Here’s a general description of the preparation process:
- Marination: The meat or vegetables are marinated with a mixture of yogurt, spices, ginger, garlic, and sometimes lemon juice. This helps to tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavors.
- Rice preparation: Basmati rice is soaked in water for some time to remove excess starch. Then, it is partially cooked by boiling in water with whole spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. The rice is usually cooked until it’s about 70-80% done, ensuring it remains firm and separate.
- Layering: The handi is heated, and oil or ghee (clarified butter) is added. Chopped onions are sautéed until golden brown, adding a sweet caramelized flavor to the dish. Then, the marinated meat or vegetables are added and cooked until they are partially cooked.
- Spices and herbs: A blend of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chili powder, and biryani masala are added to the handi, along with fresh herbs like mint and coriander leaves. This combination of spices gives the biryani its distinct and flavorful taste.
- Layering rice and meat: Once the meat or vegetables are partially cooked and the spices are well incorporated, the partially cooked rice is layered on top of it. This layering process allows the flavors to meld together.
- Dum cooking: The handi is then sealed with a tight-fitting lid or covered with aluminum foil to create a steamy environment. The biryani is cooked on low heat (dum cooking) for a longer duration to allow the flavors to infuse and the meat or vegetables to become tender. This slow cooking process ensures that the biryani is cooked to perfection.
- Garnishing: Once the biryani is cooked, it is typically garnished with fried onions, mint leaves, and sometimes saffron-infused milk, which adds a beautiful aroma and color to the dish.
Biryani Handi is often served with raita (a yogurt-based side dish), salad, and sometimes accompanied by a spicy curry or gravy. It is a popular dish served during festive occasions, weddings, and other special events, and is enjoyed by people of all ages.