Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Chicken Biriyani

K ventured into the territory of Mughlai cooking recently. After he heard that Sush, Kakima (Sush's mother) and RonyDa had all tried their hand at biriyani, he saw no reason why he shouldn't follow suit. He was so excited about the whole thing that it was kind of infectious, even going to the extent of overlooking any attempt to locate the recipe on the net (which would have characterised me any day) and instead, discussed the whole recipe over the phone with Sush, taking notes as he did so. His explanation would probably be that he wanted to introduce a personal touch into an impersonal dish. I rather suspect that he wanted to get the recipe first-hand from a person whose culinary skills were an established fact and whose efforts at the said dish had been voted a huge success by friends and critics alike (in short, his immediate family).

Anyway, the very next day, we went shopping for biriyani ingredients. We had a hard time doing the same in the local 'Desi Bazaar' (where we usually buy our Indian cooking raw material from) which is in any case, ill-stocked nowadays, after its proprietor, a big fat fair lady with great hair and a stentorian voice (K's nickname for her is quite understandably, 'jolohosti'), either took a break or resigned. Certain ingredients like star aniseed, mace, black cardamom, shahi jeera are used in so few and such particular dishes that it would have been a brighter idea perhaps to try out the recipes at home, where these are more commonly available. But then that's the irony. We want to make them here and now. Whereas when we want to have biriyani at home, we just call up Shiraz or Bedouin and order some. Or go to Southern Aminia or Rehmania and eat there. Life !

I digress. The point is that we were beginning to feel rather irritated at the dearth of many of the much-needed condiments in the store and I was on the verge of elaborating to K the virtues of patience, so that we could drop in at 'Patel's Cash & Carry' at Somerset (bang opposite SabyaDa-Moumita's place) the next weekend and get everything we were despairing of ever finding here. Suddenly I located a packet of biriyani masala. I read the list of contents with trepidation and was suitably rewarded. It contained most of the rarities we had hitherto been unable to find. After that, things looked brighter. We managed to find the shahi jeera and the kewra water and came home, a happy couple. Earlier, we had also dropped in at the 'Planet Dollar' at Raritan Mall and picked up a huge aluminium foil style tray and its lid for the final stage of cooking the biriyani (usually achieved at home in a huge dekchi/hnari, the mouth of which is sealed with flour.)

K marinated the chicken as soon as he got home but left the rest for evening. In due time, he followed Sush's instructions verbatim and managed to complete the first few stages of cooking more or less uneventfully.I helped him to strain the starch from the huge skillet in which the rice had been boiling, using an equally large strainer (that too happened to be a biriyani-specific purchase). The chicken had already been cooked. After that, we left the rice to dry while K called up Sush and sorted out a few biriyani-related queries that had meanwhile occurred to him. Things were proceeding quite well till the point when K had finished lining the aluminium foil tray with ghee and layering it meticulously with rice, onions, chicken,rice, onions,chicken and so on. It suddenly dawned on us that the tray was simply too enormous to fit into the oven and shut the oven door on it.

Well......that was a setback. We were stumped, looking helplessly at each other for quite some time. This was unexpected, to say the least. Not only had we wasted $2 on a tray that we wouldn't be able to utilise in any other way, at 9.40 pm it was also too late to go to any store and pick up a smaller one. We had no back-up dinner options. Things looked bleak.

But then, as I always say, I'm a versatile Gemini ginni . I managed to produce a couple of old (and smaller) aluminium trays which we had earlier used to keep food in when we had entertained the last time and which I had safely stowed the away, contemplating dire catastrophes. (Of course, I hadn't expected one so soon.) That came in handy now. The only problem now to consider was that of transferring the contents from one tray to another, since it was evidently impossible to keep the arrangement of rice, onions and chicken intact any longer. With a huge sigh, K began to transfer the contents manually, trying to salvage the situation as best as possible under the given circumstances. That done, he sprinkled kewra water over the mixture, placed it carefully in the oven, set the temperature as instructed and recorded the time. After which, we watched TV, waiting for 30 mins in extreme anxiety for the end product.

It was a success. Thank goodness.


Moumita said...

After such detailed information..eagerly waiting for the biriyani invitation!!!

Casuarina said...

Tothastu ! :-)


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