Out of the Mughal Army Kitchen, when Biryani was travelling all around the country to change its flavour and colour according to places, Kolkata (Calcutta) had no idea about the gem of a cuisine. It was the latter part of the nineteenth century when the Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah arrived at the Dockyards of Kolkata with his royal kitchen, the marvelousness of Biryani was introduced to the city. It did not take much time for the city to develop its own style of Biryani and the citizens a taste for it.
The Kolkata Style Biriyani:
The Kolkata Style Chicken Biryani very similar to the Awadhi Style with a small twist – It contains large pieces of Potato – this is unique and not seen in any other style of Biryani. There is a small story behind it.
The Nawab was exiled just before the first war of Indian Independence in 1857. He was living in a small accommodation provided by the British with a small pension. At times, he had no money to buy meat – So his cooks started using potato, which was very cheap, in place of Mutton. The Taste was so good after addition of the potato, the legacy remained and gave birth to a new style of Biryani.
Let me now explain the Recipe:
Contrary to popular belief, I would say cooking Biryiani is actually not very difficult if a certain procedure is maintained. The only trick required is understanding the correct proportions. Let us find out how;
- A large Pot (handi) with a large belly and a small mouth – this will store the steam well.
- Biryani Masala (A mix of some common spices – can be found packed but ideally should be ground at home) – I will explain the preparation of Biryani Masala at the end of the post.
- A Large Basket with small grating – to drain the water of the rice
Yield: 10 Plates
- Meat (Chichen) – 2 Kgs (cut in 20 Pieces)
- Basmati Rice (Ideally 2 yrs old) – 1
- Potato: 10 No. Medium Size Potatoes
- Onion – 250 Gms – Finely chopped lengthwise
- Ginger Garlic Paste – 4 Tablespoon
- Yoghurt: 100 ml
- Vegetable Oil: 250 ml (Don’t worry – about 200 ml will remain as residue)
- Dried Plum – 50 gms
- Rose Water – 4 Tablespoons
- Kewra Water – 4 tablespoons (It is the extract of Pandanus Flower)
- Salt – 100 gms
- Red chilli powder – 1 tablespoon
- Whole Spices – Green Cardamom (7-8 pieces), Cloves (7-8 Pieces), Cinnamon stick (2 Inch long), Bay leaf (1- 2 leaves)
- Biryani Masala – 4 tablespoons
- Milk – 1 cup
Cooking Biryani basically has three steps – Preparation, Cooking and Steaming.
Step 1: Preparation:
Basically Meat, Rice and Potatoes are prepared and cooked separately before mixed and steamed together. Let’s see how each one of these is prepared.
Rice: Take the entire amount of rice in a large bowl and soak it for about half an hour. this is to remove the extra starch. This will stop to rice grains to stick together.
Chicken: Marinate the washed chicken with the mix 50ml yoghurt, 2 tbsp salt, chilli powder, 2 tbsp rose water, 2 tbsp kewra water and 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste. Keep them Marinated for about an hour.
Step 2: Cooking:
At the large pot take about a litre water and put on a boil. Mix about 50 gms salt in the water. Once the water starts boiling put the rice and the whole spices and close the lid.
Parallely, In a large frying pan, take the entire oil and heat. Once the oil is heated start frying the chicken pieces. For about 5-6 minutes cook them in low flame and after that increase the flame so that they get a golden brown colour. Once the colour is good – keep them aside. In the same oil put the chopped onion and fry them till they are golden. Be sure to control the flames because the onions give very little time between they are golden brown and burnt.
Here you may fry the potatoes for about 2-3 minutes with a tbsp of salt. This gives a crispy flavour to them. You may skip frying the potatoes.
By the time, your rice should be ready. take it off heat and put it in the basket so that the entire water gets drained. This is a very important step and you should be very careful in doing. Leave the rice like that so that it gets totally dried up.
When your onions are fried take them out and let them get cooled. Once cool, mash half of those to a fine powder.
Out of the residue oils, keep only about 2 tbsp in the same frying pan and heat. Add rest of the ginger garlic paste to it and fry till it is brown and start leaving oil. Add rest of the yoghurt, dried plums, biryani masala and the mashed onion to it and cook for about 10 minutes in low flame. This is the soul of the flavour of your biryani, You may add a teaspoon of rose water and kewra water to it.
Add the potatoes in the mixture and cook for about half n hour in very low flame. You may pressure cook the potatoes with the mixture. This allows the flavour to enter the potatoes well.
Step 3: Steaming
Once the potatoes are cooked, the rice should also be dry – You are now ready to steam the Biryani. Take the potatoes out of the pan and pour the gravy into the large pot (Handi).
Spread a thin layer of rice on top of it. Now spread the chickens in a layer. Again pour rice, and create a layer of potatoes on top of that. spread rest of the rice on top. Take the cup of milk – mix rest of the rose water and kewra water on that. If you have food colour you may mix a pinch of that or you may use 2-3 grains of Kesar (Saffron). Sprinkle the mixture well in the rice. Even if you don’t have food colour- don’t bother – The colour will not be like the traditional biriyani but the taste and aroma will be the same.
Sprinkle the onion on top. Here Khowa (Dried milk) are used in most part of the country and also in Kolkata style biriyani – but this is also not essential. Close the lid of the Pot Properly so that no steam comes out and put a can of warm water on top of it. The warm water will keep the lid heat and store the steam well and also the weight of the water will close the lid tightly.
It should be steamed for about 45 minutes. You may check in between but that will cause steam loss. put a long stick in the biryani and check if there is water/oil in the bottom. When the bottom is dry – The biryani is ready.
When taking out – be careful you don’t break the pieces of potatoes and chicken. They become extremely tender because of multiple cooking and also slow steaming.
I cooked for 12 persons- so shared that recipe. You may proportionately reduce the quantities if you are cooking for a small group. You may also ask me in the comment box.
ENJOY YOUR MEAL 🙂
Now let me explain how to make the soul of the Biryiani – The Masala;
I have seen packed Whole Biryani Masala available in India – that generally is a good mixture of the whole spices required. If you don’t get this packet – you have to get the spices separately –
- 1 tbsp Saah Jeera (Cumin Seed)
- 1 tbs coriander seeds
- 1 tbs black pepper
- 1 tbs white pepper
- 2 or 3 black cardamom
- 7 or 8 green cardamom
- 1 whole Jaifal (nutmeg)
- 2 whole Javetri flower (Maces_
- 5 or 6 whole cloves
- 1-inch long cinnamon stick
That’s all you require. Take them in a grinder and prepare a fine powder – This should make about 10 tbsp quantity of masala. you can store it and use over the time.