Feb 11, 2011

biryani "dum pukht style"

Let's talk about aroma for a while. Who doesn't love the warm smell of freshly baked cookies, the whiff of morning coffee, a bowl of steaming fragrant pho or the sweet scent of freshly chopped mint.... ahhhh!!!

But how do I describe Biryani cooked "dum pukht style" - slow steaming in a completely encased clay pot. The idea is to cook rice with herbs, spices and vegetables (or meat) on slow heat for hours on end. And so when you open the pot, the smells just burst and envelop you in a symphony of flavors - nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, saffron and cinnamon all jiving together. I'd love to have a wine taster close their eyes, take in a lungful of fresh cooked biryani and then write a description.

It was my first time cooking it in this way and I must say that the wait is worth treating the olfactories to a drool inducing aroma.

First, I sauteed finely chopped onions, potatoes, chickpeas, chopped carrots and cauliflower till everything was slightly cooked taking care to add onions before all the other veggies so they caramelized nicely.

Next, I added in basmati rice (washed and drained) along with roasted cashews, raisins, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, bay leaves, coarse black pepper, turmeric, paprika and salt to taste. Then I sauteed the rice, vegetables and spices for a few minutes and added a little vegetable stock to keep the rice from sticking to the pan.

Finally, I turned off the heat, put this entire mixture into a clay pot, topped with vegetable stock (approx 2.5 times the amount of rice), added saffron (soaked in some milk to release its color and fragrance) and sealed the pot with flour dough so the steam would not escape. And then off into the oven for 2.5 hrs at 350 degrees.

It was a bit of a battle to open the seal since it was shut tight as the dough had baked and become absolutely hard. I got hit by a few flying shards in the eye while chipping the dough away but what's a sweet victory without a few battle scars :)

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