Mum's Chicken Green Biryani (Pressure Cooker Method) ~ The Taste of Home!

Every so often I get into the mood of a speech. This is one of those times. So if my speeches bore you, stop reading now! and just head over to the recipe!

The past three weeks have been crazy - the details of which I will spill out in my coming posts. But it also meant that my mum was at home correcting some of my recipes in draft, urging me to try them out once again under her supervision. Her presence meant that I was also going to try out some never tried before recipes and enjoy them too. While I happily went about doing this - grinding, grating, stirring, conversations flowed freely and so did the tips and kitchen tricks. Goodness! What would life be without mothers? A mother's love, compassion & kindness has been long talked about in prose & poetry but what about a mother's touch? The skillfulness with which she can transform any house into a home is simply marvellous. My mum too then, in her own special way taught me a million things in the brief one month that she stayed with me. 

 Cooking is something you can learn from someone or just by yourself - with or without making mistakes. There are also books and the internet that can teach you a thing or two. But very few people can teach you how to salvage a dish from disaster. How to change the flavour with just a sprinkling of an ingredient. Sometimes just a few tricks can actually transform a dish from 'yuck' to 'wow'. Isn't it? Well, my mum just shared such tricks and I think it has changed the way I cook. 

This biryani has been prepared in my home for as long as I remember. My mum says that when I was born she had a balnti posteli (live in nanny/care giver for the new mother & baby) who just chatted about this simple and tasty biryani that could be made in a jiffy in a pressure cooker - she appeared excited & amazed apparently. This was because 35 years ago the pressure cooker was pretty much a new and well sought after kitchen gadget and housewives were just beginning to discover & master it. My mother quickly made a mental note of the ingredients that went into that recipe and soon was on her way to creating pots and pots of this lovely biryani - so simple in its flavours and so wonderful because it was home made. 

Mummy must have made this biryani so many times that she actually knew it by heart and never went wrong with the proportions no matter how many people arrived for a meal. She made it when there was a birthday party or when someone dropped in for the first time or there was a newlywed couple invited for a dinner party. Mum said this was the easiest dish she could make and it made life in the kitchen a lot more easy. 

Since she knew that we loved it so much she prepared copious amounts of it - so that leftovers could be eaten for breakfast, lunch & tea the next day! Yes, such is my love for biryanis!

Mum is not net savvy and hence she has never had the chance to read any of my blog posts, however, this time I was actually happy to show her my blog and she spent a good number of hours reading through some posts and I can say that I could see that she was proud of her lil girl! More so when announced their list of Top 100 Mom Food Bloggers for 2013 - my little blog made it to the Top 10! Yes! Ruchik Randhap has been ranked at #9 Best Overall & #10 Best Recipes. I am truly humbled by this honour and want to thank all my readers for having made this possible! Most importantly, if today my readers appreciate my recipes for my attention to fine details, it all comes from my mum. She is a pro at explaining a recipe (or anything!) from scratch. She gets down to the real details even when she's on a long distance call - something that used to greatly annoy me in the past, but as the years rolled by I realised how precious those tips, trips and narrations were - especially because I am now a mother myself - a forgetful one at that, so the extra reminders are helpful. So this is a thank you post in its true sense - a big thank you to my mother for teaching me everything that makes me a better wife and mother. I love you mum!

About the dish
Simple & succulent pieces of chicken in an aromatic green gravy - flavoured by coriander & mint teamed with aromatic basmati rice to make a one pot meal. 

Important! This is a no frills recipe for a deliciously simple biryani. It is truly a basic recipe that requires simple and easily available and regularly stocked ingredients. However since I believe that God is in the details, I have explained the method elaborately so that it helps the beginner. This may make the recipe look too complex, but trust me, it really is very simple.

Mum's Chicken Green Biryani (Pressure Cooker Method)
Prep time: 25 mins | Cook time: 25 mins | Assembling time: 5 minutes | Servings 4-6
Cup measure used: 1 cup = 240 ml (8 oz)

You Need
Masala to be ground:
Other items to be added to the gravy
For the rice:
For garnishing:

Prepping up
1. Cut the chicken in slightly bigger pieces than your usual curry cuts. This is how the pieces should be for biryanis. Wash and allow to drain on a colander.
2. Wash the rice in two changes of water & soak it for 20 minutes.
3. Heat ghee for the garnishing in a large heavy bottomed pan or kadhai and fry the onions till golden brown. When they are beginning to turn golden brown, reduce the heat as they tend to burn within seconds. Drain off excess ghee by gathering them against the sides of the pan. Remove and spread out on a large plate - this will help the onions to cool off and turn crispy. In the same ghee fry the cashew nuts till pale golden, remove and keep aside.
4. In a small non stick pan fry the tomatoes without any oil until they are mashed. Keep aside

Preparing the masala & the curry
1. Wash the coriander leaves and drain off excess water. Grind them to a fine paste along with the rest of the ingredients mentioned under 'Masala to be ground'. Retain the masala water from the mixer grinder.
2. In the same kadhai that was used to fry the onions and to the same ghee (add extra ghee if desired) add the ground masala and fry on a medium flame for 3-4 minutes or until the ghee begins to leave the masala. Add the curds and fry for another minute and then add the fried tomatoes and continue to fry the masala for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, salt to taste, about 1/2 cup water and cook until the chicken is tender (fully cooked).  When the curry has cooled a bit, remove the gravy and measure it using the same cup that was used to measure the rice. You should get approx 2 cups of this gravy. Keep this aside and leave the cooked chicken in its pan.

Preparing the rice
To make the rice, you need a large pressure cooker with a minimum capacity of of 7 or 7.5 litres and above (assuming you are making the same quantity of rice as mentioned in this recipe). (* see note #5)
1. Heat the 3 tablespoons of ghee on a medium-low flame and add the whole spices - cassia bark/cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves, bay leaf & star anise. As the spices are frying be careful as they can pop out of the pan, so keep your face at a safe distance.
2. Drain all the water from the soaked rice and add the rice and gently fry for about 3-4 minutes or till the rice begins to feel heavy. If you fry beyond this point the rice will begin to break.
3. While the rice is frying, in another pan bring the 4 cups of water to a boil - this water along with the 2 cups of gravy (a total of 6 cups of liquid) will be used to cook the rice. (see note#4)
4. Add the boiling water and the reserved 2 cups of gravy (without chicken pieces!) to the rice. Do a quick taste check - add the salt & lime juice and adjust the flavour - it should have a good balance of spicy-tangy-salty (remember that the curry already had salt added to it). When the mixture begins to boil & bubbles start to appear quickly close the lid of the pressure cooker, place the weight (whistle), reduce the flame to a complete simmer (the flame should just touch the base of the cooker) and let it cook for exactly 5 minutes (keep a timer!)
5. When 5 minutes are up, turn off the flame and allow the pressure cooker to cool down to room temperature. Wait till you able to remove the weight (whistle) easily. Once this happens, open, stir gently with a fork - this is done to give the rice a proper mix as some ingredients such as the tomatoes or whole spices tend to float to the surface of the rice. Cover the lid lightly & keep aside.

Assembling the biryani
1. Take a large, deep pan or serving dish and layer it with one third of the rice. Sprinkle a few fried onions & cashew nuts. Top up with half the chicken pieces. Place another layer of rice and the fried onions, cashew nuts and the remaining chicken. The final layer will have only the rice, rest of the fried onions & cashew nuts. Garnish with mint leaves (optional)
2. Serve hot with any raitha of your choice

1. If you wish to use mutton or beef you will need to pre-cook the meat with salt, separately in a pressure cooker and then proceed to step#2 under 'Preparing the masala & the curry'. Cooking time of red meat varies upon the quality & quantity used. Please use your judgement here
2. You may skip the poppy seeds if it is unavailable. Use it if possible as it definitely adds to the taste & texture.
3. Ideally for 1 kilo chicken an equal amount of rice is used. But for small families of 2-3 people 1 kilo of rice results in too much biryani, so you may use 1/2 kilo rice instead which is 2-3/4th cups (US standard measure - 1cup = 237ml or 8oz). To avoid confusion I have simply used 3 cups of rice.
4. The reason we are using a mixture of water & gravy is to make the rice flavourful and also the biryani won't spoil fast (unlike the rice that is cooked separately & added).
5. If you do not have/wish to make this biryani in a pressure cooker you may simply use a regular large sized pan (heavy bottomed Indolium, not steel). Just cover it with a well fitting lid or aluminium foil and a weight (mortar & pestle will do) and cook for approx 14 minutes on simmer (cook time varies depending on the quality of rice used). Turn off the flame and let it sit for 5 minutes before you open & stir the rice.
6. While the chicken is being cooked, you may get anywhere between 2-3 cups of gravy. If you have not drained the chicken well after it was cut and washed, you may get extra stock (a slightly watery gravy). Either ways, you can use 3 cups of gravy for 3 cups of rice and then add water to arrive at the full quantity of liquid used to cook the rice. Using more gravy makes the rice more flavourful.

Updated on 20th April 2013

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