There are many different types of Biryani. This South Indian version uses chunks of lamb (or mutton if you prefer) that is pre-cooked (Pakki) then added to the rice and steamed. It also includes cooked and fried chunks of potato and is finished off with saffron and fried onions.
What you need… • 400g lamb, cut into large bite-sized chunks • 2 potatoes (about 250g) peeled and cut into 4cm chunks • Pinch turmeric • Salt to taste • 4 Tablespoons ghee • 250g rice • 1 teaspoon garlic paste • 1 teaspoons ginger paste • 2 onions (1.5 roughly chopped, 0.5 sliced fine) • 4 Tablespoons yoghurt • 0.5 teaspoon chilli powder • 150ml water • Salt to taste • 1 teaspoon oil • 2 tablespoons milk • Few strands of saffron (or you can use a couple of drops of yellow food colouring)• A few coriander leaves (for garnish)
Marinade • 2 teaspoons garlic paste • 1 teaspoons ginger paste • 0.5 teaspoon salt • 0.5 black cracked pepper
Masala • 8 peppercorns • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds • 4 cardamons • 4 cloves • 8cm piece of cinnamon • 2 dried red chillies
How to make it… 1. Mix the Marinade ingredients together and add to the lamb ensuring all the pieces are well coated. Set aside for 1 hour. 2. Boil the potatoes with a pinch of turmeric and salt until soft. 3. While the potatoes are cooking dry fry the Masala ingredients in a pan until they release their aromas (about 2 minutes). Grind to a masala and set aside. 4. Wash the rice until the water runs clear (this will take 7–8 washes) and leave to soak for 30 minutes. 4. Heat 2 Tablespoons of ghee to a medium heat and fry the potatoes until they start to brown (about 5 minutes). Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside. 5. Add the rest of the ghee to the pan and once heated to a medium heat add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. 6. Add the roughly chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes 7. Add the lamb and fry till all the pieces are sealed and browned (about 5 minutes). 8. Add the yoghurt, chilli powder and water, mix well, tun down the heat, cover and cook for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. 9. Add the masala and some salt, mix well and cook, still covered, for 5 minutes. 10. Drain the rice to remove the remaining starch and add to the pan with the potatoes, being sure to mix well. The mixture should just be coated with water so add a little more if needed. Seal the pan with foil and cover, ensuring it fits tightly (add a weight to the top if necessary). Cook on a low heat for 40 minutes. Do not remove the lid. 11. While this is cooking coat the sliced onion with 1 teaspoon of salt for 5 minutes to remove the moisture. 12. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until it browns and caramelises. Set aside 13. Warm the milk in a pan, remove from the heat and add the saffron strands. Using the back of a spoon gently push the saffron strands so they release their colour and flavours. Set aside. 14. Remove the lid of the lamb and rice and allow the moisture to evaporate for a couple of minutes. Gently fluff up the rice to release more of the moisture. 15. Pour over the saffron mix and add the onion and coriander leaves for garnish. Leave to rest for a couple of minutes and serve.
Biryani is a popular dish all over the sub-continent and among the Indian disapora. Rice and the other ingredients are mixed together with whole and ground spices and slow cooked to create a fragrant, rich dish. Biryani is a celebration dish and this vegetable version from Mauritius and party pre-cooks ingredients before layering them and leaving covered so all the flavours infuse. You can cook the rice while the vegetables are cooking but keep an eye on it as you don’t want to overcook it.
What you need… • 7 Tablespoons oil • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips of 5cm-long pieces • Salt to taste • 100g runner beans, topped and tailed, split and cut into thin 5cm-long pieces • 2 big potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm-sized chunks and mixed with a drop of yellow food colouring and a pinch of salt • 2 onions, thinly sliced • 2 teaspoons fresh mint, finely chopped • 2 Tablespoons coriander leaves, finely chopped (keep a couple for garnish) • 2 Tablespoons yoghurt • 100g peas (frozen are good) • 3 chillies, chopped • Salt to taste • 2 Tablespoons ghee • pinch of yellow food colouring • 300ml water • 300g rice • 3 cardamons, cracked open • 3 cloves • 1 cinnamon, 5cm long
How you make it… 1.Heat 3 Tablespoons oil to a medium heat and fry the carrots with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes. Remove the carrots and set aside. 2. Add the runner beans to the same oil and fry with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes. Remove the runner beans and set aside. 3. Add another 1 Tablespoon oil to the pan and once heated add the soya beans and fry with a pinch of salt and fry until they brown (about 5–7 minutes). Remove the soya beans and set aside. 4. Add 3 Tablespoons oil and once heated add the potatoes and fry until the edges are crisp and they are nearly cooked through (about 10 minutes). Don’t crowd them in the pan. You may need to cook them in two batches depending on the size of your pan. Remove the potatoes and set aside. 5. Add the onions and fry until they brown (5–7 minutes). 6. Meanwhile mix the carrots, runner beans and soya bean in a bowl and add the mint, coriander, yoghurt, garlic and ginger pastes and mix well. When the onions are ready add them and mix everything together. 7. Add 1 Tablespoon ghee to the pan to a medium heat then add the Biryani Mix with a splash of water and cook for 2 minutes. 8. Add the vegetables, the peas and the chillies, mix well and remove from the heat. 9. In another large pot (it will need to be large enough for all the ingredients and leave plenty of space on top) layer the uncooked rice evenly along the bottom. Add a layer of vegetables, then a layer of potatoes, then a layer of partly cooked rice, adding a pinch of salt every so often to taste. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up. 10. Add the water, spread the rest of the ghee and the food colouring on the top, cover with a tight lid (you can seal with some tin foil and put something fairly heavy on top to keep it down) and cook on a low-medium heat for 30 minutes. Don’t remove the lid during this time. 11. Remove the lid, garnish with coriander leaves, enjoy the aromas and serve.
To make the rice… 1. Wash the rice well to remove the starch. This may take 7 or 8 rinses. Soak the water for 30 minutes. 2. Remove a third of the rice and put to one side (this will be added to the bottom of the biryani). 3. Cover the rest of the rice with water by about 2cm, add the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and bring to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil turn off the heat and drain the rice. You do not want the rice fully cooked.
Saffron is a highly prized spice used for seasoning and flavouring, especially in Indian and Middle Eastern food. The delicate stigmas (or threads) are plucked from the saffron crocus and dried before use. Due to this intensive process to harvest just a few stigmas and the fact that it grows in only a few countries around the world, the cost of saffron is very high. So high, in fact, that the question “what spice is more expensive than gold?” has become a staple of nearly everyone who has leaned against a bar with a beer.
Oh, how we all love to exclaim: “saffron!” very loudly as if we have found the secret to the universe. It’s a ritual that’s made all the more fun because it’s not actually true (gold costs more than £32,000 per kg as compared to about £2,500 per kg of saffron)*
Saffron users are also going to need quite a bit of storage space to match its “weight in gold”. With a standard gold bar, as used by the bullion traders and banks, weighing 12.4kg you’re going to need a whopping 24,800 of these 0.5g packs that are sold by Tesco supermarket (at £2.50 each that would set you back £62,000)*.
But you’re certainly not going to need anything like that to spice up your food. Just a couple of strands is enough to add a beautiful flavour and aroma to your pilau rices, biryanis and kormas. The best way to use saffron is to put a couple of strands in a small amount of warm water or milk and press gently with the back of a spoon. This will release all the wonders of the spice, which can then be added to your dish.
The high cost of saffron means it is unlikely to be used in many restaurants. They will instead use the cheaper safflower, turmeric or colouring agents to try to mimic the properties of saffron.
Saffron is also know as zaffron or kesar (Hindi) and the largest producer of it is Iran, followed by Greece (where it was first cultivated), Morocco and Kashmir. Saffron has also been used for medicinal purposes and as a dye for clothes, its stigmas creating a colour which would have conferred status on the wearer due to its high cost.
As many curry fundis know, whisky is a great drink to share with your favourite food due to the spicy notes in the drink. Cinnamon lovers will be pleased to discover Fireball, a Canadian liqueur made with whisky and a heavy, heavy dose of the spice. At 33% abv it certainly has a kick too. I suggest trying it with a fragrant biryani.
English beer never used to travel well, especially on the long journey to India in the 17th century. The men of the East India Company were getting restless. And very drunk on arrack, the local moonshine. Then along came George Hodgson, who started exporting specially created Indian Pale Ale (IPA) from his Bow Brewery. The traders liked him because he gave them 18 months credit and unlike the dark Porter beer that was popular in England at the time, his IPA didn’t suffer from journey round the tip of Africa; in fact the rolling motion of the ships actually improved it. The men were no longer restless and could get on with making money and eating curry now they had a decent beer to wash it down.
Such is the entertaining tale of beer expert and author Peter Haydon, who is one of the presenters at the National Maritime Museum’s Curry and a Pint evenings (next one is 25 Nov, then 2 Dec at £25, Bookings).
Haydon is a consultant to the Meantime Brewery and visitors get to taste the local brewery’s IPA as they enjoy a biryani in the Mogul restaurant in Greenwich town centre at the end of the event.
The super knowledgable historian Rozina Visram starts the evenings by giving a run down on the nation’s favourite dish in the museum. You might be able to get curry powder down the Co-op these days but way back when, Visram explains, this was the preserve of chemists, who promoted its mixtures as cures for all sorts of ailments, each one claiming its own blend was the best. Which, of course, makes perfect sense to anyone who’s chewed on a clove to help a toothache or gargled turmeric to help with a cough.
The evenings are part of a series of events to celebrate the opening of the new Traders gallery at the museum.