Chicken and prunes biryani

Chicken Biryani with potato and prunes (alu bukhara) or dried plums is very unusual and different for us. In my Biryani recipes, I have used dry fruits and nuts, but never tried with potatoes and alu bukhara (dried prunes). I tasted this Biryani in London in a Pakistani restaurant near my place and I was surprised to see the dried prunes, which was giving me a sweet and sour taste. I initially thought it to be tamarind because of its sourness, dark colour and a similar seed inside.

Alu Bukhara (dried prune) is a fruit, which is dried and used in cooking as a dried fruit. Prunes are actually the dried version of European plums and it is a part of the plum family. Dried plum fruits are known as dried plums or prunes. In shops or super stores, you get different types of alu bukhara (dried plum or prune), sometimes small or big, sometimes light brown or dark in colour, but all have the sweet and sour taste. The alu bukhara, which I get in Indian shops is small and light brown colour. You can view the pictures in my prawns biryani with dill leaves and dried prunes and sindhi biryani.

The dried prunes, which I have used in this chicken biryani are quite big, pitted and fleshy. The spices and other ingredients, which we use in biryani are the same with the main differences being alu bukhara (dried prunes) and potatoes. I have cooked this biryani in the style of pakki biryani, which is cooking the meat and rice separately and then giving dum.

Preparation time: 30 mins (excluding marination time)

Cooking time: 1 hour

Cuisine: Sindhi

Serves: 3 to 4

Spiciness: Medium, sweet, sour

Ingredients

    Marinade

  • Chicken (medium sized pieces) – 850 gms
  • Chilli powder – 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Ginger and garlic paste – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – as per requirement
  • Whole spices for curry

  • Black cumin seeds / shah jeera – 1 tsp
  • Cloves – 5
  • Green cardamom – 4
  • Star anise – 1
  • Bay leaves – 4
  • Cinnamon stick (3 inch size) – 2
  • For gravy/curry

  • Oil or ghee – 1 cup
  • Onion (big) – 3 or 500 gms
  • Tomatoes (big, chopped) – 3 or 400 gms
  • Green chillies (medium hot) – 6 to 8
  • Ginger and garlic paste – 1 tbsp
  • Mint leaves – 1 cup or 50 gms
  • Coriander leaves (with stalks) – 1 cup or 55 gms
  • Dried prune (dark, big size) – 10
  • Curd (thick) – 1 1/3 cup
  • Water – 1/2 to 1 cup
  • Potatoes (medium) – 4
  • Rice

  • Basmati rice – 3 cups or 600 gms
  • Water – 2 1/2 litres
  • Salt – as per taste
  • Whole spices for rice

  • Bay leaves – 3
  • Green cardamoms – 5
  • Cloves – 5
  • Mace (Javitri) – 1 flower
  • Cinnamon stick or cassia bark (3 inch pieces) – 3
  • Black pepper – 1 tsp
  • Star anise – 2
  • Layering/garnishing/additional ingredients

  • Fried onion - few
  • Mint leaves (chopped) – few
  • Coriander leaves (chopped) – few
  • Lemon juice – 4 to 6 tbsp
  • Colour (biryani colour or orange or saffron colour) – a big pinch
  • Rose water – 5 tbsp
  • Oil/ghee (optional) – 3 tbsp

Method

  • Soak dried plums or prunes (pitted) in hot water (to remove the dirt) and to soften a little. Keep it aside for 1/2 hour or more (optional), sometimes I use it directly.
  • You can see how the dried plums look like in the picture below.
  • Slice the onions and keep it aside.
  • Chop mint and coriander leaves (with its stalk) and keep few for garnishing/layering the biryani.
  • Cut the tomatoes into medium size pieces and potatoes into big chunks or cut into half.
  • There are 5 stages for cooking chicken biryani.

    1. Marinating

    2. Cooking chicken curry

    3. Cooking rice

    4. Mixing curry and rice (layering)

    5. Dum

  • Marinating chicken

  • Add all the ingredients in a wide bowl and mix.
  • Add the chicken pieces in the marinade mixture, mix well and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
  • Remove from the fridge 30 mins before cooking.
  • Cooking chicken curry (gravy)

  • Take a big utensil, add oil/ghee, when hot add all the whole spices, stir for a few seconds.
  • Add sliced onions and cook until it is golden brown. Stir the onions in between. It will take 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Take out 1/3 cup of the fried onions for garnishing or as per requirement.
  • When the onions are cooked, add ginger and garlic paste. Saute for about 2 mins.
  • Add mint and coriander leaves saute for about 3 mins. Then add tomatoes and cook for about 4 mins or until the tomatoes are soft. Keep stirring occasionally.
  • Add the marinated chicken and stir well with the onion mixture. Allow it to cook for about 4 to 5 minutes. Keep stirring as the marinade can stick to the bottom. Do not allow to burn.
  • c
  • Add 1/2 cup water and cook for about 4 to 5 mins on a medium flame until it becomes like a thick curry and the oil starts to separate.
  • Lower the flame. Add curd (yoghurt), green chillies, prunes (dried plums) and potatoes. Mix well. I added about 15 prunes (as per my taste) as I want it to be more sour and sweet).
  • Cook for 15 minutes on medium flame and 10 minutes on low flame (simmer) by closing the lid, keep stirring in between.
  • Stir carefully making sure you do not break the chicken pieces. Check in between and stir.
  • At this stage, if the potatoes are not cooked and the curry is becoming very thick and dry, add about 1/4 cup water to loosen the curry a bit.
  • Cook until the potatoes are well cooked and the prunes have softened and blended well with the curry.
  • The curry (gravy) should be thick and adequate for the rice when it comes to the mixing stage.
  • Cooking rice

  • Soak the rice in water for about 1/2 hr. Drain and keep it aside.
  • Add 2 1/2 litres (or adequate amount) of cold water in a wide vessel for preparing a fragrant stock. Add all the whole spices in the water.
  • Boil for about 5 mins on a medium flame and then for another 15 mins on low flame with the lid closed. Switch off.
  • Strain the stock through a strainer and put it back in the vessel. The stock is fragrant and full of aroma and the colour of the stock will be like the colour of tea decoction.
  • Boil the stock and when it comes to the boil, add rice and the required amount of salt.
  • Boil rice for about 5 mins only. The rice has to be cooked 3/4 only - about 75%.
  • While boiling, do not stir very often as the rice grains may break. The grains of rice after cooking a bit will be longer, but still raw.
  • Strain the rice and keep it ready for dum (layering).
  • Cook the rice when you simmering the curry/gravy. It can also be made in advance and kept aside (for advanced cooking, you strain the rice, rinse under cold water to stop further cooking).
  • Mixing gravy and rice (layering/dum stage)

  • For layering, reserve some curry and chicken pieces in a bowl.
  • For first layering, first curry with chicken pieces (I took the same vessel in which curry was cooked), keep the flame very low, layer it with ½ of rice, add few mint and coriander leaves and fried onion, spread evenly.
  • Now the second layer spread remaining chicken curry kept in a bowl, add the remaining rice, spread evenly.
  • Add saffron colour and oil (optional). Instead of oil, you can add a few drops of ghee on rice, evenly.
  • Spread evenly mint leaves, coriander leaves, fried onions also, lemon juice , rose water, spread evenly and close the lid tightly.
  • Dum

  • Heat the vessel in which you have layered the biryani for 5 mins or until you see a little steam escaping from the sides. Alternatively just keep your hand near the rice to check whether it is getting hot or not.
  • If you are able to see some steam, from that point onwards cook for about 4 mins on medium heat with the lid quickly closed with aluminium foil (to seal the steam from escaping). Simmer for about 20 mins or until rice is cooked.
  • The sign of whether the biryani is cooked and ready is when you can smell its aroma from the nearby rooms.
  • Switch off and let it rest for 15 mins. Do not open the lid immediately because the steam inside the vessel will continue to cook the biryani.
  • When the biryani is cooked, you need to be careful while serving. Take the biryani out with a wide spoon or a saucer slowly from one side to prevent the rice grains from breaking.
  • Serve with raitha (curd mixture), chicken 65, brinjal curry.

Notes

  • While giving dum or simmering you can keep a flat tava below the vessel and hot boiling water vessel closed with the lid, above the biryani vessel lid , so that dum can be given proper, to avoid the burning of rice.
  • You can reduce the chillies if you do not eat spicy food or your chillies are very hot.
  • Rice should only be 3/4th cooked, the grain might have become longer than its usual size, but when pressed with fingers you should feel that is not fully cooked. While cooking the rice you can add few drops of oil. While draining, wash it under cold water to keep the rice grain separate.
  • The gravy quantity should be such that it should be enough for the rice when you mix it.
  • If you want to reduce the oil, then reduce it. Its your wish. But the onion has to be roasted in oil or ghee well.
  • Carefully add salt for the gravy and rice. Divide the salt quantity and put. It will be easy for you.
  • Mix colour with 2 tbsp of water or with milk and put on rice. Saffron can be used instead of colour. You can even just sprinkle the colour on biryani. I use saffron or lemon colour for biryani.
  • For making any biryani, you can maintain from 2:1 to 1:1 chicken to rice ratio. For example, you can use 500 gms to 1 kg of chicken for 500 gms of rice. Obviously, you need to adjust the spices appropriately.
  • Instead of adding the spices in the water, boiling and straining it, you can tie the spices in a muslin cloth and put the parcel in the water. It will be a little easier to take the spices out.
  • While layering if the flame is on simmer, the curry and rice both are hot, then you need to do the layering part fast and close the lid as soon as possible.

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