Yummy Kerala Style Biriyani (My mom’s recipe)

BiriyaniIngredients for Rice:
Basmati rice – 2 cups (Soak rice in water for atleast an hour)
Cinnamon – 4 one inch pieces
Cloves – 6 nos
Cardamom – 4 nos
Fennel seeds – 1 tbsp
Water – 3 cups
Ghee & Salt


Ingredients for marinating  chicken:-
Chicken – 3 lbs  (Cut the chicken into big pieces – 2 inches piece. Don’t need to cut chicken If you are using Chicken leg pieces. Just make some slits on the piece, so that masala will go in.
Chilly powder – 1 1/2 tbsp
Coriander powder – 1 1/2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – A little
Black pepper – 1 tsp
Garlic-ginger-Green chilly-Cilantro-Mint Leaves paste – 3 tbsp  (you can make more, so that you can use rest for biriyani gravy too)
Masala powder – 1-2 tsp  (I make masala powder  from Fennel seeds-Cinnamon-Cardamom-Cloves- star Anise-Bay leaves)

Ingredients for Chicken gravy:-
Onion(big) – 3 nos (Sliced, Red onions preferred)
Chilly powder – 1 1/2 tbsp
Coriander powder – 3 tbsp
Masala powder – 2 tsp (same from above)
Garlic-ginger-Green chilly-Cilantro-Mint Leaves paste – 2 tbsp
Mint leaves(Pudhina) – 2 stems
Coriander leaves – 2 stems
Roma Tomato – 2-3 (quartered – one tomato in 4 pieces)
Oil- As required
Yogurt – 1/4 cup

Ingredients for Garnishing:
Ghee – As required for frying (I take like 1/2 inch high ghee on a small pan for frying this)
Thinly sliced Onions (red onions preferred) – from 1/2 – 1 onion
Cashews – 20 nos
Raisins – 20-30 nos
Mint leaves(Pudhina) – 3 stems
Coriander leaves – 3 stems

Fry the above garnish items one after other in the order listed above, and keep them aside separately. Onion should be added when ghee is very hot and make sure it doesn’t get burnt. Don’t overcrowd while frying onion. If you have more, do separate batches of frying. After frying onions, you can lower heat to medium. Raisins are done frying when they expand to form balls. Cashew just need to be slightly brown outside.

Note: If you want to reduce amount of ghee used, don’t do this step. Instead use cashews, raisins and leaves for garnishing, without frying in ghee.

Ingredients for Aroma and color:
Rose essence – 1 tsp
Yellow color powder – a pinch
Mix  Rose essence and  color powder, and keep it aside.

Preparation for pan frying Chicken and then making Biriyani Gravy:

1)Mix together all the ingredients for marinating the chicken.
2)Marinate the chicken with the above paste for approximately an hour.(You can do/prep this previous night and refrigerate it)
3) Pan Fry this chicken in oil. Don’t fry the chicken pieces for long time. Otherwise, it will become very dry and hard. Just want the outside to be sealed and fried, inside may not be cooked well. But this will get more cooking time when we make gravy with chicken.  The purpose of doing this is to make the pieces little stronger so that it won’t split into small pieces while making curry.

1) Heat little oil or ghee or both together in a pan or a kadai (for cooking chicken with gravy).
2)Add ginger-garlic paste and saute for sometime. Before that starts browning, add onions and cut green chillies and and saute` well.
3)When it is sauted well and turns slightly brown, add chilly powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder,  black pepper, masala powder and salt and saute again until it makes a nice soft mixture. (About 15mts)
4)Add fried chicken pieces to it. Mix gently without breaking chicken pieces. Cover and  cook in medium heat. So, all mixes well. This will take sometime (like 30mts or so in low medium heat, so that chicken and onion mix can blend well and create a thick biriyani gravy. All water should be gone, and result in a roasted style. It will loosen up when we add curd and tomato later.  You can save the time by cooking rice while this gravy is going on, as you don’t have much to do other than mixing and making sure chicken and gravy is not getting burnt or sticking to the bottom of the vessel.
9) When it is almost dry and roasted, Add yogurt and mix it well. Taste and add more salt if needed. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
10)Add tomatoes, cover and cook. Make sure Tomato layers at the bottom, so that it cooks fast, and gets a roasted feel. You don’t have to blend tomato into the gravy much. It is nice to have pieces of roasted tomato to eat in biriyani. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add Cilantro and Mint leaves to this and mix in.
12) Mix in between. The gravy should be like a  roasted paste. It should not be too dry or watery.  Check salt and add more, if needed.

Preparation for Cooking Rice:

1)Soak rice in water and keep for an hour. Drain water from rice and keep it aside.
2)Heat 2 – 3 tbsp of ghee in a thick bottom vessel (for cooking rice).
3)Add 3 – 4 pieces of Fennel Seeds, cinnamon, Star Anise, cloves and cardamom and stir for a while. (Optional: nutmeg Pieces).
4) When spices gets roasted and a nice aroma comes, Add water. For 1 cup of rice, add 1.5 cups of water. Add Salt to the water for your taste, and allow it to boil.
5)Add the drained rice into it. Mix well, and cover and allow it to be cooked in medium high heat. Keep a close eye, when water starts disappearing, open lid, mix well, cover again, and turn heat to low.  Keep it covered and cook some more time (may be 5-8mts), so that water will disappear from bottom of the vessel too. Turn off the stove, and Don’t open the lid. Leave it covered for 20-30 mts. (it continues to cook while it stays  closed and warm)

For Baking Biriyani:-

For Oven Style:-
1)Take a big shallow oven safe dish. You can use Aluminum foil  trays too instead of flat dish. I usually use 9X13 inch thick baking dish (Glass, Ceramic etc). They are close to two inches high.
2)Coat it with ghee.
3)Put the chicken with gravy as a layer followed by a layer of  the rice. Usually for 2 inch dish you can have only one layer of chicken and rice.
4)Sprinkle few drops of Rose essence and color mix on top of the rice with a spoon carefully. Too much of this will give a very strong smell. So, be careful and drop only few spoons. You can use the same spoon to spread these drops across so the colors spreads bit more.
5)Sprinkle 1 tbsp of ghee on top of it, and spread it. Sprinkle the fried Mint and Cilantro. Sprinkle the fried cashews and raisins on top of it. Press the top layer down with a flat spoon so that the content is packed without much air inside. Cover tightly with an oven safe lid or aluminum foil.
Optional: You can add few slices of pineapple, and boiled eggs on top of the rice, before baking, if you like it.
6)Bake this in the centre of the oven at 350 F for about 20-30 minutes. If you are making more quantity, you can put that in multiple shallow dishes and bake in the oven at the same time.

For Stove top Style:-
Use a big wide vessel coated with ghee or butter to make biriyani. Make layer of chicken,  rice, color/essence, mix, ghee and garnish as described in the above step. You can make repeat the layer if needed. Press the top layer down with a flat spoon so that the content is packed without much air inside. Cover it with a lid and heat the filled vessel on a low flame for approximately 20 – 25 mins. Check the bottom of the vessel in between with a spoon or something to make sure it is not getting burnt. If it is getting burnt, reduce the heat.

For Serving:

Take portions vertically from the baked biriyani so that a serving plate will have both rice and chicken with masala. Accompaniments listed below:

– Biriyani goes well with with lime pickle, Yogurt raita or Sarlas (Vinegar and Red Onion Salad) and pappadam. Raita can be made with Red onions, tomato, green chillies(optional), curd and salt.  Sarlas – I make by mixing thin slices of red onion with, green chillies chopped, white vine vinegar to cover onions, and salt. Leave it mixed for atleast 20-30mts. Can be refrigerated too. I prefer Sarlas over raita for Biriyani. May be Mallu taste buds 🙂
– Use the same quantity of Mutton instead of chicken to make Mutton Biriyani with the same recipe.