The delicacy from Nizam's territory now waits to turn up in your kitchen

Biryani is always a labour of love. Here is the Hyderabadi murg dum biryani – the steps may be longer, the ingredients countless, patience required humongous. Yet when the scent of saffron and spices hit you, one never regret the toil that has gone into making it.

Hyderabadi murg dum biryani

Ingredients

1kg chicken (preferably in 16 pieces with two drumsticks)

1kg Basmati rice

1 cup finely chopped onions

2 tsp ginger and garlic paste

3 tsp chilli powder

Half tsp turmeric

100 gms cashewnuts

4 or 5 bay leaves

4 or 5 cloves

2 cm long cinnamon sticks

6 to 10 green chillies (ground to paste)

3 to 4 cardamom pods

1 to 2 tsp cumin

2 cups mint leaves

2 tsp coriander powder

Half tsp garam masala powder

1 cup coconut milk

1 lemon

Salt to taste

1 cup ghee (clarified butter)

Half cup yoghurt

1 cup oil

2 tsp dried coconut powder

Few strand of saffron

2 cups finely sliced onions

Method

Make deep incisions on the chicken. Mix together turmeric, chilli powder, salt, garlic ginger paste, juice of half a lemon and yoghurt and apply it on the meat evenly. Marinate for an hour. Heat about 100 ml oil. Roast in the oil, cumin, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves along with a spoon of coriander. Finally add the finely chopped onions. Wait for a couple of minutes before adding the mint leaves. When the onion begins to turn brown, add the marinated chicken and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add coconut powder and garam masala and turn off the flame when it is about three-fourth cooked. There should not be too much gravy in the mixture and the chicken should look roasted.

While the chicken is getting cooked, prepare the rice. Rinse three cups of basmati, add water - little less than the volume of the rice itself, so that it is only half cooked in an electric cooker. Add salt to it. Take out some of the half-cooked rice and colour them with diluted saffron and keep it aside for garnishing.

Take a utensil with a base of 300 mm. Place half of the semi-cooked rice on it. Layer it with half of the chicken and top it again with a layer of rice. Layer it with the rest of the meat and finish it with another layer of rice.

Heat oil and deep fry half of the cut onion till golden brown. Fry the cashewnuts too and layer them on the rice, along with ghee, coconut milk, the saffron rice and coriander. Put a lid on the vessel and try making it airtight. Put on high flame for five minutes and then reduce it to slow flame. The flame should not be on the centre of the vessel, rather on a side. After two-three minutes, turn the vessel to heat another side. Keep rotating the vessel every two-three minutes for about 20 minutes. Put off the flame, but keep it on the stove for 10 minutes before serving. Mix well and serve with halves of boiled eggs.

Meharban Khan, Corporate Chef, Swagath, hails from Bulandshahar and is one from the old school. The chef has learnt the nuances of whipping up a spread on the job.