I'm sure many of you would judge biryani as high calorific food, something only for special occasions, and the cumbersome methods of making it. Well, it could be simpler. This is one of the main dishes that seem to adorn our dining table almost on weekly basis, and certainly on ad-hoc notices too. I remember too well how to make those royal delights, so much so that the recipe seems ingrained in my brain and ready to whiplash into the culinary dance of pots and pans, to produce fluffy cooked basmati rice nicely blended with the rich spices and meat.
My mom is the expert when it comes to making biryani. She would enlist a long list of ingredients, and spices ground from scratch. She would probably give me a weird look if I say that my biryani is not laden with ghee but olive oil instead. She would probably also turn her nose up if I ever dare mention shop-bough biryani masala, so I compromise whenever I cook her signature dish at home; I stay true to my olive oil yet I follow her road of roasting and grinding the spices from scratch..and what a difference it gives to the taste! And if I want to go up a notch on my healthy menu, I choose seafood instead of the lamb. Like this prawn biryani. Ready in a jiffy, yet gives the false impression of day long labour in the kitchen.
My mouth waters again just at the mere thought of savouring those succulent prawns and morsels of the spiced rice. I think it is about time I make them again. Especially with the weekend looming, this is the perfect entertaining meal in my book, or a lazy one pot meal for the family. Babies included.
Jumbo King Prawn Biryani
1 kg (6 cups) basmati rice-soak for 30 minutes in water and drained
12 cups water (with 1 tbsp salt mixed in)
500g large king prawns-cleaned
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
5 shallots-julienned finely
2 large red onions
2 inch ginger-minced
2 bulbs garlic-minced
2 tomatoes-chopped coarsely
a generous pinch of saffron (soak in 3 tbsp of water)
yellow food colouring
1 handful of chopped coriander leaves
1 handful of chopped mint leaves
Garnishing: Fried shallots, roasted almonds
2 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fennel seeds
1. Prepare the biryani masala. Dry roast all the spices on low heat until they are fragrant. Pulse in a blender to form fine powder.
( You would yield a large quantity of the masala, which can be stored in an airtight container for at least 1 month if not used immediately)
2. Heat the olive oil in a wok. Fry the cloves, cinnamon and shallots until fragrant.
3. Add in half portion of the sliced onions, ginger and garlic (Keep some onions, ginger and garlic aside for the prawn). Fry until the raw smell is gone and onions are wilted.
4. Add in the washed and drained basmati and coat the rice well with the other ingredients.
5. Once the rice are almost dry, transfer it to the rice cooker and pour in salted water. Alternatively, the rice can be cooked in a pot covered with a lid, under low heat. Cook rice until 3/4 cooked
6. Whilst rice is cooking, heat some olive oil in the wok. Shallow fry the king prawns until they turn pink. Set aside.
7. Using the same oil, fry the remaining onions, ginger and garlic until the raw smell is gone.
8. Add the biryani masala and fry until oil splutters. Add in the saffron with water and tomatoes.
9. Once tomatoes are a bit mushy, add the prawns and 1/4 cup of water. Season with salt and simmer on low heat until the gravy thickens.
Place 1/3 of the cooked rice in a dutch oven or casserole.Splash the yellow food colouring and using a fork, colour bits of the rice to form colourful tinge of yellow. Garnish the top layer with half of the coriander and mint leaves. Place half of the prawns with gravy and repeat the layering process until complete with rice on top.
Steam or bake the rice for further 15 minutes.
Garnish with some fried shallots and roasted almonds.
Scoop from the bottom of the dish for servings.
* Sending this flavourful dish to The Kerala Kitchen, which is hosted this month by Kaveri of Palakkad Chamayal*