Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Tandoori Chicken Biryani

Hello, all. Welcome to biryani recipe 240349304 on the interwebs. You might be wondering, well Abida, what makes your biryani recipe so different from all the other ones out there?? Well, I'll tell you exactly what, discerning readers. It's the fact that I have struggled to get to this point of a publishable biryani recipe that I can confidently share with other people. It has been a year long journey for me of trials, tribulation and hyperventilation. I should add a side note here that being Bangladeshi, biryanis are not really a traditional food as it is in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. It is usually more common for us to prepare a pilau or yakhni dish. And yep that is my very legitimate excuse that I am using before sharing my embarassing biryani making woes...

The first attempt came a year ago where I attempted to make the biryani from scratch with no boxed spice mixes. It was a sorry tale from the get go. I somehow managed to burn the onions when I was making the chicken masala, lending a rather unpleasant acrid taste throughout the whole dish. Furthermore, I was so fixated on not having soft, mushy rice, that I ended up with the total opposite and I had to spend aaaages letting it cook on the stove in a desperate attempt to get it to soften. The second biryani attempt came a few months later, when I managed to muster the courage to try again. This time, I thought to ease myself back into the process by using a ready prepared biryani spice mix. I ended up regretting the decision as I found the flavour too strong and decidedly flowery in taste. On top of that, the second time around, I was fixated on not having hard rice and subsequently I ended up with rice that was way too soft. 

The struggles, guys. It's real. 

But a couple of days ago, I decided to conquer my fears head on, armed with my new range of culinary skills and a bag load of tips that I'd preened from anyone who fed me biryani. And just like in the tale of Golidocks and the Three Bears, the third time was just right. And there was no box spice mix to be found in sight, huzzah! All of the spices were ones that we had in the cupboards anyway, and I tried to use whole spices in moderation so as not to overwhelm the dish. I decided to go for a tandoori chicken flavour as it is one that we all enjoy in our family so it was a safe option. I used chicken on the bone as I feel that it is more tender, but you can use boneless chicken, and make tikka style pieces. 

There are three different parts to this recipe, the preparation of the tandoori chicken and then the gravy/sauce to go with it, the precooking of the rice, and the assembly process. It might seem a bit intimidating, but if you are lazy like me, you could prepare the chicken masala the night before and then do all of the rice and assembly the next day. And if you're looking for even more shortcuts, you could skip baking the chicken in the oven and just cook it on the stove straight off. I couldn't be bothered to use dough to seal the pot as in the traditional dum method to steam the biryani and instead used foil. Alternatively, you could wrap the lid in a damp tea towel and place it on top. A colleague gave me the tip of placing a flat tawa under the pot whilst the biryani steams and I found that it helps in distributing the heat.

You could add lots of food colouring to the rice or the chicken, but I decided to keep things simple and natural, and used a little bit of saffron. Like with most curry dishes, as good as the biryani tastes fresh, it tastes better the next day when the flavours have had time to mature and deepen.  So give it a go, guys. I really mean it when I say that if I can do it, anyone can do it.