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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Recipe of the month: Egg Biryani


These past few days have seen a flurry of activity - cleaning & sorting things out at home, tying up loose ends at work, last minute shopping trips, baking cookies for some of my favorite people and packing for my upcoming holiday to India. YAY! I'll be away for almost a month so I thought that before I go, I'd prepare a few draft posts so my blog doesn't go quiet for too long. I will be hitting the publish button for this post while in India. I'm grinning just thinking about it!

A few weeks ago while I was adding the 'Recipe Index' segment on my blog, I was startled to discover that I hadn't posted a recipe featuring rice ever. Now being a South-Indian and not having a rice recipe among the 30+ recipes I've posted so far is a little embarrassing. I do cook rice dishes pretty regularly but since the cooking I do for my blog are always done in the mornings over a weekend, I tend to lean more towards cooking breakfast items or snacks. So, I decided to post my first rice item in this entry. And what do I choose? No surprises here....for the egg-obsessed me, it has to be Egg Biryani of course!

Biryani is made with fragrant basmati rice, an assortment of aromatic spices and either meat, eggs or vegetables. It is one of the more popular rice dishes, not only in the Indian subcontinent but also in South East Asia and the Middle East. This dish has evolved so much over the years that are currently several variations and styles of biryani. 

I cannot take credit for this recipe because I hijacked it from my husband. I have no idea where he got it from because he doesn't like to follow a single recipe and tends to take bits and pieces from here and there to make a customised version. All I know for sure is that this recipe works like a charm - you can use it as a guide to test your cooking skills! It is slightly time-consuming but then again, with a dish like biryani, you have to make sure you have sufficient time and all the right ingredients before you decide to prepare it. This is not a dish that should be compromised by lack of ingredients or short-cut procedures.  All these years, I couldn't be bothered of taking the trouble of making biryani at home, comfortably settling for the biryani at my favorite Indian restaurant but after I tried this recipe, I know that my visits to the restaurant will lessen considerably!

So here is the much publicised recipe - the quantities can be easily doubled if you are cooking for more people. Note that you can substitute the eggs with mixed vegetables to make a delicious Vegetable Biryani version. You can use carrots, french beans, cauliflower and peas. Where the recipe mentions adding boiled eggs, just replace with cooked veggies and continue as described.

Preparation time: 60 - 75 mins
Recipe level: Easy (don't get intimidated by the number of ingredients!)
Serves: 4
Recipe source: Hubby dearest :)

Ingredients:

1.5 cups long grain basmati rice
2 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk
Whole spices - 1 inch cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 3 cardamoms, 2 star anise, 1 bay leaf
A few saffron strands
4 eggs, hard-boiled
2 medium red onions, chopped
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
4-5 green chillies, sliced in half (depending on your spice level)
A small bunch of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped Optional but recommended
1/2 cup plain yoghurt (I use homemade)
3 tsp biryani masala (I use Everest Shahi Biryani Masala)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste (~ 2 tsp)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced and fried (for garnish)
A handful of cashewnuts, split and fried in ghee/butter
A handful of raisins, fried in ghee/butter, Optional
1/4 cup warm milk
A small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
3 tbsp ghee/butter

Method:

1. Wash thoroughly and soak the basmati rice for at least 20 min.
2. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pot. Add the whole spices (cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, star anise and bay leaf) and fry for a few mins until you get a nice aroma.
3. Drain the basmati rice and add it to the pot. Turn the heat to low and fry the rice for a few mins until the ghee coats all the rice grains (2-3 mins).
4. Add water, coconut milk and 1 tsp salt. Once the cooking liquid starts to warm up, add a few strands of saffron and give the mixture a stir. Close the lid of the pot and cook on low heat. Stir once in between while cooking. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Take the rice off the heat and keep it aside to cool. You can use a fork to slightly fluff the grains and release some steam. 


5. Boil the eggs until hard-boiled. Peel the shell and keep aside. 


6. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp ghee and start to fry the cashewnuts. Add in the raisins and fry for a few mins until they plump up and the cashews turn golden brown. Keep aside.
7. Now, add a few tsp oil to the remaining ghee and shallow fry the sliced onions on medium heat until they turn a caramelized shade of brown. Keep aside.


8. In the same pot, heat 1 tbsp ghee and fry the chopped onions. Once the onions turn translucent, add in the ginger-garlic paste and sliced green chillies. Fry for a few minutes until the onions turn golden. Now add in the chopped tomatoes and cook until soft.
9. Add the biryani masala, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, 1 tsp salt, sugar, yogurt and mint leaves and fry for a few mins. Make 4-5 vertical shallow slits in each egg and slide it into the mixture. Gently mix (take care not to break the eggs) until the eggs are coated in the mixture. 


10. Slowly add in the cooked rice, the fried cashewnuts and raisins and half the fried onions and mix until everything is uniformly incorporated. Pour 1/4 cup milk with saffron strands over the rice. 


11. Now either keep the pot tightly covered on supremely low heat or in a hot oven for 5-8 mins.
12. Garnish with the rest of the fried onions and chopped coriander leaves.
13. Serve hot with raita and papad.

P.S. - I'm submitting this post to the following event:



Notes:
  • You can use regular basmati rice as well but I prefer the extra long grain variety. 
  • I have tried this recipe with store bought yoghurt but I found it to be too sour for this dish. Taste the yoghurt and if it is too sour, you can always dilute it with a little milk or else slightly reduce the amount of tomatoes in the recipe. Since I use homemade yoghurt which is much milder, I don't need to make any such adjustments. 
  • In fresher eggs, it might be more difficult to remove the shell after boiling as it tends to adhere more. Using eggs that are sitting in your fridge for at least 3 days, makes it easier to get rid of the shell. Make sure you cool the eggs thoroughly before removing the shell. 
  • Instead of making slits in the hard-boiled eggs, you can also slice the eggs vertically or even make quarters- whatever suits your preference. 
  • The quantities of salt that I have mentioned is only an estimate. The only reason I have included it is that it is more desirable to get the seasoning right the first time rather than making repeated adjustments at the end. For biryani, I would recommend as minimum mixing as possible since you would like to keep the rice grains long and the eggs whole and intact. 

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