Biryani is a pleasure to behold and eat. Fragrant long-grained rice is layered with meat or vegetables that have been cooked in a mixture of spices. An exotic one-dish meal that is delicious served with yogurt raita and kachumber salad.
This biryani recipe features goat meat but can also be made with chicken, mutton, or mixed vegetables. Follow the same instructions for chicken or mutton if you choose to use them instead.
Biryani is made in a large vessel called a handi (basically a deep pot with a nicely fitting lid). The latter part of the cooking process involves putting the biryani under “dum” or pressure. You can do this by sealing the dish (see how below) and putting it under the hood of your preheated barbecue or in the oven and leaving it there for about 20 minutes.
- 2 1/4 lbs./1 kg goat meat (use leg and get the butcher to cut it into bite-sized chunks)
- 2 tbsp. garlic paste
- 2 tbsp. ginger paste
- 6 tbsp. sunflower, canola, or vegetable oil (divided)
- 2 large red onions (chopped fine)
- 30 to 40 curry leaves
- Optional: 2 green chilies
- 2 tbsp. coriander powder
- 1 tbsp. cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp. garam masala
- Salt to taste
- 2 cups hot water (divided)
- 1 3/4 oz./50g ball of tamarind
- 3 cups/700g basmati rice
- Garnish: 2 large onions (sliced thin)
- Optional: 2 drops orange food coloring (to make the biryani look very pretty)
- Optional: 2 drops green food coloring
Put the goat meat with the garlic and ginger pastes in a large bowl and mix well to coat the meat with the pastes. Set aside for 20 minutes.
While the meat is marinating, heat 3 tablespoons cooking oil in a large, deep pot or pan over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onions and fry until translucent.
Add the curry leaves and green chilies, if using, and fry for 1 minute.
Add the powdered spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric, and garam masala) and salt to taste and mix well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.
Add the marinated meat. Stir well and often and cook until the meat is browned.
Add 1 1/2 cups of hot water, stir, cover, and simmer until meat is tender. Keep checking at this stage as you do not want the meat overcooked and soft.
While the meat is cooking, make the tamarind puree. Put the tamarind in a plastic or glass bowl and pour 1/2 cup of hot water over it. Allow the mixture to stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the tamarind and water mixture through a sieve (do not use a very fine sieve) into a bowl to get tamarind puree. Add this to the curry when you feel the meat is almost done. Stir well. Once the meat is cooked, set it aside and prepare the rice.
Put the rice in a colander and wash under running water until the water runs clear. Place in a large, deep cooking pot (preferably one with handles).
Add enough water to fully cover the rice, usually at least 4 inches over the surface of the rice. Add 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste). Bring the rice to a boil. Cook until almost done. (To determine when it has reached that stage, remove a few grains from the pot and press between your thumb and forefinger. The rice should mostly mash but will have a firm, whitish core.) Turn off the heat and strain through a colander and set aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the thinly sliced onions until caramelized and golden brown. Drain and set aside on paper towels for later use.
If you are using the food coloring, divide the rice into 3 equal portions and put into separate dishes. Add the orange food coloring to one portion of the rice and the green food coloring to another portion of the rice. Leave the third portion white. With each portion, mix the rice until all the grains are well colored. Set aside for 10 minutes and then mix all 3 portions of rice together in a bowl.
Preheat the oven or grill to 350 F (180 C) and grease a deep dish or pot (which has a well-fitting cover). Evenly layer the cooked rice and the meat (with its gravy) in the dish to form at least two sets of layers (rice-meat-rice-meat-rice). Garnish with the caramelized onions. Cover the dish tightly. If your dish does not have a cover use two layers of aluminum foil (shiny side of both layers facing down toward the rice) and secure onto a dish with baking string. If you are using a handi (a deep pot with a nicely fitting lid) which has a flat rim, you can seal it by making a firm dough with flour and water and pressing this over the joint of the handi’s rim and cover.
Place the dish in the oven or grill and cook for 20 minutes.
Turn off the oven or barbecue and let the dish sit in the oven or barbecue until you are ready to eat. It’s important that you only open when you are ready to serve. The way to serve biryani is to gently dig in with a spoon so you get through the layers.