Show Me You Love Me with Ginger, Mint, Bones and Plum Pits [Murgh Ki Biryani]

Biryani is my idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day dish.

It makes a great lunch. Check! m hay is always working dinner.

It’s mostly rice. Check! m hay is mad about rice.

It’s delicate, involved and m hay doesn’t know how to make it. Check!

Although m hay loves the rice, my favourite part of this biryani are the alubukhara.

Alubukhara are dried, pit-in plums used primarily in North Indian and Pakistani cusine.

When you come across one in your biryani, suck the flesh off of it. They really are perfectly tangy.

Chicken Biryani

For the chicken and gravy:

3 lbs skinless, bone-in chicken pieces
1 large yellow onion, sliced fine
2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1.5 tbsp ginger, pounded to a paste in a mortar and pestle
1.5 tbsp garlic, pounded to a paste in a mortar and pestle
one 2- or 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken
5 whole green cardamom pods
10 whole black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1 ½  tsp garam masala
12 dried alubukhara
1 ½ tsp red chilli powder
1 large tomato, diced fine
Salt, to taste
1/3 cup plain yogurt
Ghee for frying

For the Rice:

2 cups basmati rice
2 tbsp oil
1 bay leaf, broken
1 tbsp lime juice

For Layering:

A few threads of saffron in a few tablespoons of warm water
2 medium tomatoes, sliced 1 cm thick
1 ½ + ½  cups loosely packed mint, sliced fine, divided
2-inch piece fresh ginger, julienned
1 ½ tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

For the chicken and gravy:

Heat oven to 350F.

Caramelize the onion in a large Dutch oven with a lid. Set aside onion.

Heat 3 tbsp ghee in Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add cinnamon stick. Fry 40 seconds. Add peppercorns, cloves and cardamom. Fry until they release their aromas, about 2 minutes.

Sprinkle cumin seeds and fry until they crackle. Add ginger-garlic paste and fry, stirring constantly, until the raw smell goes away, about 1 minute.

Add caramelized onion. Stir. Add garam masala. Fry briefly. Add diced tomato. Stir well. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until tomato begins to break down.

Add the red chilli powder, alubukhara and a splash of water to prevent sticking. Add chicken. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the chicken is cooked through. Add more splashes of water as needed.

Remove from heat. Spoon chicken pieces into one bowl and gravy into another. Mix yogurt into gravy.

For the Rice:

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear.

Soak the rice for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 10 cups of salty water to a boil with the bay leaf, oil and lime juice.


Put the soaked rice in the boiling water. Keep at high heat until the pot comes back to the boil.

Reduce to medium-high. You have the right temperature when the rice is “dancing” on the surface (i.e. there are enough bubbles to carry the rice to the surface, but not so many that you can’t see the rice).

Cook the rice to half done. DO NOT OVERCOOK, OR YOUR BIRYANI WILL BE MUSHY. Half-done basmati is just past the stage where when you press a grain with your finger it breaks neatly in half. So it won’t be snapping in half at the pressure of your finger, but instead kind of breaking like an inchworm moves (makes sense to me).

Drain the rice.

For layering and baking:

Put a layer of rice in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Top with chopped mint, some tomato slices, ginger julienne, a sprinkle of saffron water and a sprinkle of lime juice.

Top this with some of the chicken and gravy.

Repeat this layering process until all of the rice and chicken is gone.

End with a layer of tomatoes, ginger, mint, etc.

Put the lid on the Dutch oven and place in preheated 350F oven. Bake for 5 minutes. Stir contents once. DO NOT STIR CONSTANTLY, OR THE RICE WILL BREAK DOWN AND THE BIRYANI WILL BE MUSHY. Return to oven for 5 more minutes.

Serve. Garnish with ½ cup reserved chopped mint, pomegranate seeds, lime wedge and hari chutney. Serve raita, tomato slices, raw onion and raw whole green chillies on the side.


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