Chai and Hyderabadi Dum Murgh Biryani

October 10, 2008 at 6:56 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I promised Khadija that I would start posting here, as I’ve meant to do for quite some time now, and she suggested that I post food stuff here since it’s something that I’ve begun writing about in my individual blog more and more often. And of course I forgot last night when I made this massive post about biryani…so here it is, in all its glory.

I’m also reading Imam al-Ghazzali’s On the Manners Relating to Eating, which I find incredibly fascinating, so insha’Allah I will be making a post on that soon as well.

I’ve been really excited about cooking lately but I haven’t had a lot of time to do so. I took chicken out last night with the intention of making biryani, and I was sooo tired tonight that I almost didn’t do it! I’m really glad I did, though. I used the Hyderabadi Dum Murgh Biryani recipe from Zaiqa, but due to my own forgetfulness and/or tastes, there are some major changes, so I’ll post my actual ingredient list and process here.

This is my first time making “real” biryani; I made Zaiqa’s quick, light biryani recipe in April but I’ve always found the full process for making biryani daunting, so I put off trying it until now. It really wasn’t that bad – I did a lot of the prep while I was cooking at the same time so it only took about an hour and forty five minutes to two hours.

The major omissions and changes: instead of canola oil, I used sunflower oil, because my canola oil is apparently out of date (I never use it!). Instead of cumin seeds (zeera), I used cumin powder, as I bought too much caraway and forgot to buy cumin seeds because I am dumb. I also forgot to get cloves and fresh cilantro, so I omitted those, but I will definitely be adding them in next time. I omitted the green chillies because my roommates and I aren’t big fans of very spicy food. I also used regular mint flakes, not fresh mint. I changed the amounts quite a bit as I wanted to make a half batch (with about 1lb./450 grams of chicken), and I also tend to eyeball spices and oils rather than measuring them. I used Greek yogurt because I didn’t think I’d be able to get back to the Indian shop to buy the yogurt there; I’m not sure of the difference exactly, but the Greek yogurt seemed to have an especially strong savory/sour flavor, which everyone else liked but I wasn’t particularly fond of. I’m interested to try it with milder yogurts. So here’s an explanation of the way I made it…

Basmati rice – 2.5 cups
Water – 4 cups
Sunflower oil – ~8 tbsp.
Cinnamon sticks – 1
Caraway seeds – large pinch
Slivered almonds – small handful
Cashews – small handful
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into large chunks
Cardamom – 3 pods
Cumin (zeera) powder – large pinch
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp.
Garam Masala – ~1 tsp.
Yogurt – 1 cup
Tomatoes – 2 small, coarsely chopped
Turmeric – large pinch
Red chili powder – ~1 tsp.
Lemon juice – ~3 tbsp.
Salt – ~1 tsp.
Saffron strands – large pinch
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup milk
1.5 tbsp Irish butter
Mint flakes – large pinch

I chopped the tomatoes, onion, and chicken separately first. I heated some organic milk in the microwave and mixed the saffron in to sit, and started the rice soaking.
I fried the almonds and cashews in sunflower oil until golden brown (or rather, I burnt them the first time around, then threw those out and started over and fried them until golden brown!). I removed them onto a plate, then poured in several tbsp. of sunflower oil and fried about 3/4 of the onion until dark brown, but not quite crispy. I reserved those on another plate.
Next I fried the chicken until golden brown and cooked through in sunflower oil, and put that on another plate. Then I put the cumin powder, cardamom pods, and ginger-garlic paste and cooked for a few moments until browned. I added the other 1/4 of onion and cooked it til light brown.
Next I added the yogurt, garam masala, tomatoes, chili powder, lemon juice, turmeric, salt, and cooked almonds and cashews, and cooked that on medium, stirring frequently, for about 10-12 minutes.
Then I added the chicken to that, and cooked for about 10 minutes. The original recipe calls for about 25-40 minutes total cooking time for the yogurt and after the chicken is added, but as I was making a half batch and the yogurt and oils seemed to thicken very quickly, I just guessed on the time.
After adding the chicken, I boiled 4 cups of water with the cinnamon, caraway, and bay leaf, then added the strained, soaked rice and covered to steam, leaving at a high temperature. Once it was about 3/4 the way done, I stopped and strained it again.
I layered half the rice, then all of the chicken mixture, then the rest of the rice on top and garnished with mint and the fried onions. I poured the milk mixture and the melted butter on top of that, then baked at 350F for about 10 minutes. I used a long rectangular pan with high sides, so I just covered it with foil as I don’t actually own a casserole dish or anything like that (yet!).

I’ve also been experimenting with making my own chai lately. While I was at the organic food store, which was an awesome experience, I bought some (extremely expensive! the stuff is like gold!) loose leaf Darjeeling tea, so tonight that was my chai innovation. I’ve been using Darjeeling bags, although I have some other black teas I might try as well.

A’ishah’s Chai Recipe
Per person: about 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup water, 1 cardamom pod, 1-2 allspice pods(? is that what they’re called?), 1/2 piece nutmeg, 1/4 in. piece of cinnamon, one teabag or looseleaf tea, and about 1/2 bay leaf. I also use either 1/4 in. piece of ginger and two black peppercorns per person, or just shake in some powdered ginger and ground black pepper and eyeball it. Because I have not yet mastered the skill of boiling water AND milk without curdling the milk, I put all the spices and tea in a closed strainer and boil it with the water, then pour it into cups and add the milk afterwards.

Before I always used sugar whenever I had chai, but my Sanskrit professor has turned me onto agave nectar, so I am going through my little bottle she gave me as a present like CRAZY. It’s so yummy. And I love visiting her because she makes the most amazing chai (as well as other South Asian yummies). I hope one day I will be that adept.

The organic food market was SO much fun because I found out that there you can buy as much or as little as you want of most things, instead of having to buy an entire package. They do sell a lot of packaged goods, but they have a large area where you can scoop your own spices, some loose teas, nuts, flour, oats, grain, dried fruit, seeds, and lots of other yummy stuff. I got some dried mango, cranberries, and cherries there, as well as some dates. I was so excited about this as one of my problems for the last few years has been, in mostly cooking for myself, wasting a lot of food because I just cannot finish an entire package of anything. It’s especially bad with fresh spices and vegetables, which is why I don’t normally buy things like fresh cilantro and mint. Now if only they come up with a way to buy lettuce by the leaf or to buy half a package of mushrooms…a girl can dream!

Of course the Indian food store is right down the walk from there so I dropped by to go dal and wheat shopping for my plot to make the haleem and dal recipes (also from Zaiqa, although I want to try some of the recipes from sites on her links list as well). So…I came home loaded down with bags of different kinds of dal, Bengal gram, and dalia, and have a stack of canisters of stuff that all looks the same to my uncultured, Southern-fried, soul food-eating self, but is carefully labeled. Also I found out they sell McVitie’s digestives there, which saves me an extra walk to World Market! I love the chocolate covered ones and the Hob Nobs – I had them when I visited England and the only place I’ve been able to find them here is World Market.

I did find an amazing naan recipe as well that I would have loved to make with the biryani, but honestly, it’s a miracle that I even managed to get through the biryani. My back hurts SO badly after wandering around all day then standing in front of the stove, and I am going to fall asleep on my keyboard, so I better go away now. Don’t forget about the Grateful to Allah blog carnival! (See my post below. Aaminah, I’ve not forgotten! I will try to write something tomorrow insha’Allah.)

Right now I’m incredibly grateful for the ability to cook, and for the fact that I live in a place where I have access to so many different things and can cook virtually anything I want if I am willing to find the ingredients and do the work. Subhan’Allah…I have always enjoyed cooking, and I’ve always considered myself a good cook, but I never realized how limited my tastes were until my spice rack began overflowing like it is now. I also never knew turmeric, garlic, ginger, onions, and garam masala could DO so much. Holy wow. Now all I have to do is get myself to like lamb so that I can try some of the lovely lamb recipes…I have a feeling that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. I’m also incredibly grateful to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for blessing me with roommates this year who respond to my mothering. Before I’ve always had roommates who were like, “Oh cool, you’re cooking,” but would never eat anything I offered to them (and I’m not a bad cook! I promise!) because they were either not very adventurous or just didn’t like eating other people’s food. This year I have roommates who are actually interested in what I’m cooking and how it’s cooked and who don’t mind my obsessive need to feed people. Alhamdulillah. I love good food, but it’s not the same if you’re eating it by yourself.


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