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The Art of Making Breyani

Breyani ? Biryani ? Birani? A rice dish hailing from the Indian Subcontinent. There are various spellings of this dish just like the variety of ways this dish is cooked.
Traditionally a Breyani is a rice layered dish cooked with spices ,rice,meat/veg/chicken. This dish is then assembled and put into the oven for steaming. Each part of India has their own take on this dish. According to history the dish is of Persian origin and has Arabic roots. This dish is normally a dish cooked when there are celebrations like weddings and parties. It is also a great dish that can be extended to feed many. Breyani can be a very simple dish or a complex one depending on who the dish is for and where you are in the world. If the dish was  been prepared for the Royal family it would include saffron, cashew nuts, pistachio nuts , dried fruit and wait for it even gold leaf.
During my adventures in Abu Dhabi I was rather surprised to find a Lamb Breyani on the menu. But it makes sense now that I know the history of the dish. The dish was not spicy but more flavoursome , the meat was cooked in yoghurt and garnished with fried onions and cashews. I did enjoy this dish and it left me longing for home food.
Lamb Breyani in Abu Dhabi
While living in London it was here that I learnt/tasted another version of Breyani. I was rather surprised to find a vegetable curry served as part of a Breyani dish. So it is very evident that each culture has their own take on this very popular rice dish.
For Diwali, as I had the day off from work I decided to get into Domestic Goddess mode and cook. I knew I wanted to make a Fish and Prawn Breyani this is one of my childhood favourite dishes. Gran would only make this on special occasions as prawns and fish are expensive.
The preparation for this dish starts the night before with the shelling of prawns which are then marinated in Kashmiri Chilli and the fish in this case Hake Fillets which were cut and marinated as well. I firmly believe we get the best flavours when we marinate our ingredients in advance. I choose Hake as it is one of my favourite fish and it has no bones in the fillet it is also good value for money unless you go on a fishing charter.
List of Ingredients :
1kg Deboned Hake Fillets
500g prawns
6 hard boiled eggs
2 cups of uncooked rice
1/2 cup of lentils
1/2 teaspoon Tumeric powder
6 Tablespoons Butter Ghee
3 large onions
3 potatoes sliced
1 cup of frozen peas
2 tins chopped tomato
coriander and mint to garnish
1 teaspoon Ginger and Garlic mix
3 teaspoons sugar
1 curry leaf
2 Tablespoons of Kashmiri Chilli powder
1 Tablespoon Fish masala
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pods of elachi whole
1/2 teaspoon egg colouring (liquid)
salt to taste
Method :

  1. Marinate the fish and prawns the night before.
  2. Pan fry the prawns and fish seperately with 3 Tablespoons butter ghee.Dont over fry these as they will become hard.
  3. Boil 6 eggs.
  4. Soak the rice and lentils together for 20 min wash and drain to release the starch.Add clean water and cook for 15/20 min add salt and tumeric.
  5. Slice potatoes and steam in microwave for 6 minutes before frying.
  6. In a small frying pan slice 1 onion add 1/2 teaspoon of ghee and the onions and 1 teaspoon of sugar and allow to caramelize.
  7. Using the same pan that you fried the fish and prawns in make your chutney. Using the remainder of the butter ghee fry the onions with the cinnamon sticks and elachi before adding the ginger and garlic mix. Cook for 3 minutes before adding the masala and then the tins of tomato and the sugar which will take away the sharpness of the tomato.
  8. When the tomato has cooked down add the peas and salt to taste add prawns to mixture to absorb flavour and garnish with mint and coriander.
  9. Drain the rice and lentil mix
  10. In a large pot that can be put into the oven you start to layer your breyani before it can be steamed.Divide your rice so that you get 3 layers.
  11. First layer is rice followed by half  of the  tomato and prawn mixture topped of with slices of fried potato.
  12. Then a second layer of rice is added the tomato chutney is added topped with the fish and boiled , shelled eggs.
  13. A final layer of rice is added to cover everything. On this layer the fried onions and potatoes are placed with coriander. The egg colouring is dotted over the top.
  14. A mixture of 1 tablespoon lemon juice ,1 teaspoon of ghee and 125ml of water is made and poured over the breyani before it is put into the oven for a steaming. A sheet of baking paper is placed over the breyani to seal in the steam before the lid is place on. Steam for 25/30 minutes.

Serving suggestions

  1. A carrot salad
  2. Yoghurt ,cucumber ,mint and onion salad.

A prawn and fish breyani
I was very impressed with my first try of this dish. And most of all my family enjoyed their Diwali meal.
Are there any specific dishes you prepare for celebrations? Do you make a version of Breyani?
Be Inspired !
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