Chicken Nihari

Nihari is hot, spicy, and very earthy. usually made with Mutton and even Beef, but tastes equally amazing with Chicken too. Nihari is one amazing and luxury dish served for breakfast. I still remember traveling to Delhi since I was a kid and I would always look forward to having Nihari. My father always preferred Chicken Nihari since we don’t consume Beef, he found it hard to believe small restaurants selling Beef Nihari as Mutton Nihari. Back in those days, almost 25-30 years ago, it was hard since the restaurants in “Purani Dilli” or the “Jama Masjid” area, restaurants weren’t as hip as what they are now and definitely not too comfortable for people to go with families. My father would always send in a servant who would travel with us to get some Mughlai Breakfast. Paaya, Kheema, Bheja and Nihari.

Nihari is always topped with some Barista, julienne ginger, green chilies, coriander leaves, and Lemon. When I was a teenager, my mom started making Nihari at home. She would make it with Mutton as well as Chicken. Even though I had the dish so many times, I never had the urge to try making it myself. Initially, my mom depended on the masala powder that used to be sold in Delhi. But as she kept cooking, she figured out how to make it by herself. The packet had the list of ingredients and my mother with a few experiments, got the knack of how much of each ingredient should be to make the perfect Nihari masala.

I had this dish so many times and honestly, it’s one of my most favorite ones too but I never felt the urge to attempt it. And then after trying different recipes for Chicken curries, I thought of giving Chicken Nihari a try. I asked my mother for the proportion of the spices and the recipe and gave it a try.

My mother always cooked the Nihari using Ghee, but during a trip to Jama Masjid, New Delhi with Mr. Parveez and I went to a restaurant and while talking to the chefs and people working there we found out that the traditional Delhi Nihari was cooked using Mustard Oil. I know that sounds weird but it’s true. Though I made my Nihari using Mustard Oil, I couldn’t just use all Mustard Oil since it’s pretty strong and I prefer mixing it with little Olive Oil. I also used Ghee for tempering.

Nihari is basically a traditional Muslim dish that was introduced by the Mughal kitchen. Nihari has a slightly different version in every region it’s made because with time every region develops and blends its flavors with the original recipe. Nihari comes from the Persian word “Nahar” which means “ early morning”. Nihari is basically a morning dish and is eaten for breakfast. I believe the way the spices blend in and the way it’s cooked, eating it for any other meal would be too heavy. Nihari always comes out more flavorful if it’s slow-cooked. Back in the day, the chefs would cook it overnight. Of course, that ain’t possible but, I still feel that cooking it on low flame slowly, makes it more flavorful. Using a heavy bottom pan is always better too.

The spice mix makes Nihari earthy and aromatic. It’s spicy but not too hot that would make you cry. The barista and thin slices of Ginger with chopped onions and green chilies are what make it more delicious. Therefore, don’t skip it if you want to get complete satisfaction. fried onion and julienned ginger at the end can be skipped but I would recommend you to definitely use it. The mild sweetness of the Barista balances the spice. Nihari has a lot of history and though the dish is simple, it does require a lot of time and a little effort, but in the end, it’s all worth the effort.

Murgh Hyderabadi Biryani

Hyderabad has numerous varieties specially when it comes to Biryanis. I have tried making a wide range of different styles of Hyderabadi Biryanis. Each one has its own distinct flavor and ingredients. I always love how beautifully the heritage of Nizams is displayed in Hyderabadi food.

The dishes are not just rich in ingredients but also the recipes show how rich the food culture has been with the Nizams. We always hear stories of how generous the Nizams were when it came to entertaining and welcoming their guests. How lavish their Dastarkhaan or tables were. The curries, Haleem, so many varieties of sweet dishes that are served with oodles of dry fruits and cooked in clarified Butter are an evidence how much effort the Nizams made their Khansamas/chefs put into food.

The Nizams had a very influential. The history showcases the rich taste not just in Gems and Jewelry, but also in food. Use of Milk solids, Ghee, Dry fruits of different kinds is pretty common in most dishes. This dish has a paste of poppy seeds, cashews and coconut. Though the spice level isn’t too high, but the Biryani uses a paste of green chilies and you can always increase the green chilies if you wish to make it more spicy. Using Kewra with food color makes the Biryani smell rich and inviting as well. Besides that the Biryani is pretty easy to make. This dish is great for Beginners too. Enjoy!!!

Moradabadi Chicken Biryani

Though synonymous with Indian cuisine and a part of specialty, the biryani is regarded as an import from West Asia, more specifically, Persia. The word biryani is thought to originate from the Persian word “birian” which means ‘fried before cooking’ or “birinj” meaning ‘rice’. The rice is washed and soaked and is cooked in ghee with whole spices and then cooked in boiling water. This imparts a mild nutty flavor to the rice and also helps rice retain their shape after being boiled.

The recipe of a good biryani has been simple, rice and meat that is cooked in spices and other ingredients set in layers. Traditionally, long grain white rice is preferred option with biryani. In south India, local varieties like kaima or jeeraka shala  provide their own distinct flavor and texture to the dish. The meats vary from goat, sheep, poultry, beef, eggs to seafood as well. Fragrance heightens its appeal, you can add Kewra water, saffron or Rose water . The cooking technique can be Kacchi Biryani, where the meat is layered with raw rice or Pakki Biryani, where cooked rice and meat are layered together.

Legend has it that Timur the Lame, the Turkic conqueror and founder of the Timurid Empire, was responsible for the entry of biryani to India. His armies would consume a hearty diet of pots of rice, spices and meats that were slow cooked in hot buried pits which were dug out at meal time. While biryani may very well have been part of a war diet, there was always a certain romance associated with it.

Stories also claim that Mumtaz Mahal, the inspiration behind India’s most celebrated monument and symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, had something to do with it. It is believed that Mumtaz Mahal once visited the Mughal army’s barracks in Moradabad and was dismayed by the dire conditions and poor nutrition endured by the soldiers. She ordered the cook to prepare a wholesome meal that blended meat and rice. And thus, they say, the biryani was born. As the history speaks, Moradabad, was founded in 1625 and named after Murad Baksh, son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Therefore, we can kind of believe that this recipe is close to the original recipe of Queen Mumtaz Mahal. The Moradabadi is typically low on spices and high on flavor.

Whether it was the Nawabs of Oudh (Awadh) in Lucknow or the Nizams of Hyderabad, the biryani blossomed into regional variations wherever it went. This Biryani comes with its own unique flavor. Enjoy!!!

Dumm Aaloo

Potatoes, whether they are made in anyway or style, boiled, mashed, baked, fried or roasted, are one of the most loved and easily consumed vegetable around the world. Potatoes are believed to have been domesticated around 7,000 -10,000 years ago near modern day Peru, South America. Today, nearly a third of the world’s production is harvested in India.

So how did the Potato reach India? The Portuguese introduced potatoes to india in the early 17th century and cultivated it around the western coast. The name Batata is actually Portuguese. By the end of 18th century, it was being grown around the northern hilly areas of India. This amazing vegetable was born in India and dishes made of potatoes spread to each and every corner of the country.

One such dish is the Dum Aaloo. This dish has numerous variations in our country. It is prepared differently in different states and regions, depending on the taste, spices available, cooking styles of the regions. This is one of the most fancy ways of cooking Potato curry.

Its usually made with baby potatoes, but I just preferred cutting my big potatoes to pieces. You can always use whatever you prefer using. My logic was to get more sauce on my potatoes and making them a little more flavorful and spicy. But you can always pick baby potatoes if you prefer the sweetness of potatoes with a little spice. This curry goes well with parantha and Roti or as a side dish. Enjoy!!!

Salem Biryani

 The word Biryani is derived from the Persian word Birian, which means ‘fried before cooking’ and Birinj, the Persian word for rice. There are various theories related to the origin of this scrumptious dish. Biryani originated from Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals.

I love reading about the Mughal Era and its food in the history. Its amazing to read about so much variety of food flavors that they added to the Indian cuisine…. Gulab Jamuns, Jalebis, Imartis, and so many other rich desserts and numerous curries and the most amazing out of all are Biryanis…so many varieties, so fragrant, so delicious and so different from one another. The best part was that they always incorporated local spices with their Biryani recipes coming up with distinguishably different flavors each time. Each region has a completely different way of making Biryani from another.

The state of Tamil Nadu has some really celebrated Biryanis, most of which have evolved in the state’s smaller towns. A beautiful example is Ambur Biryani. As the folklore says, Salem Biryani actually developed in a particular small hotel, a military hotel to be precise. Its funny but most of the restaurants serving Non vegetarian Biryani in Tamil Nadu are referred to as “Military Hotel”.

The best thing I like about these South Indian Biryani is that the ingredients are always pretty simple, nothing fancy, nothing that requires you to urgently run to a store and despite the simplicity, the outcome is always so deliciously fancy.

Ambur Biryani

Aambur, is a town in the district of Vellore in Northern Tamil Nadu. Its a signature Biryani is made originally from zeera sambha rice.

As the story goes, Ambur/Vaniyambadi biryani is a type of biryani cooked in neighboring towns of Ambur & Vaniyambadi in the Vellore district in the north-eastern part of Tamil Nadu, which has a high Muslim population. It was introduced by the Nawabs of Arcot who once ruled the place. There are also some stories that believe that Mughal soldiers once while they were down in the southern region of India, craved Biryani and ended up with this recipe as they had to make up their favorite dish with locally available spices and rice, hence the use of Zeera sambha.

The Ambur biryani is accompanied with ‘dalcha’, khatte baingan curry or raitha. It has a distinctive aroma and is considered light on the stomach. The usage of spice is moderate and curd is used as a gravy base. It also has a higher ratio of meat to rice.

Now continuing with my story, as most of you who follow me know that I love tryong new recipes of Biryani. So this one day, while watching an Indian TV channel, my hubby, Mr. Parveez  came across a restaurant serving Ambur Biryani and it happened to be a Friday morning, [every Friday without a miss, I cook biryani for dinner] and he facetimes me from his office while I am out for grocery shopping, “Baccha , can you look up for Ambur Biryani and make that today?”

While I am always happy to try something new, I also get upset if I have to rearrange my shopping list. To my surprise, when I found the recipe, it didn’t use any fancy ingredients and I basically had them all at home. Making the Biryani was so easy, that I looked through the recipe twice after being done to make sure I wasn’t missing on anything. Its definitely pleases the crowd and easy to make too. So, if you are a Biryani fan like me, this is a must try.

Malabar Chicken Biryani

Malabar food is a Biryani dish from Kerela. The famous dish is made by layering aromatic Rice with chicken masala, mostly made in Ghee. The recipe demands the pot to be sealed with flour or tight cloth, after the Rice and chicken are layered and Biryani is set to dumm. It should be cooked on low heat to get the perfect Biryani that has been one of Kerela’s most popular and beautiful recipes.

The great town Calicut, now known has Kozhikode is known for its amazing cuisines along with beautiful beaches. The place has had many settlers and the cuisines show an influence of the the travelers from different countries that had once been the part of Calicut’s gorgeous history. Biryani of course shows a clear influence of Persin / Mughal era. the local cuisine is known for its sumptuous non vegetarian food and Chicken Biryani seems to be one of the top favorites.

Coming back to today’s recipe for Malabar Biryani, its usually made with Chicken, but I am sure the recipe would work great on Meat and Fish too, though you might want to change the proportion of spices. The Malabari call the cooking of this Biryani to be a “Pakki method” in which Rice and chicken are cooked separately and then layered and put to dumm.

Malabar Biryani is usually cooked in Ghee. The liberal use of ghee along side of whole spices, like Cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and star anise make an awesomely fragrant dish. I am not a big fan of cooking the whole Biryani in Ghee, so I have been slightly careful. But you can always substitute Oil for Ghee if it suits your taste buds. This dish is spicy, but not spicy enough to make you cry. So, if you like Biryani, but aren’t a fan of Indian food that’s “hot”, this dish is for you.

Malabar Biryani uses Khaima Rice and I tried to look for a good quality Khaima Rice in United States. Since my search didn’t give me any results, I am sticking to my original long grained Basmati Rice. My Mother in law loves her Biryani cooked with Jeerakasala Rice, which is close or same as Khaima Rice. So, if you do happen to find a good brand, Please use it and also let me know in the comment section. The extra water in the Rice is drained and the rice is cooled slightly. Unlike the absorption method of cooking, this method of cooking rice in an open pan in excess water and draining it like pasta will always give you perfect Rice thats needed for a good Biryani.

The chicken is first cooked in onions, ginger, garlic, fresh cilantro, mint and green chilies and yogurt. Tomatoes can or cannot be used. I saw different recipes and I preferred the one with tomatoes. Once the chicken is all cooked, layer it with the Rice and seal the Biryani with a cloth and a tight lid. Adding some kind of weight to the lid is advisable too. I usually keep my Biryani in the oven but you can always dumm it on the gas at low flame for around 30 minutes.

Thalassery Chicken Biryani

This recipe is from the land of Kerala. Thalassery food has a distinct  flavor. Thalassery town of Northern Kerala, that has a blend in Arabian, Persian, Indian and European styles of cooking as a result of its long history as a maritime trading post. Thalassery is very popular for its delicious Biryani. Unlike other biryani dishes, Thalassery Biryani, originally uses jeerakshala/kaima rice instead of the usual long grained Basmati Rice. I used Basmati Rice since I cannot see my Biryani any other way. My Mother in law still prefers the kaima rice over Basmati rice, even for Biryani. Kaima rice has its own exclusive flavor and they have a wonderful fragrance as well, but I just come from a very Mughlia thought and prefer my Rice grain to be beautifully long

The influence of Arabian/Mughal culture is evident, especially in the dishes of the Muslim community of Kerala and Thalassery Biryani happens to be one of those dishes that shows it Mughlia flavors and is still enjoyed by all.

We, personally as a family love the food made in Kerala, vegetarian and Non vegetarian. You will find us taking time out if any of the hotels are celebrating “Kerala food festival week” during our stay in India. The best thing I enjoy about Kerala cuisine is the fact that the flavor of each ingredient comes out distinct in its own way making the dish complete. The way the cuisine has its ingredients listed and the process in which you add the spice changes the flavor of a dish. With Kerala cuisine , they make sure that no one ingredient over powers the flavor of the other ingredient. In fact, they blend in symphony making the dish delicious and exclusive.

Rajasthani Malai Biryani

A recipe close to my heart. Rajasthan is my home state. The land of Marwar is popular for its beautiful and sweet spoken people along with the gorgeous forts and palaces. Its also known for its beautiful colors that can be easily seen in the attires and things people use. We proudly call it our “Rangeelo Rajasthan”.

Rajasthan is mostly popular for its vegetarian food but little do people know that Non vegetarian food of Rajasthan is not only very popular between Non vegetarians but also portrays the love for cooking from the Royal Palaces. Most kings in Rajasthan have loved to cook in their leisure time and they enjoy cooking the traditional Marwar recipes that have passed on to us from generations.

Rajasthani Malai Biryani comes in from the kitchens of the Mughals and clearly shows the bond of brotherhood and relationship shared by Rajputs and Mughals. When Princess Jodha married the Great Mughal Emperor Akbar, the Mughal cuisine was all set to merge like the traditions and fesivals of the two different faiths. This dish uses a lot of chili. Well, that’s what Rajasthan is popular for, but to calm it down it uses cream or malai. Mughals used a lot of cream and dry fruits in the cuisine and most dishes that use a lot of cream or saffron are actually a gift from the Mughal Era. In fact, its surprising how many dishes in Persia or Arab countries sound and look similar to Indian/pakistani cuisine and it clearly shows how the foods welcomed the merge and till today we enjoy and take pride of what our history gifted us.

Methi Murgh Biryani

For the huge variety of Biryanis that I have cooked, I sometimes feel I should make a separate section for “Hyderabadi Biryanis”. The city is as popular for Biryanis as much as its for Falakhnuma Palace. Talking about Falakhnuma palace, though I am from the state of Forts and Palaces, Falakhnuma happens to be one palace that I would want to visit only because my favorite actor, Salman Khan had his sister married there and that’s when I was in love with the interiors.

Hyderabad does excite me for food, not just Biryanis but Haleem and samosas too. I love watching food shows and one such had details of a famous joint who cook their Haleem all day in nuemerous different large size pots only to last 2 hours. Its that popular and I am sure super delicious. Hyderabad has at least 20 kinds of different Biryanis but I think its more for the Hyderabadis to understand and for the rest of the world, its just Hyderabadi Biryani. I love to cook the different recipes of Hyderbadi Biryani. They are all so distinct from one another that tasting them is any Biryani lover’s dream come true.

Each Biryani is so distinct and as much as I read more, the ingredients that makes each Biryani stand out are so simple and yet make the Biryani so exclusively delicious.

This Biryani is very delicious and the flavor of Fenugreek adds a very different taste to the Yakhni. This Biryani actually is one of my older son’s favorite Biryanis, who loves kebabs and honestly isn’t a big fan of Biryani. This is a great recipe for people who enjoy their Biryani spicy or masaledaar. It tastes best with Dalcha and Onion Raita. Since, the Biryani is high in spices, you would want to serve it with something that mellows down the spice level.