Know the recipe of Kachchi Biryani

Food Nilanjan Hajra
Eat-Well
Kachchi Biryani
Mutton Lamb kacchi biryani. Photo : Dreamstime

No one really knows who created the delectable dish named Biryani. However, there can’t be any doubt about a few things. First, while chefs drew heavily from various non-Indian culinary traditions to create this dish, Biryani is purely a food of the Indian subcontinent. Secondly, according to my research, chefs of the Mughal imperial kitchen began cooking this dish sometime during late 16th and early 17th century. Thirdly, Biryani had an immediate predecessor named Zer Biryan. And fourthly, While Biryani might have actually evolved in the Mughal imperial kitchens in Shahjahanabad, i.e. Delhi, cookbooks prove that the delicacy most favoured in imperial circles was not Biryani but Pulao.

The development of Biryani in its myriad varieties is phenomenon of later times. Today almost every region of India has its own style of Biryani. At least 20 varieties can easily be listed. It can be made with mutton, goat meat, beef, chicken, fish, paneer, and other vegetables.

Emergence of Biryani

Ain-i-Akbari a magnum opus written on Mughal emperor Akbar’s administration by his prime minister Abu’l Fazl gives us the first succinct description of the Mughal imperial kitchen and the emperor’s table. It doesn’t have any mention of Biryani. But his son emperor Jahangir, a real foodie, indicates his love for Biryani in his autobiography Jahangirnama, while narrating an incident of 1606.

There is no cookbook of Jahangir’s reign. The cookbook purported to be that of Shahjahan’s imperial kitchen also doesn’t mention Biryani. However, it lists several varieties of a food named Zer Biryan, which is very close to Biryani.

The next emperor Aurangzeb was the most unambiguous about his love for Biryani. In 1704, Aurangzeb wrote a letter to his eldest son Muhammad Muazzam, in which he said, “Exalted son, I remember the savour of your ‘khichidi’ and ‘biryani’ during the winter… I wanted to have from you (in my service) Saliman, who cooks ‘biryani’; but you did not allow him to serve as my cook. If you happen to find a pupil of his, skilful in the art of cookery, you will send him to me.”

So clearly between 1606 and 1704 Biryani had claimed its rightful place in the royal spread of Delhi. Still it was no match for Pulao. Nuskha-i-Shahjahani, Shahjahan’s imperial cookbook, mentions 54 types of Pulao in comparison to about seven types of Zer Biryan. Over the next two centuries the dish spread to three major cities, Lucknow, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Biryani in Lucknow, Kolkata, and Hyderabad 

These days foodies consider Awadhi or Lucknowi Biryani to be a fine-dining dish. But during the glorious days of the Nawabs of Lucknow, they favoured not Biryani but Pulao. The finest chroniclers of those times Abdul Halim Sharar dismisses Biryani in these words, “But in the view of gourmets a biryani is a clumsy and ill-conceived meal in comparison with a really good pulao…”. However, Biryani certainly served at the royal table.

Kolkata Biryani is one of the most talked-about Biryanis in India. Its specialty is the added potato. By all indications, the last Nawab of Lucknow, a cultural icon, Wajid Ali Shah, brought it to Kolkata, when the British exiled him to a place near the city in 1856. Chefs added potatos to it later. No one knows when. One his direct descendants Manzilat Fatima thankfully keeps the tradition alive through her delightful Biryanis.

Nizams and Biryanis are the two indelible identities of Hyderabad, now in the state of Telengana. Nizams were rulers of the Hyderabad State, comprising modern-day Telengana, parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra, as the Asaf Jahi dynasty, between 1724 and 1948.

Hyderabadi imperial cuisine really excelled during the reigns of the sixth Nizam Mahboob Ali Khan (1866-1911) and the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali (1886-1967). Mutbakh-e-Asifya is a cookbook consisting recipes of the Nizam’s imperial kitchen. Siasat Publications published it in 2013. The book has recipes of these varieties of Biryanis: Biryani Roomi (Turkey’s Anatolia region was known as Room in Ottoman times), Kham Biryani (Kham means Raw, this is now known as the famous Kachchi Biryani), Dulhan Biryani, Biryani Dupiyaza, Biryani Mahboobi, Shana Biryani, Biryani Murgh (Chicken Biryani), and Machhli Biryani (Fish Biryani).

Out of these Kham or Kachchi Biryani is still popular, so on this happy occasion of Eid we can cook an authentic Kachchi Biryani

KACHHI BIRYANI

Ingredients

  • Mutton 1Kg
  • Rice 750 Gm
  • Ghee 250 Gm
  • Ginger 50 Gm
  • Garlic 25 Gm
  • Onion 125 Gm
  • Cinnamon 2 Gm
  • Cardamom 2 Gm
  • Cloves 2 Gm
  • Caraway 2 Gm
  • Saffron 2 Gm
  • Sour curd 200 Gm
  • Milk 300 Gm
  • Mint leaves a handful
  • Lime 2
  • Papaya (raw and pasted) 5 Gm
  • Salt to taste

Method

Mix mutton pieces with ginger-garlic-papaya paste and a little salt. Marinate for one hour. Heat a portion of the ghee and crackle the cardamoms, pot in finely chopped onion and fry till brown. Take it off the stove. Mix the curd well with the onion. Pour in lime juice, saffron, mint leaves finely chopped and powdered cinnamon and some salt. Mix all this very well with the marinated meat and keep aside for some time. In the meantime, half boil the rice with the caraway. Arrange the rice in a layer. On top of it arrange the meat pieces. Pour water mixed with salt in a manner that it remains just over the two arranged layers of rice and mutton. Pour the remaining ghee and all the milk from above.

Close the lid of the cauldron and seal it with flour dough. Cook it over low heat for about 45 minutes. Pierce the seal a little and carefully note if the smell of cooked meat is coming out. Once done take off the heat.

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