Each city has its own sense of humour, often displayed by shopkeepers, rickshaw-wallahs, and those you meet on the road. I was at the receiving end of something of the caustic variety recently. We had gone to GK-1, M-Block market for pre-Diwali shopping. It was around 10.45am or so and for some strange reason both Mahesh and I were quite hungry. The Chaat guy near Prince Paan looked very inviting. They were just setting shop when I walked up to the guy and pointed to a container with paani (for paani puri) and asked him “Bhaiya, yeh kal ka hain ya aaj ka” (Bhaiya, is the water from yesterday or today’s). With a deadpan expression on his face he told me “Yeh do teen mahine purana hain” (This is two-three months old). I laughed out loud and told him “phir toh khaana hi padega” (Then, I will have to have it). Mahesh, told me I deserved it. I guess, I did 🙂
The menu for Diwali was simple this time – biryani and raita. Mahesh would learn how to make Biryani from his friend James’s mother – Sakkammal Aunty. Aunty suggested that he watch her make the biryani and note the recipe. Armed with a notebook and almost tempted to carry a tiffin box to bring the biryani back, Mahesh set out early on a Sunday morning for his masterclass. Not only did he eat some biryani there he also brought back loads. We had to make a trip to Rama Stores in Munirka as Mahesh was very particular about the biryani rice. A day before Diwali was a bad time though as the shop was super crowded. After waiting for what seemed like forever to get someone to hear our order, Mahesh decided to go inside and procure what we needed. Soon, people started waving at him and asking them to hand them certain items! With all ingredients in place, Mahesh set out to make the biryani all on his own.
Here is the recipe that has been tried, tested, and perfected by Sakkammal Aunty. It is highly recommended:
1. 750 gms mutton
2. 1/2 kg jeera rice
3. 4 onions, thinly sliced
4. 5 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
5. 1/2 packet Biryani Masala (Aunty gave Mahesh a packet of masala she got from Tuticorin)
6. 1.5 tsp fennel seeds
7. 1 inch cinnamon stick, 2 nos
8. 6 cloves
9. 3 cardamoms
10. 1 star anise
11. 1 tsp ghee
13. 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
14. 1 bay leaf
15. Handful of curry leaves
16. 1 tablespoon chilli powder
1. Dry roast one stick of cinnamon and spices 7-10, let it cool, and then grind into a fine powder.
2. Heat a tablespoon of ghee and toss the rice in and stir continiously. Do not let the rice colour. This step helps ensure that each grain of the rice remains separate.
3. Heat a tablespoon of oil, add 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste and let it cook. Add 2 thinly sliced onions and fry till the onions turn glossy. Add the mutton in and fry for about 2 minutes or so. Next, add 3 chopped tomatoes and 4 glasses of water or enough water to submerge the mutton. Pressure cook this – two whistles are sufficient.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in another pan. Add cinnamon, curry leaves, bay leaf, 1 tablespoon of ginger-garlic paste, and 1 thinly sliced onion. Fry well and then add one finely chopped tomato and 1 tablespoon of chilli powder.
5. In a cooker, add the fried masala (Step 4), roasted and powdered masala (Step 1), boiled mutton with spices, water (double the quantity of the rice- you can use the water in which the mutton was boiled), biryani masala, rice, salt, turmeric powder, and stir it for about 10 minutes or so on high. Then turned the flame on sim, cover the cooker, place the weight, and cook for 8 minutes (no whistle). Wait for at least 15-20 minutes before you open the cooker.
This biryani is so delightfully yummy that I ate it without any raita. I was amazed at how tender the mutton was and surprised that just 2 whistles did the trick.