Mutton Methi Biryani (Muslim Style)

Beautiful food to celebrate your happiest occasion - that's what all of us like don't we? In my case, a well made biryani makes any day a happy day. I totally love home made biryanis as I find them to be more flavourful even if it does not come out perfect as far as the rice goes. I know that most of us struggle with the rice and getting it right every time is a mammoth task. 

My first biryani which I prepared after my marriage was a disaster. I prepared it in the brand new pressure cooker which we received as our wedding gift - my mother is an expert in preparing tons of biryani rice in the cooker. I followed her method except for the most important instruction about the quanity of water to be used. I have no clue what actually went wrong with me that day when I was expecting my husband's friends over for dinner. I added an additional cup of water than required (shows my total ignorance at the technique of pressure cooking) and as expected the rice was a mushy mess. It was far less flavourful too and I was in tears. However, since these friends were (and still are) the jolly good types, they ate the biryani or porridge if you please, without any complaints. 

I abandoned making that biryani that day as I wanted to try it again only when I had mastered the art of making biryanis with perfectly cooked rice - with grains that didn't stick to each other but came out separate and long even after a grueling 'dum' cooking session. I cannot claim that I have 'mastered' the art of making biryanis because I still have those occasions when the rice gets slightly overcooked especially if I don't find my trusty Lal Quilla Basmati rice. 

So far I have never tried my hand at making biryanis or pulaos with any other variety of rice than basmati. I have heard a lot about the small grained rice that is popularly used down South especially in the Malabar regions of Kerala. I have eaten those biryanis long long ago and have got loads of rave reviews that biryanis made of small grained rice are simply to die for! Even though I sent Roshan on a mad hunt to find the jeera rice / ghee rice (nei choru ari as its called in Malayalam) I could not find any and ended up making this lovely biryani with regular long grained basmati rice and it turned out just fine. 

This recipe is nothing unusual but the lady who gave it to me Mrs. Lilly Lobo from Chikmagalur says that it is popularly made by her muslim neighbours from whom she learnt to make it. The addition of fenugreek (methi) leaves adds a lovely-yummy-super delicious taste to the preparation. She also suggests using freshly powdered Kashmiri chillies that add to the taste - so make sure you grind your own Kashmiri chilli powder if what is commercially available is not fresh. 

Among all the biryani recipes that I have tried, this one proved to be the most simple as there is no grinding of masalas involved (unless you make your own chilli powder!). So go make this biryani if you crave for some this weekend!!

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Mutton Methi Biryani (Muslim Style)
Prep time: 30mins | Cook time: 30mins+15mins (dum cooking) | Serves 6

For the rice
For the mutton curry
Optional (items for garnishing)
1. Wash and cut the mutton into big pieces (slightly bigger chunks than your regular curry cuts). Wash the rice in plenty of water 2-3 times or till the water runs clear. Soak for 15-20mins. 
2. In a large pressure cooker (at least 7.5 litres) heat the oil and toss in the whole green chillies (do not slit or cut) and fry for half a minute. Cover the pan just so they don't pop/splash hot oil on your face. Add the cloves, cardamoms and cassia bark and fry for a few seconds till you get a nice aroma. 
3. Add the sliced onions and fry till they turn golden. Toss in the ginger and garlic paste and fry till the raw smell disappears. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste and fry till they turn mushy and the oil starts leaving from the sides.
4. Add the chilli powder, turmeric powder and mix well. Add the mint, coriander and fenugreek leaves and the mutton and mix well. Bring the mixture to a mild boil and then check salt to taste, lime juice and curd. Add just about 1/2 cup of water.
5. Cover the lid, place the weight and cook on a full flame till the first whistle goes off. Depending on the quality (tenderness) of the meat used you may need to cook it anywhere between 10-15mins. I cook mutton for about 12minutes. Turn off the flame and let the pressure cooker cools down to room temperature and the weights loosens up. Open, stir (check if meat is cooked - if not, back it goes on the flame!) and keep aside.
6. In a large pan, heat some ghee and fry the star anise, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, cassia bark for a few seconds. Drain the soaked rice and add it to the pan and fry on a medium flame till the rice begins to feel heavy.
7. In another pan bring the 5-1/2 cups of liquid to a rolling boil and pour this into the pan with the rice. Stir, adjust salt to taste and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the mouth of the pan with aluminium foil and a well fitting lid so that no steam escapes. Reduce the flame to very very low (sim) and cook for approx 8-10 minutes (cooking time will depend on the brand/quality of rice used). Turn off the flame and allow the rice to sit for 4-5 minutes. Open the pan and gently fluff up the grains with a fork. see note#2
8. In a serving dish layer the rice and meat in alternate layers until both are used up. Sprinkle the garnishing if desired and serve hot with raita

To make the garnishing
Heat oil/ghee in a large kadhai/wok and fry the raisins till then swell up (don't wait for them to burn), remove and fry the cashewnuts till golden, remove and then fry the onions till golden brown, drain the excess oil/ghee and transfer onto an absorbent kitchen tissue till they turn crisp. Sprinkle during garnishing or layering

1. In South India a small grain variety of rice is used to prepare biryanis that takes longer to cook and hence can even be added to the mutton gravy and cooked on a slow fire till done. The moisture in the mutton gravy suffices and no additional water is required. If you are comfortable with this method you may go ahead with the same.
2. If you want to use the 'dum' technique, then you will need to use lesser water to cook the rice (perhaps cook it in water and not use the mutton gravy) - so that it remains 90% cooked. Then layer it in a large pan along with the meat and place it on dum (with pan tightly covered) for about 20-25 minutes.

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