Mutton Biryani Kolkata-Style
Before I start rambling on about my Mutton Biryani, I should get a few things off my chest right off the bat. To me, and solely to me (not to offend anyone), a dish to qualify as ‘Biryani’ or ‘Mutton Biryani’ needs to follow a few strict parameters.
1. It is strictly a non-vegetarian dish.
2. The meat ingredient has to be Mutton (remember, it is solely my opinion) because
Chicken cannot do justice to the complex flavor of the dish.
3. It is essentially cooked in the Kolkata-style (this is probably a genetic issue), which is a
deconstructed style adapted from the Awadhi/Lucknowi style of cooking. This also
means I cannot imagine my plate of biryani sans a whole potato and a boiled egg.
I know, I know there are a million other styles of cooking biryani which are highly acclaimed as well. But you know, howsoever open-minded, broad-minded, receptive, tolerant, understanding, matured, etc., etc., I become with age; still, this old soul strictly does not want to change its biryani preference even today. Hence this “no-measurement” biryani recipe is by far my highest accomplishment in the world of biryani recipes which I have achieved after a million hit and trial attempts. Okay, one of the measurements that I follow for this recipe is the ration of rice and meat. The ideal ratio is meat:rice=2:1, but at times I cheat a bit. If this is the only dish on the menu, then I slightly increase the proportion of rice. Maybe instead of the customary 2:1, I do 2:1.5. The other measurement is the quantity of meat. I consider approximately 0.5-0.75 lbs/250-300 grams of meat per person. So you can now do the math for whatever number of heads you are cooking for.
Yes, it indeed is an almost “no-measurement” recipe as the most of the ingredients of this recipe is not accompanied by any measurement. Wait, don’t roll your eyes at me. Ask your parents and grandparents. Whatever they have cooked and learned to cook all their lives have been based on their sense of taste, smell, and judgment. They did not have as many printed recipes as we have today, neither did Google exist to open up the world of recipes in front of their eyes to make their lives simpler. Well, I mostly take this route of “no-measurement” cooking almost all the time for all my dishes. The only exception though is baked desserts (cakes, pastries, etc.) where the measurement of the ingredients need to be exact to get the desired result.
Okay, coming back to the biryani talk. I mostly make my dishes based on the flavors I crave. Biryani is one such dish, where I use my fond memories of eating a plate of delicious Mutton Biryani – trying to incorporate all the flavors, and aromas which I had tasted. I did not include the ingredient quantities because I don’t know those magic numbers myself. I always rely on my nose to make my biryani masala. If you are a beginner and have no point of reference or how the masala should ideally be smelling, then a pack of Shan brand’s Sindhi Biryani Masala is a good start. You can also make the masala in addition to buying this Shan masala and use both of them (50:50) to make your biryani. You can use these spice mixes to make any other meat dish or another round of biryani later. These spices have a very long shelf life if stored in an airtight container. But once you make the biryani spice mix, you will realize how much more aromatic and flavorful your homemade one is, compared to the store bought one.
Well, as I said before, I can go on rambling about biryani for pages. But I guess I should stop now and give you a chance to read through the whole recipe and figure out how to make it. Oh yeah, before I forget, please allow yourself at least 2 days time in hand if making biryani, especially the first-timers. This will ensure your meat is perfectly thawed (if using frozen), you have abundant time to marinade it sufficiently, all your masalas and ingredients are in place and you have enough time to space out the whole job so that you don’t get rushed into anything. Time is a very crucial element in this entire preparation. Starting from marination, to preparation, to cooking, to resting, to sealed-cooking and finally the standing time in the end. So there you go – this is my take on cooking Kolkata-style Mutton Biryani. If I ever figure out the quantities of the ingredients used, I will update this recipe and make your lives easier. Read, cook or at least try to cook, eat, enjoy and share your joys/concerns regarding this recipe. Just a small parting tip – Pair your Kolkata-style Mutton Biryani with raita and a glass of Soda like ThumbsUP (the best pair), Coke or Pepsi to enjoy the dish to the fullest!
- Prep Time: 8-10 hours
- Cook Time: 5-6 hours
- Total Time: -51949168.933333 minute
- Category: Non-vegetarian
- Method: Slow-cook
- Cuisine: South Asian
For Biryani Masala-
Whole White Peppercorns
Whole Black Peppercorns
Shah Jeera (small black cumin)
Kebab Chini (not sure about the English name)
For Marinating the Mutton-
Biryani Masala (in generous quantity)
Red Chilli Powder
Whole Black Peppercorn
Onions – thinly sliced (you may make a little excess for making beresta*)
Eggs – boiled (as per head count)
Potatoes – in large chunks/whole if small in size (as per head count)
Kewra Water – in drops***
Rose Essence – in drops
Attar (optional) – in drops
Saffron strands soaked in milk
Ghee/Clarified Butter – use generously
Making the Biryani Masala-
Take all the ingredients under the listed under the ingredients of Biryani Masala and grind them together in a dry grinder/coffee grinder. Dry roasting them before grinding is not required in my opinion.
Cooking the mutton-
– Marinate the mutton with all the ingredients listed under “For Marinating the Mutton” list.
– Heat ghee in a wok. Ghee is highly recommended for this. I have heard biryani being cooked in oil/dalda alternatively, but I have never used any of them. Hence it is difficult for me to comment on that.
– Fry the thinly sliced onions. If you have excess onion for beresta, then fry a batch separately first and keep them aside (skip this step if you are not making beresta). Making beresta is optional but recommended.
– Then fry the rest of the onions in ghee till brown.
– Add the marinaded mutton to the fried onions and cook the meat on high flame till the meat is browned nicely on all sides.
– Once nicely browned, cover and cook the meat on a medium-low flame till the meat is cooked. This may take hours depending on the quantity of meat, yet pressure cooking the meat is discouraged as the taste of the meat is compromised if pressure cooked. Alternatively, you can use a slow-cooker for cooking the meat if you want to save on gas and/or do not have the patience to babysit the meat for hours. I have used a slow-cooker for this step multiple times and is very pleased with the result.
– Check for the seasoning of the meat as it cannot be perfectly altered beyond this step.
– After the meat is cooked let the meat rest for a while and cool down while you continue with the rest of the steps. Resting the meat helps the meat to absorb the flavors of the spices well.
– After resting the meat for a while, separate the pieces from the gravy and strain the oil out of the gravy and keep it aside. This step is optional, but I recommended.
Cooking the rice-
– Wash and soak long grained basmati rice in water before cooking.
– Tie all the whole spices listed under “cooking the rice” ingredients in a small clean piece of muslin (or any other similar fine material) cloth.
– Take water in a big pot and salt it sufficiently. Remember the rice should be perfectly salted even after draining the excess water, hence the quantity of the salt should be more than usual.
– Add a spoon of ghee and the tied cloth of spices in the water and let the water come to boil.
– Add the washed rice and let the rice be cooked to ‘al-dente.’ Make sure the rice does not get over-cooked as that would simply spoil the whole dish.
– Once the rice is cooked to perfection, drain the water immediately.
Cooking the potatoes and eggs-
Peel and boil the potatoes and eggs (hard boil and peel). Add a pinch of salt and turmeric to the potatoes and fry them lightly in a wok with little ghee. Keep the fried potatoes and boiled eggs aside for using them in the layering process.
Layering the biryani- (the most crucial and final step)
– Get all your ingredients in one place before starting this step.
– Take the dutch oven/pot where you want the final cooking to happen.
– Heat ghee in the Dutch oven and roll it to coat the ghee to grease the entire interior of the pot. Alternatively, use a brush to brush the inside of the pot with the warm ghee.
– Add a layer of rice in the bottom of the oven.
– Arrange a few pieces of meat, eggs, and potatoes on the rice.
– Sprinkle some biryani masala on top of it.
– Add a small spoon of ghee to the layer.
– Add a small spoon of the strained out oil from the meat on the layer.
– Sprinkle some saffron soaked in milk, kewra water and rose essence on the layer one by one. Add the attar if using too.
– Add some beresta if you are using it.
– Repeat the same process to make more layers in the same process.
– Make sure that the topmost layer is that of rice.
– Add everything on that layer of rice as before except the meat, eggs, and potatoes.
– Now seal the mouth of the Dutch oven tightly with its lid. You can seal the lid with a flour dough. Alternatively, I use aluminum foil to seal the mouth of the Dutch oven first and then tightly cover it with its lid. It has worked perfectly every single time.
– Now place the Dutch oven on a flat frying pan on the fire, or you can place it in a water bath**.
– Put the Dutch oven (along with the pan or water bath) on high flame for about 2 minutes. Then reduce the flame to the least and let it cook for 35-45 minutes (depending on the quantity of biryani you are making).
- For making mutton biryani, make sure the mutton is marinated for at least 8-10 hours or overnight in a covered glass/ceramic bowl
- The rice needs to be soaked in water for at least 15 minutes prior to cooking
- Make sure the mutton, rice and potatoes are almost cooked before putting the biryani on dum
- Use the “Sindhi Biryani Masala’ by ‘Shan’ company if you are unable to make the masala. But I would highly recommend grinding the masala yourself as the end results of a freshly ground masala is way better than a store bought packet
* beresta – crisp fried thinly sliced onions mainly used in South Asian/Bengali cuisine. It is used both
as an ingredient and as a garnish of a dish.
**To use water bath for cooking, lighting a sterno over a hot water filled foil tray also works just fine.
*** ‘in drops’ means add just a few drops(3-4 drops) each time you use that ingredient.Use these
ingredients very sparingly.