Chicken Biryani with Cucumber Mint Raita
After months of planning, eager anticipation, tears and a few tantrums, we are MARRIED! During the pre-wedding madness, I hadn’t stopped to think about whether things would be the same, or different after the wedding. The biggest difference is the name – so much easier to book a table under a quintessential English name as opposed to my supposedly challenging ethnic maiden last name. Then it would be ticking the “married” box in whatever forms I fill, be it for the gym or a supermarket points card. And of course, “officially” moving in together, which was done sometime back and was possibly one of my worst-kept secrets, so it is a relief to declare we are actually co-habiting now like grown-up adults.
But what are these wedding blues? A lot of people have asked me if I was suffering from it. Our wedding was four days of manic, mental, massive fun for us and we hope for our dear guests too. It was amazing to see everyone together, family and friends flying (or driving) into Barcelona from all over the world, some whom we hadn’t seen for almost ten years. After saving and spending constantly over the last nine months, it was fantastic to see our plans materialise and come together for each event. And FINALLY getting to wear all my new outfits, shoes and accessories was ACE! Of course, marrying my greatest love in two very different ceremonies. There were some hiccups of course, but they only make for amusing stories now and I wouldn’t change a thing. So what are the blues about then?
All we felt after the wedding was exhaustion. Pure, 100%, eye-twitching exhaustion. With the early starts to each day, running around doing things absolutely to the last-minute in a foreign city having no knowledge of the language, partying late into the night, only to get up and do it all again fueled by a lethal concoction of adrenaline and alcohol, we were left utterly deflated. It took a good week to catch-up with sleep, get back to regular eating habits, and an additional week till we could have another drink. But even through our most fatigued states, we were so happy that everything went as well as it could and that we had some amazing moments and memories to last us for a long long while. And after recovering from it all, we still have our honeymoon to look forward to, my parents’ first Christmas with us, our new grown-up purchases such as dining and bedroom sets, and our projects (my macarons, his gold).
So I can only deduce that if and when I find myself not looking forward to anything, I’ll be getting the blues, wedding or not. And as long as I’m greedy, wanty, needy, anticipaty, I reckon I’ll be able to dodge these bleeding blues.
Besides if I really have nothing substantial to look forward to, there’s always Chicken Biryani.
Chicken Biryani with Cucumber Mint Raita
1 kg Chicken fillets (corn-fed, or better yet, organic)
3 Large onions
20 black peppercorns
4 whole cardamoms
2 bay leaves
8 cardamoms, seeds only
2 cinnamon sticks
2 inch piece of ginger
5 garlic cloves
500g natural yoghurt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cups basmati rice
2 tsp saffron
2 tbsp milk
8 tbsp groundnut oil
handful of raisins
handful of mint leaves
half a cucumber
pinch of chaat masala
Steps 1-3, prepare a day in advance
1. Roughly chop 1.5 onions. Blend with the ginger, garlic, cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, turmeric, chilli powder, cumin, coriander and salt. Mix well with the yoghurt.
2. Slice the remaining half onion into fine semi circles, and then halve them. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy based pan. Roast the bay leaves and whole cardamoms for 15 seconds, then add the onions. Keep stirring and fry slowly over medium heat till golden brown and crispy. Squeeze out as much oil as possible back into the pan and drain the onions on kitchen paper. Reserve the oil, cardamoms and bay leaves. Keep a third of the crispy onions aside and mix the rest into the marinade.
3. Poke holes into the chicken fillets with a fork. Chop into chunky 1.5 inch pieces and mix into the marinade, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 24 hours.
4. Place chicken and marinade in a heavy based saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to the boil. Once there, reduce heat, simmer, and cover for 15 mins.
5. Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees.
6. Remove the chicken pieces only and place in a cast iron cocotte. Reduce the marinade to a thick paste. Layer paste over the chicken evenly.
7. Heat the milk. Soak the saffron in warm milk.
8. Bring 2 litres of water to the boil and place in a pot. Season the water with salt and put the rice in. Bring to the boil again and once there, reduce heat and simmer for 5 mins. Do not overcook. Drain, and layer over the chicken and sauce.
9. In the onion-infused oil, fry some raisins. Drain and set aside.
10. Sprinkle the saffron milk all over the rice evenly. Then pour over the onion-infused oil. Place the cardamoms and bay leaves on top. Cover cocotte and seal either with a simple flour dough, or kitchen foil.
11. Bake for an hour at 150 degrees.
12. Hard-boil the eggs (takes about 7 minutes for medium eggs at room temperature). Halve them lengthwise and reserve.
13. Prepare the Raita: Grate the cucumber into thin strips. Leave the watery inner bit. Squeeze out excess water from the grated cucumber using a towel. Finely chop the mint. Mix it into the yoghurt and season with chilli powder, chaat masala, salt and sugar to taste.
14. After the hour’s up, serve up the biryani garnished with some crispy onions, fried raisins and hard-boiled egg, alongside raita.