My all time favourite biriyani dish. I made it in the Masterchef kitchen, and even if it sounds like am bragging, I got the best comments I ever got on the show for that dish. Its relatively easy to put together, once you make the biriyani spice mix that goes with it. Its doesn't really need many accompaniments, just a simple side of yoghurt raita.
I don't claim that this recipe is completely authentic, but it has been a very much tried and tested family favourite, and fairly quick in terms of prep and cooking. You can also substitute prawns with meat or vegetables (don't marinate veggies, for the freshest flavour). I normally wouldn't post the recipe (its my secret dinner party weapon), but I've just filled up on the biriyani and it was my birthday dish, so I am feeling very generous and content :-)
I know the recipe appears long and complicated, but honestly, once you've made it one time, you'll be much much quicker the second time.
Prawns and Marinade:
Around 20 - 30 raw big prawns, fresh or frozen, shelled (you can leave the tails on if you wish, add more prawns if they are smaller)
3 tbsp biriyani spice from the whole amount
3 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 tbsp oil or ghee
2 medium onions or 1 big onion (chopped roughly)
20g almonds, blanched and peeled
1 - 2 green chillies, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peel and chop roughly
1 inch piece of ginger, peel and chop roughly
Big handful of fresh coriander (for grinding)
Big handful of fresh mint (same as above)
250 ml fresh set Greek yoghurt
4 large fresh tomatoes (chopped)
The remaining biriyani spice mix
Salt and Pepper (to taste, or 3 - 4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper)
Handful fresh coriander, chopped (for the end)
Handful fresh mint, chopped (same)
3 - 4 tbsp ghee, substitute vegetable oil if you wish
4 cups basmati rice
6 cups boiling water
3 generous pinches of saffron, or use turmeric, if you're feeling frugal
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
6 cardamom pods, crushed slightly
6 black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
½ onion sliced thinly
Sprinkle of brown sugar
Big handful unsalted cashew nuts
Big handful raisins
More fresh coriander and mint
- In a big bowl, marinate the prawns in the yoghurt, spices, salt and oil, for at least 1 hour.
- In a wide pan, on a medium flame, add a little oil or ghee and fry the chopped onion first, until the raw smell disappears, about 5 minutes. Then add the almonds, chillies, garlic, ginger, a handful each of of fresh coriander and fresh mint. Fry together for 4 minutes. Add the remaining biriyani spice mix, and fry together for another 3 – 4 minutes.
- Grind this fried mixture to a very smooth paste in a fairly powerful blender.
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Tip the ground paste into it and fry, gently stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the yoghurt. Simmer in the pot for about 25 – 30 minutes until all the raw smell has disappeared, and the spices don't hit the back of your throat while tasting. Simmer for a few minutes more, if its still raw. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 10 - 15 minutes. Then add salt to taste.
- This sauce needs to be quite thick. Don’t add the prawns until the sauce is fairly thick. If the sauce is not thickening, do the following: In a small pan, heat 3 tsp ghee or oil, and then add 3 tsp of cornflour. Whisk together and fry for 2 minutes. Then add this to your sauce mixture, stirring vigorously until the sauce thickens.
- In a shallow pan, fry the prawns till they are just cooked through. Do not overcook them. You can also barbeque them, if you wish. Keep aside.
- When the sauce is fully cooked and thick, and there is no trace of raw spice in it, tip the cooked prawns, and chopped fresh coriander and mint. Stir together, and keep aside. Make sure you add the prawns at the last minute, or they will overcook in the sauce.
- Meanwhile, make the rice. Heat the ghee and add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and bay leaf. Fry for about 30 seconds and add the rice and salt. Fry for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in the boiling water. Add the water to the rice, cover with very tight fitting lid or aluminium foil and lid and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, check if the rice is cooked. If it is, gently fluff up with a fork and keep aside. If its not cooked, re-cover it, and leave on a very low heat for another 10 minutes.
- For the garnish, caramelize the sliced onion with sugar till sweet and brown. Then toss the cashews and sultanas/ raisins in the same pan, very quickly (they burn easily, so keep an eye out). Keep aside
- Finally, To assemble, layer the rice at the bottom of a heavy, oven safe pot (I use my big Le Creuset for this). Then put one layer of prawn and sauce mixture over it. Toss in a few caramelized onions, raisins and cashews. Sprinkle a tiny bit of rosewater. Then layer more rice, then prawns, then onion/ raisin/ cashew, then rosewater, repeating until the rice and prawn mixture are used up. The top layer should be rice. Then top the rice with the fried onion, cashews and raisins. Sprinkle a little rose water on top. Garnish with more fresh coriander and mint.
- If you wish, you can boil a few eggs, and put them on top.
- The dish is now complete. If you are making it in advance, make sure rice and prawn mix are cool before layering, and once layered, cover the dish and put in the fridge. One hour before serving, preheat the over to 175 C, then place the covered dish in the oven. Turn off the oven. Leave the pot in the oven for roughly an hour or so the check to see if the biriyani is heated through (you can also decant to a serving dish and microwave, if you wish, but you lose the layers), then serve with a raita (basically, diced cucumber, tomatoes and fresh coriander tossed with some slightly salted yoghurt, flavoured with a touch of lemon juice and chilli powder).
- This dish freezes well after layering. If using from frozen, make sure you defrost thoroughly, then reheat in an oven (2 hours in an oven) or microwave.
- My, aren't you just exhausted by now?? Time to put your feet up, and get the other halves to bring you a nice glass of wine :-)