Considered to be the food of the royals and traditionally reserved for special occasions, the biryani is one dish we all enjoy. Biryani is versatile, you can use your choice of meat, vegetables, spices and even cooking methods. However, making the perfect chicken biryani is an art and you need to follow due diligence to get the right flavour. But what about days when you’re short on time? For days like these, here are quick and easy steps to cook chicken biryani in a pressure cooker.
Advantages of cooking in a pressure cooker: “Pressure cooking your chicken biryani is economical as it significantly helps bring down the cooking time,” says chef Amitesh Singh Virdi of Punjab Grill chain of restaurants. It won’t take you more than an hour as the rice grains and meat cook faster in a cooker’s pressurized environment. Which means this method preserves nutrients and saves energy. “Since the pressure cooker uses less volume of liquid than conventional boiling method, the richness and natural flavours of each of the ingredient is enhanced. While at it, make sure to opt for a pressure cooker with a thick base so that the heat gets evenly distributed and you’re not left with half cooked rice and meat.
For flavourful chicken: Apart from helping enhance the flavour of chicken, the marinade also helps tenderize the meat and increases its juiciness. Therefore, chef Virdi suggests drawing deep slashes on the chicken pieces to help the marinade penetrate the flesh.
Getting the marinade right: While you can play around with the spices for the marinade, typically, curd, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric and red chilli powder, garam masala, and salt are a must. When it comes to preparing the spice rub, add some extra spices, as the pungency reduces when the meat is introduced in the marinade mix, suggests Virdi.
Don’t go overboard with the curd as it may dilute the spice mix and turn the meat bland. Let the meat rest in the marinade for about two hours.
Throwing in fried onions along with ghee enhances the marinade, says Virdi. All you’ve got to do is thinly slice some onions, sprinkle some rice or corn flour over them and fry in some ghee. Once you’ve added that to the chicken, mix everything well and then let the meat marinate for another hour or so.
What rice to use: When it comes to choosing the perfect rice for your chicken biryani, always opt for aged basmati rice. “Whether you’re cooking chicken biryani in a pressure cooker or handi, the type of rice used plays a key role. If you’re aiming for a nice fluffy texture with individual grains that don’t stick to each other, basmati rice works well.” Before getting started, it’s a good idea to soak the rice for around 10 to 30 minutes to help the grains fluff up and prevent them from breaking or sticking.
Cooking the rice: First, cook the meat and then add it to the rice. Cook the meat in the pressure cooker, on low heat to ensure uniform cooking. After draining the water completely, lower the flame and make sure that the water just covers the rice.
For aromatic rice: If you want to make your rice more aromatic, chef Virdi suggests enhancing it with either rose petals, rose essence, screw pine or kewrah water.
When to turn off the heat: The common mistake that most people make when making chicken biryani is overcooking it, and at times even burning it. Turning off the heat at the right time is key. Virdi suggests taking your pressure cooker off the heat just before the first whistle and allowing it to rest for the next few minutes. The pressure that’s built inside the cooker will help evenly cook the rice and the meat.
Ghee v/s oil: Lastly, Virdi suggests using ghee instead of oil to make the biryani more flavoursome. And instead of drizzling the ghee on top of the rice, pour it into the pressure cooker while scraping off the browned bits from the bottom.
Rescuing burnt rice: In case you’ve burnt your chicken biryani, turn off the heat immediately. Carefully scoop out the upper unburnt grains and transfer them to another vessel. To get rid of the burnt smell, lay a slice or two of white bread or some onion peels over the rice, cover it with a lid and let it sit for a few minutes. If your chicken biryani burns before it is fully cooked, transfer the top rice into another pressure cooker. Lay some raw potato slices over the chicken biryani and continue cooking. You may have to add some water if it’s completely dried out. The starch in the potatoes will absorb the burnt smell while the rice gets done.
Illustrated by Vartika Pahuja
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