Friday, January 28, 2011

Slap-Dash Biryani in the rice cooker

I have always loved Biryani. I suppose it comes from all my childhood memories of cinnamon, and of course where it was used - apple pie, with sugar on pancakes, mixed into Mum's banana custard - all wonderfully sweet and heart-warming dishes. So now the use of it is always associated with comforting, warm moments - and I am doing my best to add it to my own children's sensory memories.

True Biryani is made by pan-frying a spice, onion and meat mix, then adding to par-cooked rice and finally baking the lot in an oven. All this takes about 2 1/2 hours. In these days of gadgets, I make mine in (gasp!) a rice cooker. I cook the meat seperately, because I like to keep it browned and crispy, and although you could serve this spiced rice with anything, from barbecued lamb kebabs to garlic tiger prawns or even on it's own, I like it with chicken.


For the Chicken:
  • 1kg Chicken Drumsticks (skin on)
  • 1/2 teaspoons of saffron - soaked in warm water for a minute or two
  • a big pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • a little pinch of white pepper

For the Rice:
  • 2 cups of basmati rice
  • 2 medium carrots - julienne
  • 2 celery stalks, fine dice
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 onions (I like the red - they are sweeter), sliced finely
  • crushed garlic (to taste - I like 2 cloves)
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 5 cardamom pods (split)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of clove powder
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • water 
  • oil for pan-frying
For the chicken - mix all ingredients except the chicken in a bowl, then roll drumsticks in the liquid. Place on an oven tray, sprinkle a little more salt, and then bake at 180ÂșC for about 45 minutes
For the rice - pan-fry onions and garlic until they are deep dark brown, then add carrots and celery, stock cube and a small amount of water and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Put this mix and the rest of the ingredients in the rice cooker with the appropriate amount of cold water for your cooker (in my case this is another 2 cups). Serves 4.

    You will notice that the onions will lose their colour. The reasons for browning are two-fold. One, the colour is absorbed by the rice, and two, the flavour of caramelized onions lends a more appropriate flavour.

    I like to serve with a yogurt and chilli sauce - but you could also make a gravy with the scrapings of the baking pan, some extra salt, pepper and honey - with flour and water if you like it thick - or water and lemon juice if you like it thin.

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