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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Lucknowi Biryani / Awadhi Biryani (Vegetarian Version)

Biryanis with an intricate blend of exotic spices, complex flavors, and tantalizing aromas have been mesmerizing the Indian culinary field for centuries now. They have become an integral part of the local cuisine so much that we forget that their origin lies in faraway lands, in the western parts of Asia. Biryani seems to have derived from the Persian word 'Birian' meaning ‘fried before cooking’. Though origins of the biryani is up for debates, according to one of the legends, the Turk - Mongol conqueror Taimur is believed to have brought biryani to India. Other story credits Mumtaz Mahal, the woman behind Taj Mahal for it's origins. The Mughals however are credited to spread it far and wide, with innovations that no longer resemble the original version where the meat was marinated overnight and grilled on tandoor. 

The authentic and traditional, non-vegetarian varieties of biryanis which are regarded as gems in today's culinary world, were concocted by the royal chefs of Mughal kitchens and other regional Muslim rulers. Among them, the Nawabs of Lucknow along with the Hyderabdi Nizams were great patrons of biryanis. Awadhi biryani aka Lucknowi biryani which is considered a mild and delicately flavored biryani is a gift from Nawabi kitchens of Oudh aka Awadh. 

Lucknowi biryani is a delicately spiced biryani and is most commonly paired with burrani, a garlic based raita. The original version is a meat based one where initially a yakhni stock from meat is prepared. It is slowly boiled along with spices for an hour or two so that the water used to cook the rice is well infused with the flavors. The biryani is then cooked in a dum pukhth method. It is a layered biryani that is done in three steps. Lucknowi biryani is a form of 'pukki birysni', 'pukki' meaning cooked. The meat (or vegetables here) and rice here are seperately cooked, then layered and the final cooking is done in a sealed handi, a huge cooking pot. The use of fragrant flavorings like gulab jal or the rose water, kewra water and edible ittar as the final touches to biryanis was / is a common practice, one prevalent since the medieval era in Persian cuisine, where the roots of biryani are believed to be in. I also need to mention that I saw some bloggers using yellow chili powder in the recipe. I however also went through recipes of chefs who have supposedly learnt it from Lucknow cooks who are masters of the art and didn't notice any chili powder additions in their recipes and so skipped it.

I made a vegetable based biryani that was mildly flavored. I have to admit this was one dish I failed miserably at my first attempt. This was not my first layered biryani but the first one I cooked for this marathon. I followed the original recipe to a T and ended up adding water at the end going against my instincts. Oh boy, the final dish was a such mushy one and the rice was all broken into bits which was only fit to trash. I got so mad at the failure of the recipe that instead of giving up, I surprisingly ended up cooking another batch immediately.  I did a layered biryani but didn't realize that I spread the plain rice layer over top in the platter and the coloful part of rice is hiding underneath until it was time to edit images. Seems like that I didn't mix the rice enough and that's why it is looking like a white biryani.

Recipe source: Here
Ingredients for rice:
1 cup basmati rice
1 tsp. caraway seeds / shahjeera
2 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick 
1 black cardamom
1 green cardamom
1 bay leaf

Ingredients for the vegetable gravy:
3 to 4 tbsp. ghee (divided)
1 tsp. shahjeera / caraway seeds
2 cloves 
1 star anise
1 mace
1 inch cinnamon stick 
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg 
1/4 tsp. pepper corns
1 tbsp. ginger paste
1 tbsp. garlic paste
About 2.5 cups diced, mixed vegetables*
Salt to taste
1/2 to 3/4 cup yogurt

* I added peeled and diced carrots and potatoes, green beans cut into 1 inch pieces and green peas. Cauliflowers are an usual addition.

Ingredients for garnishing:
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped mint leaves
Rose water as needed
Kewra water as needed
1 tbsp. unsalted butter / ghee
2 tbsp. warm milk + 2 pinches of saffron milk

Other Ingredients:
Wheat dough as needed if using to seal.

Prep work:
* Wash and soak rice in water for about 30 minutes. Drain and keep aside.
* Soak milk and saffron together in a small bowl and keep aside.
* Heat 2 tbsp. ghee in a pan and add sliced onions. Shallow fry them until golden brown and drain on absorbent towels. (One can add more oil and fry them.)

Part 1 - Cooking vegetable gravy:
* To the same pan, add caraway seeds and when they start to sizzle, add 2 cloves, star anise, mace, 1 inch cinnamon stick, nutmeg and peppercorns. Saute them.
* Next add ginger and garlic paste and saute until the raw smell leaves.
* Add vegetables and salt to the pan and saute for a couple of minutes. Lower the heat and add yogurt. Stir for few seconds, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Part 2 - Cooking rice:
* While the vegetables are being done, prepare the yakhni to cook rice. Heat about 6 cups of water in a pot. Tie a tsp. of caraway seeds, 2 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick, 1 black cardamom, 1 green cardamom in a piece of muslin cloth and tie in a bundle. Add the bundle and bay leaves to the water. Let the water simmer for about 20 minutes so that spices infuse their flavor to the water. 
* Bring water to a rolling boil and add salt. (When you taste water, it should feel a little salty.) 
* Add the soaked and drained rice to the water and gently mix once. Do not cover and continue to cook on high flame, until the rice is 80% cooked. The rice should be almost done with a slight bite at the center of the grain when tasted. (It takes about 6 to 7 minutes.)
* Discard the spices in the cloth bundle and the bay leaves. Save some of the cooked water and transfer the rice to a colander. Rinse rice immediately with cold running water to avoid the rice from further cooking. Drain completely and stir the remaining ghee into the rice. Keep it aside.

Part 3 - Assembling the rice:
* Heat a iron griddle / tawa while assembling the layers. 
(I was lazy to get my griddle out and used a old pressure pan instead.)
* Take a heavy bottomed pot, preferably a non stick one to assemble the biryani. Spread half of the fried onions at the base. Spread half the rice over onions. (I did the rice first and spread the onions over it.) Sprinkle half of the saffron milk.

* Then spread a layer of cooked vegetables and chopped mint.
* Then repeat the layers one more time. Rice would be the last layer, (I had some extra fried onions and so, sprinkled on top as well.) Sprinkle saffron water. Sprinkle rose water and kewra water over the rice evenly.
* Dot the rice with unsalted butter / ghee. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup saved water. (I did not use water and sprinkled only some to avoid the rice becoming mushy. The remaining 20% of the rice cooking is supposed to be done in dum style, cook in it's own steam.)
* Tightly wrap the pot with aluminium foil sheet and cover with a lid. Or just cover with a lid and seal the circumference of the pot and the lid with wheat flour dough.

* Set the stove to the lowest setting or to the lowest flame and place the covered pot on the griddle. Cook until the rice is cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes.
* Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Open the lid, fluff the rice and serve with burrani or any other spicy gravy.

So far in my Biryani / Pulao / Khichdi series,
A for Ambur Biryani
B for Basanti Pulao / Misthi Pulao
C for Corn - Fenugreek Greens Pulao
D for Donne Biryani
E for Ek Toap na Dal Bhaat
F for Fada ni Khichdi
G for Gutti Vankaya Biryani
H for Hyderabadi Vegetable Dum Biryani
I for Iyengar Puliyogare
J for Jaipuri Mewa Pulao
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#99.


vaishali sabnani said...

Sometimes some recipes fail and we do get disheartened , but I like your spirit , good that you could come up with a fresh one right away . Love the method of cooking and this delicious looking Biryani .

Gayathri Kumar said...

Layered biryani is always my favorite method of cooking. It adds so much beauty to the final dish. Great that you could make it again immediately after a failed attempt. The Awadhi biryani looks fantastic Suma.

Sharmila Kingsly said...

I am seeing so many versions of Awadi biryani in this BM.. started loving it .. Soon i should try it for myself.. Fantastic looking biryani

sushma said...

Lucknowi biryani looks delicious, it has been on my list for very long time. Hope to make it soon.

Srivalli said...

Another lucknowi biryani and your version sound great too. I like your pictures, not sure which one you are referring to as white biryani, maybe the one down? Anyway, this one with vegetables and all those spices must have tasted very good.

Harini R said...

Wow! this Lucknowi biryani sounds so delicious and very tempting pictures too.

Kalyani said...

I made this 2 yrs ago for the mega BM and know this is truly flavourful... love the pics and the set up, Suma :)

Srividhya said...

It looks perfect Suma. Glad you made it again ... As you mentioned on my comment, I think we both picked similar recipes for this marathon. :-) Between loved ready the intro.

cookwithrenu said...

Even I made this and Loved it to the kore. Your version looks flavourful and delicious.

Swati said...

Biryani in pics looks wonderful, I am sure it must have tasted awesome too. sometimes it happens that the spices or our instincts go wrong but I liked your spirit that you didn't give up and made another batch immediately.