not completely. So I chose to go with his video as my guide.
Next, I had to assemble all of the ingredients which are: Chicken, Basmati rice, turmeric, cardamom, cumin seeds, cardamon pods, yogurt, fresh mint, fresh coriander, mace, bay leaves, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, olive oil, saffron, ground cumin, whole cloves, kosher salt, whole peppercorns, green chili, red chili powder, and onions. I looked through my cabinet and filled in what I didn’t have.
Oh as I’m writing this the aromas of the dish are wafting throughout my house and I’m getting very hungry. The prep took a bit of time.
I chopped up the coriander and mint leaves along with the jalapeño chili and mixed them together. The next items on the list are the spices turmeric, cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin seeds, cumin powder, garlic ginger paste and the rest to the yogurt. Next I cut up a chicken and added it to the mixture and mixed it all together, covered it and placed it in the fridge for a few hours. About 45 mins before the basmati rice must be soaked. When ready in a pot of well-salted oiled water add the drained basmati rice and bring to a boil. You only want to par-cook the rice so the water measurement is not that important. When par-cooked drain rice and in another pot place chicken at the bottom and flatten out. Then cover with the par-cooked rice and top with a bit of saffron. Make sure the pot is well sealed, I used a paper towel, and then place on medium-low heat for about 30 to 40 mins. Then you’re ready to eat.
It was a good experience and I would definitely make this again. The flavors are wonderful and it has a bit of a kick to it which I like. This balances out well with all the aromatic flavors in the dish. Definitely something to be added to the repertoire. I think there may be more Indian cooking in my future.