Hyderabadi chicken biriyani

Source: Easy Indian Cooking, Suneeta Vaswani

I love Indian food, but don’t eat nearly enough of it. Until just recently, when I had lunch at Mirchi on Tuesday, and then the following Monday, had dinner at a Pakistani restaurant 786 Halal. (There are many similarities between Pakistani cuisine and Indian cuisine.)

These two dining experiences reignited my desire to learn more about Indian cooking. So I pulled out Easy Indian Cooking and decided to make the chicken biriyani recipe. While the ingredient list was long, I actually had most ingredients on-hand; I just needed some mint, an extra onion and saffron.

What I’ve noticed so far with the little Indian cooking I’ve done is that the complex depth of flavour is accomplished by layering numerous but simple ingredients, using simple but time-consuming techniques. To overcome the time-consuming part, I try to dissect the recipes into components that can be made ahead of time and assembled later.

Chicken biriyani is a baked rice dish layered with flavourful ingredients. In this version, the baking dish is first layered with deeply-browned onions, then a layer of chicken in a spicy yogurt marinade, garam masala, rice, mint, more browned onions, more rice and mint and finally saffron-infused milk.

After baking 1 hour, it’s ready to serve. As you spoon out the biriyani, the layers mix together to create a nicely speckled blend. What’s best about this is that while it’s good freshly-baked, the flavours are even better when served as leftovers. So in the end, it’s a bit of work, but well worth the effort. (I generally cook the onions and chicken the day before, and on serving day cook the rice, assemble and bake.)

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