Hyderabadi Kachche Gosht ki BiryaniThe making of 'authentic' Hyderabadi biryani they say is an art. I tend to agree with this concept since when I first started to make meself some Biryani, I was amazed at the results. I would not expound much on the results because I do not want to go over the horrors and spook myself once again. All I could say before I embark on this recipe is that I owe a heartfelt thanks to my dearest husband for always having been there for me. Some might say that it is easy to be there for a person you love, but let me assure you that even the strongest of loves would sway in face of a goeey mess that the 'better' half comes up with and serves you with Here's Hyderabadi Biryani for you. Can you imagine what must have gone through his 100% Hyderabadi brain where he must've devoured every kind of Hyderabadi Biryani from gosht to chicken to even Kalyani in his hometown? Full marks to him for gobbling it up with a 'Thoda gal gayee lekin maze mein bhoth achchi hain' trying hard to bite the gosht which was as hard as the rice was soft! The experiments did go on with various other foods - papad like rotis, sheera less gulab jamuns, hard-as-rocks ras malais, the watery saalans, the missing chicken in the chicken korma and such stuff. So dearest, I owe it to you.
OK now that the opening credits and also the special thanks section done with let's proceed to the opening scene. I gave up trying to make Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani after a couple of attempts. I did improve on the goeey-mess of the rice but the lamb would always remain undercooked. I had to watch DH struggle manfully to chew it without his strong jaw breaking. So I was very disheartened after a few attempts gave up altogether and stuck to making Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani that is so much more easier because chicken cooks in a jiffy and thus ends up being tender all the time. But I knew in my heart of hearts that to be able to ever call myself a good cook hailing from the Hyderabad area, I HAD to master the art of making the Hyderabadi Gosht ki Biryani. So started my research into this art form.
The first teacher I sought was my Mother-in-law. She makes some elaborate Hyderabadi dishes and what better person to go after than an expert in the field. So I accosted her. She gave me lessons but somehow I failed again miserably. It was the same story. The meat was anything but tender. If I put in too much dahi for it to cook, then the rice would be too soft, if not, the biryani would get burnt. Once again I let it go. That is until I discovered something. Something labelled 'The Meat Tenderizer'. And the rest they say is history. Now, not a daawat goes by without the Gosht ki Biryani and I tell you nothing can beat the satisfaction of Hyderabadi's praising your cooking. OK now off to the recipe.
The trick with gosht to be tender is that you need to marinate the lamb pieces atleast a day earlier. I tend to use boneless meat since there is not much cooking time, there is not enough time for the bones to shed their flavor. So better used some place else, but you could use meat with bones too. I do not. So anyways, I clean the pieces, cut them into about 1 inch pieces, making sure that they are not very small nor evey big. The marinate consists of just ginger-garlice paste, haldi and the savior-in-disguise meat tenderizer. The point to be noted here is that since the meat tenderizer already comes with salt, there is no need to add any salt to the marinate. You would add the same amount of meat tenderizer as you would do with salt. That is it - that is the work for the night. You put the marinate in the fridge and happily go to sleep trying to assure your husband [and more so yourself] that everything is going to turn out just fine. Please to ignore any nightmares that have to do with either the Lamb, Hyderabad or whether the tenderizer would do its job or not. Just sleep.
When you get up bright and early next morning, the firs thing you do [assuming you are making the Biryani for lunch] is to soak the rice. Now in traditional Hyderabadi Birayni the lamb:rice ratio is like 2:1. I have tried that ratio and no wonder the Hyderabadi's seem like such wonderful people - too mucn lamb in the system! Somehow that ratio seems like too much of meat in it. You could still keep the ratio if you are a big meat eater and nothing else, but if you enjoy the taste of biryani rice and the meat as you take a mouthful then 1:1 is the ration to go for you. Now wash the basmati rice and soak it in water for a couple of hours. Add saabit [whole] garam masala to it - like 2 elaichis [cardamom], a few laung [cloves] and a stick of cinnamon. Mix salt too. That shall make sure that your rice smells heavenly. The basmati rice that you get here is nothing compared to what one gets in India. The aroma of the rice is so wonderful that even when you are just washing the rice, you can smell it in the next room [ok ok some hyderabadi exaggeration here]. Compared to that the basmati rice here is so bad that even when it is cooking you can smell nothing fragrant. But we gotta do the best we can so that's what we shall do. Now set the rice aside and take the marinate out. Don't worry, it has not gone green!!
Now mix red chilli in the mixture. Depending on how much spice you eat, and how much you put in a curry of the same quantity, double it. Since you are gonna have rice all over this marinate, you have to make sure that the mixture is really spicy so that the biryani does not turn out too bland. Next add hara masala. Hara masala consists of chopped green chillies, chopped mint and chopped coriander. Make it a generous of mint and coriander since they also help with the aroma. Next comes the hard part. The tali hui pyaaz. Once again DO NOT use the readily available Fried Onion that you get in the market. Almost all of the brands have flour mixed into them and this will make your biryani - err gooey! So ..ahem..fry your own onions. I think I elucidated on the art of frying onions in my mirchi ka saalan recipe but I shall reproduce here for your benefit.
First slice the onions. Now these slices should be really wafer like and also be of the same thickness [or is it thinness]. If they are of variable thickness when you deep fry them in the oil, some shall burn out fast while the others are still raw. So make sure you beg,borrow or steal some appliance or person or knack to do this job. Once you got a decent pile of onion slices [a big pile, since the onions loose a lot of water when you fry them and err..shrink...so please to plan accordingly], deep fry them in lotsa oil. Keep a close watch on the onions, since they tend to burn very easily and that is not going to do anything for your Biryani or the aroma in your kitchen. Keep stirring them constantly and once they start changing color to a reddish brown, take them out and spread them over a paper towel and let them cool. Take some of the oil that you have used for frying and mix it with the marinate. The story with the quantity of oil is the more the umm..tastier...so use it according to how fat-free or fat-ful you want to make the recipe. But don't be too stingy with it since the biryani will turn out too dry.
Next comes one of the most important ingredients - the yogurt! Now preparing yogurt for the marinate is once again an art! It should be thick and creamy and just a little but sour. Not too much but should not be sweet, not by a long shot. That will make the Biryani tasteless. So if you are using fresh dahi you will be out of luck. Set it out atleast for 6-8 hours before you use it so that it has the requisite sourness. Now use this in the marinate. The quantity should be such that all the pieces of lamb are well coated. Now add some garam masala powder, lemon jucie, 3/4th of the fried onions to the marinate and congratulations - you are done. With the preperation that is. Now go and rest for a couple of hours, keeping the marinate outside to reach room temperature. You need it!
After the much needed rest, transfer the marinate in a wide and thick bottomed vessel. Make sure you can see the oil in the mixture. Otherwise it is too dry. Add some more oil if that happens. Simultaneoulsy in another big vessel take lotsa water to cook the rice. Boil the water first and when it starts to bubble add the washed and soaked rice. On second kani ie when the rice is starting to get soft but still has some hardness to it, remove the rice, drain the water and cover the marinate with this rice. Smooth the top with a ladle. Use 1/2 of the 1/4th fried onions left [yep this art needs some math too], more lemon juice, chopped mint and coriander and some saffron dissolved in warm milk. Now cover the vessel and make it secure so that no steam escapes. In Hyderabad that is done by sealing the lid with some flour! But if you have a tight fitting lid, then that will do its job. Now on full flame cook for about 5 minutes. If your stove top is too small and the base of the vessel too big then you need to keep rotating the vessel so that constant heat reaches it all over. After 5 minutes reduce the flame to less tham medium and keep rotating the vessel from time to time. You need to cook until you see steam escaping from the vessel. This signifies that the meat has been done and so has been the rice. The idea behind this is that the flavor that the meat gives out while it cooks in the form of steam is used to cook the rice and that is what makes Hyderabadi Biryani so special. Switch off the stove once you see the steam appearing and let it sit [in what is called dum] for about 15-20 minutes. I know you can't wait, but you have heard about what things happen to those who wait right? So thodi der intezaar and then carefully remove the lid making sure the escaping steam does not get you.
If you think you are done, then you are very wrong. Another art form takes over - that of mixing the rice with the gosht. You have to be very delicate about it so that the rice grains do not break. Remove, mix, serve, garnish with the left fried onions and serve! Your Hyderabadi Biryani is ready!
I am planning to make this tomorrow or Friday whenever Idd-ul-fitr falls. All of you are invited! Idd Mubarak everyone!