The beauty of a biryani

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Biryanis are gastronomic delights and definitely a treat made on special occasions like Eid. A beautiful array of long-grained rice, tender meat, pungent spices, flavourful nuts and sweet crisp fried onions, most often topped with orange strands of exotic saffron and aromatic kewra water. It’s a dish made all over the country with variations in every household in every region!

Ek mayan mein do talwar

Amongst the varied types, two manage to stand out and hold their ground as the most sought after, authentic, delicious rice and meat dish ever created. These are the light, flavourful Lucknowi biryanis and the robust spicy ones from Hyderabad! To a layman a biryani is a biryani, but ask a purist from either of these states and you will know that people can be as passionate and competitive about a biryani as they are about an India v/s Pakistan cricket match!

Dum mein dum hain

The Mughals based in Northern India are the key innovators of this superb preparation, but this fragrant food soon found favour with the Nawabs of Hyderabad and Lucknow.  Both of these are hallmarks in the culinary world and deserve all the praise and talk around them!
Rich, delicious and hard to say no to, they are both cooked by the dum method, which involves placing semi cooked or uncooked ingredients in a pot or deg, sealing the utensil with flour dough, placing some live charcoal on the lid and some below.
The magic of dum is the excellent aroma, flavour and texture which results from slow cooking. Made with mutton or lamb as a preferred meat, chicken is the most popular alternative these days, with a good amount of variations made with paneer, mixed vegetables, soya, lentils and seafood.

The Nawab v/s the Nizam

A biryani from Hyderabad is like its people, exciting, spicy, sweet and tangy – all in one!  Mostly a kachchi biryani - where kachchi means raw, here you don’t precook any of the ingredients. Pieces of marinated mutton, soaked long grain basmati rice and fragrant whole spices, perfectly sealed and cooked together on low heat for hours – till the meat is tender and falls of the bone  and the rice has fluffed up and soft.  Fried onions or birista, fried nuts, kewra water and saffron strands are added to this for aroma, texture and flavour!

When compared to a Hyderabadi biryani an Awadhi biryani uses less spices and oil, is lighter in colour and has more delicate flavours. It is more pulao like with a rice and masala ratio of around 70:30 - more rice and meat and less masala. Cooking it in dum keeps the dish moist and the flavours sealed. An Awadhi biryani is what you should go in for when you want to get a taste of what heaven on a plate would taste like! It is lighter on the stomach and you can easily gobble up plate after plate of this tasty creation!

If biryani making is an art then the Awadhi and Hyderabadi biryanis are like the Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci of it! For years making a perfect biryani has been a medium of expression for chefs and culinary maestros. To a gourmet, the fragrance of the good tasty biryani is worth much more than any precious metal!

Biryani toh banti hain!

They say things like a biryani taste best when cooked in large quantities and eaten together – which goes perfect with the spirit of Eid. This is probably because of all the love and passion that goes into its making which results in a plethora of aromas, tastes and colours, all in perfect harmony with each other. Serve these up with an array of accompaniments like boiled eggs, fried potatoes, luscious mirchi ka salan, kachumber, fresh salads and the all-time favourite raita.

I’m sharing with you my recipe for a delicious kachche gosht ki biryani – this one is going to causes your taste buds to tingle and keep you craving for more. Try it out this Eid and tell me how it turns out.

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Eid Mubarak to all!

Happy cooking! Happy eating!

For more delicious biryani recipes browse through

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.