Winter Squash Nizami Biryani

Winter Squash Nizami Biryani

Winter Squash Nizami Biryani


My first blog on an Indian dish had to be the Biryani, it was never going to be easy, as every nook and corner of India has it favourite or even the Worlds best Biryani Point. The word was derived from the Persian Language and literally means ‘roast rice’. To make a proper Biryani you need patience, experience and follow the recipe, as there are no short cuts. Its full of flavours and you can get carried away to over do it, resist it at the moment and focus on keeping it simple yet bursting with flavours.

There are many kind of Biryani and no particular one is the ‘correct’ one, but theory has it that the Mughals brought this to India and from there the many versions, as usual in India, came about. There is the Mughlai – rich in its ingredients and flavour, the Avadh- rich in aroma and again ingredients, Dindigul – from the south of India but uses Zeeraga Samba rice as opposed to the Basmati used in the north, the there is the Hyderabadi – which is a very simple but you have to master the techniques to get it right. I can go on writing about just the biryani in India but i would need to do that in a separate book which we are working on.

The recipe we bring to you took us a year to master and simplify, we tried every kind of from Muslim, to Kacchhi, to Bengali, to Mumbai, it even included a trip to India, to Hyderabad precisely for a taste of Paradise Biryani Point, the HYderabadi’s swear by it, to be the best Ever in the world. It is not often that you have the famous Hyderabad Biryani in Vegetarian format, but it had to be done as this is easy to cook. The recipe, looks long and tedious, but it’s just that we have divided the entire recipe into processes you need to follow, and trust us the end product will leave your guests amazed!

So get cooking…and join the Journey Called Food.

The Marination Ingredients:

  1. 1 tbsp. Ginger Garlic paste
  2. 1 tsp Garam Masala
  3. 1 Medium Onion (very thinly sliced)
  4. ⅓ tsp Red Chili Powder
  5. ⅛ tsp Turmeric
  6. 250 ml Full Fat Yoghurt
  7. 2 Onions thinly sliced (and deep fried golden brown, reserve some for the Dum)
  8. 4 medium sized Sweet Dumpling (or any variety of winter squash, the small ones)
  9. 2 tbsp Oil
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1 large Yellow Zucchini
  12. 1 large Green Zucchini

The Spices Ingredients:

  1. 1 ½ Mint leaves chopped
  2. 2 tbsp. Coriander leaves chopped
  3. 2 Green Chilies slit
  4. 2 inch Cinnamon stick
  5. 5 green Cardamoms
  6. 1 tbsp Shahi Jeera (Black Cumin)
  7. 4 Cloves
  8. 1 Bay Leaf
  9. 1 tsp Cardamom powder

The Rice Ingredients:

  1. 1 ½ cups Aged XL Long Grain Basmati Rice
  2. ¼ tsp Shahi Jeera
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 Cardamom
  5. 2 Cloves
  6. ½ inch Cinnamon

The Dum Ingredients:

  1. 5 tbsp. Ghee (Not Clarified Butter!!)
  2. A Pinch of Saffron
  3. A Few Drops of Kewra (Screw Pine) Essence
  4. A pinch of Garam Masala
  5. Deep Fried Onions
  6. 4 tbsp Finely Chopped Coriander and Mint
  7. 30 ml Hot Milk (to soak the saffron strands)
  8. Clean Tea Towel
  9. Cling Film and Foil

The Pre-Prep:

  1. Soak saffron strands in hot milk, reserve till the end.
  2. Thinly slice onions and fry them in oil till golden and crisp. Set aside until needed reserving the oil for later.
  3. Dice the Zucchini in 1×1 inch dices,
  4. Slice the top part of the winter squash and using a spoon scoop out the center taking care not to damage the outer skin.
  5. In a bowl put together the diced and Scooped Zucchini with the ingredients listed on ‘The Marination’, and let it marinate for 30 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes add the ingredients from ‘The Spices’ keep aside.
  7. Pick and wash the Basmati rice and let it stand in Cold water for 30 Minutes. And Drain.
  8. In a large pot of water, add 1 tbsp ghee & the ingredients from ‘The Rice’, except the rice, let the water come to a fierce boil.

The Biryani:

  1. In a deep and large heavy bottomed cooking pot, on a very low heat add 1tbsp of ghee and 3 tbsp the reserved oil from the fried onions, when the ghee melts add a tsp of Shahi Jeera and the marinated Zucchini.
  2. In the meanwhile add the rice to the boiling water, when the rice is 20% done which should be in 3-4 minutes, using a perforated spoon take out 1/3rd the quantity of rice and add to the pot where the Zucchini is cooking.
  3. After another 4 minutes or when the rice is cooked 65% take out another 1/3rd and layer on top of the Zucchini. Sprinkle some Kewra Essence and 1tbsp of the Coriander Mint mix and 1tbsp of fried onions.
  4. After another 4 minutes or when the rice is cooked 90% drain the remaining rice and add to the final layer in the pot.
  5. Don’t let the bottom of the pan burn, you could place the biryani pot on top of a thick skillet, or place it on charcoal with a bit of charcoal on top.
  6. The Biryani needs to be moist and the grain single and silky.

The Dum:

  1. When all the rice has been added into the pot, sprinkle all the ingredients from ‘The Dum’.
  2. Moisten the Tea Towel and place on top of the layered rice, secure tightly with the clink film and then the foil, not cover tight with a flat lid.
  3. Raise the flame to medium and let the biryani cook for 20 minutes after this reduce heat to low and then keep on the flame for 20 minutes.
  4. When steam starts to come out of the pot then your biryani’s ready, if not cook it for another 10 minutes.

Dum literally means steam, the process of maturing of a prepared dish. Dum existed even before the advent of slow cookers, In the olden days the bawarchi (cook) would seal the pot with a dough made of flour and then put smoldering coal on top and the bottom to ensure the moisture stayed within. The heat was then distributed evenly. The advantage of this kind of cooking is that since vapor cannot escape all the flavors and aroma are retained in the food.


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