Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dum Biryani

Dum Biryani 

 Biryani is a cousin of the middle eastern Pilaf and the variety of Biryani which is available across South Asia (India , Pakistan and Bangladesh) is sure to amaze any culinary enthusiast. If you have grown up with a particular type of Biryani you will always have that funny little story when you tasted the other variety. So I grew up in Calcutta, the City of Joy, the City of Culture but also the city where the Nawab of Awadh had settled at one point of time bringing with him the glorious cuisine of Awadh. While there had to be certain economic changes made in the kitchen with the Nawab's glorious days behind him the basic of the recipe remains the same and so I grew up knowing the Calcuttan Biryani which is very similar to the Awadhi Biryani except that it has the additional potatoes and in some cases you can even add eggs but then again I was never really that fond of Biryani from the eateries in Calcutta because of the high amount of ittar and kewra water and oil . Well originally it is supposed to be ghee all the way but one of the reasons why Biryani is very famous in Calcutta is its affordable price and as we all know 'you can't eat your cake and have it too'. Nevertheless it was not until I had the tasted the Lucknowi Biryani available in only one eatery of Calcutta that I fell in love with Biryani all over again. Well I say all over again because while I was growing up I might not have liked the Biryani from eateries but that was only because come every Sunday and my father would make Biryani at home. It was of course not oily and had the balanced proportion of flavoured water which suited my taste buds and this Lucknowi Biryani brought back strong memories.

Now I am particularly fond of Awadhi cuisine but getting hold of recipes from Awadhi cuisine can prove to be quite difficult. While a few are found all over the place one should understand that more that the ingredients its the numerous methods of cooking that makes this cuisine so exquisite.

Well anyway going back to that time when I had Biryani from Bombay I was well completely taken aback and to be fair very disappointed . You see Biryani from Bombay has its own distinct taste which is completely different from your Awadhi Biryani with a curry like taste and it took me a while to appreciate it.

Anyway one fine day I decided to make Dum Pakki Biryani. Dum is a method of cooking on slow fire and the method I used for cooking was Dum Pukht where a curtain of dough seals the container and the food gets cooked in the steam. Now Biryani can not only be distinguished on the basis of the region it is from but also on whether it is made in the Pakki style or Kachchi style. While for the Kachchi style the meat is marinated and cooked together with the rice . The Pakki style Biryani cooks the rice and meat to an almost done state and then cooks them together.

Now here is the problem with 'authentic style' and why I am not calling my Biryani the Awadhi Biryani. I have never been to Lucknow and as I have said before there are not too many sources which gives you the recipe for Awadhi food and so I consulted two articles from the Times of India, recipes from two blogs and as much information as I could gather to make it as close to the original one as I can and here is why. While blogs are a great source for recipes some blogs are misleading. So I liked this blog very much and the blog talked a lot about certain details of what makes Awadhi Biryani so special and all the points to be kept in mind and then there are certain ingredients used which I immediately know makes it not  quite Awadhi and so I consult another blog and the article from The Times of India  and this is what I gather.

  1. The distinct flavour of the Biryani is imparted by cooking the rice in the 'Yakhni' or the meat stock
  2. The spices used are always kept whole and not ground.
  3. The rice grains are fluffy and the sign of a good Biryani is the grains remaining separate
  4. No oil of any kind should be used. Its cooked all the way in the mutton fat and ghee.       
  5. The quality of the Biryani will greatly depend on the quality of mutton. In India goat meat is also categorized under mutton and for this it is always goat meat that is used. 

Anyway  coming back to the recipe this one can easily feed 3 to 4
What you need :- 

500gm   of good quality meat with bones
2 cups of Basmati rice (cups which can hold 250ml of water) / Approximately 360gm of rice 

For the Yakhni 

7 cups of water (cups which hold 250ml of liquid)
1 black cardamom
5 green cardamom
5 cloves
1 inch cinnamon
4 blades of Mace
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp Shah Jeera
3/4th tsp black peppercorn
Salt as per taste (I required 1 heaped tsp)

To sear the meat

4 tbsp ghee
4 tbsp whisked curd
4 tbsp whole milk
1 black cardamom
3 green cardamom
4 to 5 cloves
1 inch cinnamon
2 blades of mace
1/4th tsp Nutmeg
Salt as per taste (I required 1/2 tsp)
Pinch of turmeric
20 black peppercorn
1 tsp chili powder

For layering

2 pinches of saffron soaked in 8 tbsp water
2 tsp rose water
7 tsp ghee

For the Birista (Optional) Usually not a part of the Awadhi Biryani
Birista means golden fried onions . If you desire to use it
Take 2 medium sized onions and chop them as finely as possible
50gm ghee for frying

For the seal to cover the mouth of your pot . Now this will largely depend on how big the mouth of the pot is :-

I needed 2 cups of flour
1 cup of water

Once the seal was opened 

Start by soaking the rice and then go no to make the Yakhni . Put all the spices for the yakhni in a muslin cloth and tie it up. Place everything together and bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat for 1.5 hours. Take out the pieces of meat after 20 minutes when its done to a 3/4th stage.

After 1.5 hours start by searing the mat. Heat the ghee and add the meat and saute on high heat for 1 minute and add the spices and reduce to low heat and add whisked curd and milk and keep stirring till you get a dry consistency.

Bring 4 cups of broth to a boil and gently add the rice. Be careful because Basmati rice is very delicate and the soaking will make it more vulnerable to breaking. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and cover and cook for 3 minutes to 5 minutes till its 70% done. It should be soft yet not soft enough to eat. Once done drain the rice and spread it out if possible and leave it under the fan for 5 minutes.

Now for the final Dum take your pot and grease it with ghee. I needed about 2 tsp and then add a layer of rice and some meat and 2 tsp ghee , 1/2 tsp rosewater and some soaked saffron. Add another layer of rice and meat and repeat it with the ghee , rosewater and soaked saffron. And a third layer of rice and meat and then roll out the dough and seal the pot and place it over the lowest possible flame with a lid on top of the rolled out dough and a heavy object on top. I used a stone mortar and pestle and leave it to get Dum Pukht for the next 20 minutes to 30 minutes and switch off the gas stove.

She or  he who shall peel off that layer of dough once done will be hot with a delicious aroma which is intoxicating indeed. Serve with raita.

P.S. In case you want to use the Birista fry the onions on low heat till its golden brown and use it for layering but traditional Awadhi Biryani does not use it. 



  1. looks delicious. absolutely yummiee.


  2. Dibbi recipe. But still 3 hours of cooking over kitchen stove? Ma will have a heart attack.