Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Malabar Chemmeen Biriyani (Malabar Prawn Biriyani)

Do you know what's the best thing in preparing a Malabar Biriyani?The taste always gets better the next day and you can prepare it in bulk so you can take a break from any major cooking the next day..:)...I made this Biriyani last week and again this week, so thought I would share this fabulous recipe here with you all. The aroma of the seafood Biryani itself is very appetising, unlike the raw fish smell, that makes you run away. My favorite Biriyani would be Malabar style prawn and fish biriyani. Both are prepared almost the same way. But tastes very different. I remember my mom telling me about squid biriyani. Somebody told her that squid biriyani is the best tasting biriyani it seems. I would love to try that, but I think that's going to be very challenging. Since squid gets tough and rubbery when over-cooked, it has to be cooked gently and carefully, and don't know how they are gonna taste.
I love the prawn and fish biriyani that my mom makes, they really tastes so delicious. I always tell my dad how lucky he is to get mom as wife. He gets tasty food everyday; even the simplest of the meals tasted so yummy when it is prepared by her. When it comes to saving her recipes, it was always difficult for me to note down her recipes exactly since she uses approximate('Sumaar' as she says:)) measurements. Whenever she cooks, I will grab a pen and paper, stand by her side and start noting down the ingredients that she uses, gradually she keeps adding things in between and I won't be able to measure them out. Other day she was making my favourite Muslim paayasam called 'musara varakiyathu' or 'kaaykkari', that's made of mainly channa dal, Wheat,coconut milk and sugar. I desperately wanted that recipe, so soon I grabbed a paper and pen and stood by her side to note down the amount of ingredients she was using. Noted the amount of dal and wheat and somehow managed to get the amount of coconut milk approximately. When it came to adding sugar, she tipped the sugar directly from the large sugar tin that we had, and I am standing there with my jaw opened telling her I couldn't note down the amount of sugar....That's what happened many a time when I went to note down the recipe. So after coming back to UK, I keep trying her incomplete recipes by adding and subtracting things to get the right taste. This is my dad's favorite biriyani, and making my dad's favorite dishes always make me miss him so much that I can't express. My dad and husband loves to explore new dishes and new taste. But my mom is just opposite. She is very reluctant when it comes to new food and new taste. So we always had trouble when we go to the restaurants with her, she would hardly eat anything. She would be very happy if she is served with a bowl of steaming hot rice and a good spicy sardine curry.....Nalla choodu chorum mathi curry yum...

For making this Biriyani, you can also use shrimps or prawns of any kind. It tastes the best when served with the coconut chammanthi (at least), that I have already put in the blog.

For prawn masala:
500 gm (40-42 pieces) Peeled Jumbo King Prawns.
To marinate the prawns:
2 tsp Kashmiri Chilly powder
1 tsp Coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp salt
8 tbs vegetable oil for frying prawns.
For the gravy:
2 large onions chopped(2 3/4 cups, 380 gm)
2 1/2 medium size tomatoes chopped (1 1/4 cup, 290 gm)
12 cloves of garlic, grated (3 tbs)
5 green Chillies, chopped fine
3" piece ginger, grated (60gm, 2 tbs)
1 tsp pepper powder
1 tbs lime juice
1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
10 mint leaves,chopped
1 tsp salt, or as reqd
1 tsp garam masala.
For the Ghee rice:
3 cups Basmati rice
6 cups boiling water
salt-as required - (I used 3/4 Tbs salt)
3 tbs Clarified butter/ghee
4 tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion sliced
1 bay leaf
5 cardamom
7 cloves
4 small pieces of cinnamon sticks
1/2 Tbs cumin seeds
1/2 tbs lime/lemon juice
1/2 tsp extra garam masala to sprinkle while layering rice


First prepare the prawn masala:

1. Wash the prawns, drain and marinate them in kashmiri Chilli powder, Coriander powder turmeric powder and salt for half an hour.
2. Heat a large non-stick saucepan, and add the oil. When hot, shallow fry the prawns briefly, stirring then frequently for 3-4 minutes and fish them out.
3. In the same oil add the chopped onion,ginger,garlic and chillies along with salt and cook until the onions have become soft for about 15 minutes.
4. Add in the chopped tomatoes and pepper powder. Cover and cook until the tomatoes becomes soft and you get a thick gravy.
5. Add in the half fried prawns and cook on low flame for about 20 minutes so that the flavour of the prawn diffuse in the gravy and the gravy is thick.
6. At this point of time, add the chopped mint leaves, chopped coriander leaves, garam masala and lime juice. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. remove from the fire and keep them aside.

For preparing the Ghee Rice:
1.Wash rice and strain off all the excess water by placing the rice in colander.
2. Boil water in the kettle or a large cooking vessel.
3. Heat another large pan to high heat and add ghee and oil. When the ghee gets hot add onions and sauté until the onions turns soft. At this stage add cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon and cumin seeds and sauté for a couple of minutes until the aroma of the spices starts coming out. Add boiling water, lemon juice and salt to this.
4. When the water starts bubbling, tip in the rice slowly and cook on high heat by keeping the lid open. At this stage, you will be able to see water an inch or two above the rice.
5. As soon as you see that water has gone below the rice, reduce the flame to low, and cook it covered until all the rice is cooked evenly. In between you may toss the bottom part of rice and bring to top once, so that the rice gets cooked evenly. Let it cool down a bit. Then do the layering.

Apart from the above method, You can also cook rice in different way. That's quite similar to the above, but a small difference....i.e.Follow the first three steps as above. Then add rice to boiling water. When bubbles start appearing on the surface again, reduce the heat to medium, cover the saucepan tightly and let it cook till done. it takes around 20 minutes, but it will depend on the rice. First time I made by the first way and second time, this second way. I think I will follow the second way from now on...that's much easier.

For layering the biryani and final cooking:
1. Divide the rice in 2 parts.
2. Take a large heavy based vessel and rub it with oil or ghee. Layer the bottom of the vessel with the first part of the rice. Sprinkle a 1/4 tsp of garam masala all over and pour prawn masala all over the rice. Tip in the second part of rice and sprinkle a good pinch of garam masala (1/4 tsp) all over again.
3. Cover the entire vessel with foil (to ensure that full steam stays in), then close the lid tightly. Place a weight (you can also use any vessel filled with water for this) over this vessels and cook on hob top for about 20-30 minutes at very low heat. This is to infuse the flavour of the biryani masala into the rice and this process of cooking is called ‘Dum’. At this point of time u can see that all rice on top has curved up.
4. You can also do the layering in an ovenproof vessel and place it in a preheated oven at a very low temperature for about 20-30 minutes for the final cooking. I never tried this, but my friends do it this way.Just before serving, garnish with fried onions, cashews and raisins. Enjoy with Cucumber Raita, tomato and onion salad, thenga chammanthi, pickle and pappadams!
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