Writer, author and food connoisseur, Sadia Dehlvi passed away yesterday after a prolong battle with cancer. When writing about food she blended instructions with warmth making her recipes resemble little anecdotes. Her books The Sufi Courtyard, Sufism: The Heart of Islam (2009), and Jasmine and Jinns: Memories and Recipes of My Delhi (2017) are hugely popular and manage to regale readers even to this day.
Her book Jasmine and Jinns, published by HarperCollins India, is a treasure trove of recipes and snippets of history. Here is an extract from it where she wrote about Biryani
Everybody loves a good biryani. It is invariably associated with a dinner or banquet hosted by Muslims. The Sindhis, Bohras,
Hyderabadis and others have their own versions of the biryani, which are becoming popular. Readymade masala mixes from
Pakistan help you produce wonderful Sindhi biryani. However, I believe our biryani is the ultimate, especially the biryani cooked by professionals that is served at weddings and other occasions. Dilliwalas have a couple of different recipes for biryani, but I am going to reveal the easiest home version. I don’t remember eating chicken biryani in my childhood, for biryani was traditionally made with mutton. However, in the last decade or so, chicken biryani has become quite popular, even at
weddings. I think the rising cost of mutton is the reason for the changeover. Chicken biryani tastes good but, frankly, it doesn’t come close to the original mutton biryani.
Traditionally, the ratio of meat used in biryani is ded guna, which is one-and-a-half times the quantity of the rice. In the old days, saffron was used but with good quality saffron difficult to find, most of us use food colouring. If you add saffron, then nothing like it. Earlier, haarsingar flowers, called night jasmine in English, were soaked in water that was added to biryani for colouring and fragrance. Women used the remaining water to colour their dupattas. Commonly used in ayurvedic and unani medicine, these flowers are sold at about `3,000 a kilogram in some shops in the old city.
3⁄4 kg – Mutton or chicken
1⁄2 kg – Basmati rice
2 tsp – Garlic
11⁄2 tsp – Ginger
10 – Green cardamoms
8 – Cloves
300 gm – Curd
3⁄4 cup – Oil or desi ghee
1⁄2 cup – Milk
2 tsp – Kewra water
1⁄2 tsp – Saffron or saffron colour
1 cup – Desi ghee or oil
Salt to taste
Soak the basmati rice for 30 to 45 minutes. Heat oil, add 4 cloves and 5 green cardamoms and leave for a minute or two. Cardamoms are best when slightly crushed. Add the garlic, ginger, salt and meat, frying for a few minutes. Add the curd and continue frying till the oil separates from the meat. Now add about 2-3 cups water, and pressure-cook for one whistle. Or let the meat cook on slow flame till the meat is three-fourth done.
Now add the soaked rice along with the remaining 4 cloves and 5 cardamoms to the meat. The water in the utensil should remain about 21⁄2″ above the rice. Add a little more water if necessary. Cook on medium flame, when the water is absorbed, then minimise the flame. Now, mix the saffron or saffron colouring with milk and pour around the rice. Sprinkle the kewra over it as well.
Place a thick cloth or small towel over the utensil before placing the lid. Leave on dum for 10 to 15 minutes till the rice and meat are done. One of the signs of a good biryani is that the rice should not be overcooked. Each grain of rice should remain separate from the other.
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