I rattle off the steps once again in my head.
Remember to marinate the meat overnight.
Cook the meat. Low flame. Do not rush.
Cook the rice. Just partially. (And for heavens sake do not indulge in a call with your best mate while that pot of rice is simmering away. You need to get it off the stove at just the right time. Timing is of paramount importance !!!)
(And it shall be blasphemy if you forget the potatoes if any of your guests has Kolkata connections, he / she shall not forgive you for this unpardonable slip for a long time to come !!)
Make disciplined layers of meat and rice.
Drizzle that saffron-perfumed milk over the rice.
Keora water and ittar, if you fancy. Just a few drops.
Seal the pot with dough.
Place the pot on dum.
Wait for that ultimate moment of truth !!
And yet, despite the countless number of festive occasions when my pakki biryani has proudly been the piece de resistance at the table, I feel a stab of un-restful diffidence this morning as I wait my biryani to be ready.
Well, the reason for this nervousness is not altogether incomprehensible – today marks my enterprising foray into the arcane realm of kachhi biryanis. Cooking a perfect kacchi biryani, there’s no denying, is an art, a yogic equilibrium of components, a balance so delicate that the most gentle whiff of breeze can get the house of cards tumbling down.
I wonder if at all it was prudent to try something so novel as a Dhakai Kachhi Biryani when you had friends over for lunch.
What happens if the experiment is a disaster ? I muse. Would I really have time to whip up an alternative meal ? Or do I have to resort to a home delivery ? Far from desirable, I fret, but what choices would I really have ?
The two hours that follow are agonisingly long.
I brew myself endless cups of Darjeeling, try focusing on the latest Sujata Massey thriller, switch on the mundane morning news, play Joan Baez, but keep returning religiously to my watch, nothing seems to pacify those apprehensive nerves.
And then that moment finally arrives.
The dough is cracked, the lid lifted, just so slightly. And an explosion of fragrance greets the air. Hypnotic. Seductive. The genie trapped inside the pot is released to diffuse into the balmy surroundings.
Well, the Dhakai Kacchi Biryani turned out to be sublime. Yes, small niggles that subsequent endeavours helped perfect, but far from the catastrophe I had almost expected as inevitable.
The smiles around the table said it all.
This is the story of my Dhakai Kacchi Biryani. A melange of rice, meat and spices, cooked in unison over a fatigued fire – pearls of rice, succulent cuts of meat, an ensemble of spices, fried onion that’s caramelised to decadence, dollops of ghee and a splash of milk, tempting strands of golden saffron playing bo-peep amidst the rice and an indulgence of kewra, rose water and ittar. All cooked to luxuriant perfection.
Dhakai Kacchi Biryani
- 1 kg mutton biryani cut
- 500 g basmati rice
- 3 medium sized potatoes cut into halves
- 1.5 cup beresta or fried onions
- 1 cup hung yogurt whipped
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1/2 tbsp garlic paste
- 2 tsp red chili powder
- a pinch of turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
- 1/2 florets of mace crushed
- 2 green cardamoms
- 4 cloves
- 2 one inch cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp saffron
- 1/2 cup cooking oil
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 2 tsp keora water
- salt to taste
- wheat dough for sealing
- Take the mutton pieces in a bowl, add the whipped yogurt, 1 cup of beresta, ginger-garlic paste, red chili powder, nutmeg powder, crushed mace, cloves, green cardamoms, cinnamon, oil and salt. Give it a hearty mix. This is a very important step for a good kachhi biryani.
- Keep the marinated mutton aside, at least 3-4 hours, even better if overnight, in the refrigerator.
- Smear the potato halves with a pinch of turmeric powder and a little salt. Heat ½ tbsp of oil and lightly fry the potatoes. Keep aside.
- Soak the saffron strands in warm milk. Keep aside.
- Soak the basmati rice for 20 odd minutes. Drain the water.
- Cook the rice in boiling water, just a few drops of oil and a pinch of salt added to the water, till about 20% done. Drain the water. Spread the semi-cooked rice on a flat dish, keep aside.
- Take a heavy bottomed pan, grease with 1 tbsp ghee. Transfer the marinated mutton along with the marinade to the pan, spread evenly.
- Place the potatoes and a little crushed beresta over the marinate mutton.
- Cover evenly with the rice. Sprinkle the remaining beresta over the rice.
- Gently pour the saffron infused milk, keora water and the remaining ghee evenly over the rice.
- Cover the lid, seal firmly with flour dough. Place the pan on another flat frying pan, cook over a low flame for 2 hrs.
- A standing time of 10 odd minutes and the biriyani is ready to serve.