Today, April 15, marks the start of a new year according to the Malayalam calendar for us in Kerala (and for Keralites around the world). The day starts first by looking at auspicious and sacred objects arranged in the living room (which have been arranged the night before by the matriarch of the house) in a ritual called "vishukkani". Usually, the eldest in the house wakes up the next younger person and leads him/her to the vishukkani blindfolded and so it continues until everyone is awake. The next ritual, which everyone looks forward to, is "vishukaineetam" where the younger ones get "pocket money" . often in substantial amounts, from the elders. Of course, there's the "vishukkodi", new clothes to wear, and all the fireworks to burst and the temples to visit and.....the food! Vishusadya! This is usually a grand feast laid out on banana leaves, with almost 24 to 28 vegetarian dishes served on it.
Well, time for a confession! I'm so very glad I'm a girl born in the Malabar region of Kerala, and not anywhere else in the state, only because I don't have to cook a "sadya" for Vishu or Onam! Ha ha...Now I know those of you from other places in Kerala will be shocked to know that we celebrate Vishu and Onam with nonvegetarian dishes...even if there is a sadya, there will almost always be a fried fish or fish curry to go with it! For the life of me, I can't imagine cooking so many different dishes year in and year out, two to three times a year, for various festivals and occasions. Just too lazy and laidback for that! So here is what we had for Vishu this year-Fish biriyani! And for us Malabaris, a special occasion cannot be complete without the Malabar pudding, so simple you'll be blinking your eyes! Yum yum...
Now, biriyani is something that people have different perspectives on. Its supremely easy and quick or torturously complicated and time consuming, depending on your recipe. Well, on this blog, you can be rest assured there will only be delicious but healthy and uncomplicated recipes, so here's to this fish biriyani recipe that you don't have to limit to just special occasions-my mom often makes this also for Sunday special lunches and our birthdays and other special occasions. In fact, I've assisted her and watched her so many times making this that now I can do this with my eyes closed! This is a "dum" biriyani, which traditionally was done by sealing the biriyani pot with a strip of dough and cooking it on hot coals or on a tava over a slow flame. But my mom has always done the "dum" part in the oven, which is a whole lot easier and just as tasty! Also, don't be put off by the elaborate steps, because it's all pretty easy once you have the ingredients assembled. If you're looking for a vegetarian biriyani recipe, check out my Vegetable Baked Dum Biriyani.
Before I go into the recipe, let me just thank all of you who congratulated me on winning the Notable Newbie award on Blogadda-this is given to blogs less than a year old that the blogadda team considers noteworthy and it is especially gratifying because Blogadda is one of India's largest directory of blogs and features an amazing array of diverse bloggers. So thank you, Blogadda! Also, I received a blog award last week from a fellow blogger, Ambreen, of Simply Sweet "n' Savory. Thank you, Ambreen!
Ok, now for the recipe. This is so versatile you can use the same recipe to make a prawn/mussels/mixed seafood/chicken/mutton/paneer biriyani. In the case of the seafoods and paneer, you may need to lightly fry it beforehand. In the case of chicken and mutton, just add the raw pieces directly to the fried masala and cover and cook until done.
To serve 6 people
For the fish marinade
- 6 large slices or 12 medium slices of Sear fish or King fish (or any other fleshy variety)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoons chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Oil for shallow frying
For the rice
- 3 cups rice, Basmati or "jeera rice" (measured in a 200 mL cup)-Wash, soak 15 minutes, and keep to drain in a colander
- 6 cups water (measured in the same cup as the rice)-should be boiling hot when pouring into the rice
- 6 cloves
- 1-inch stick cinnamon
- 3 green cardamom
- 1 teaspoon aniseeds/fennel seeds (perinjeera)
- 1 medium size onion, sliced fine
- 3 tablespoons ghee/butter/vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
For the biriyani masala
- 2 large onions, sliced fine (or 2 cups, sliced fine)
- 4 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
- 6 green chillies, slit
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 tablespoon biriyani masala powder (readymade or homemade, see note below)
- 2 tablespoons thick yoghurt
- A handful of mint and coriander leaves, chopped
- Oil as needed
- Salt to taste
For the garnish:
- 1 large onion, sliced fine
- A handful of cashewnuts
- A handful or sultanas or raisins
- 4 tablespoons oil for frying
If you'd like to make your own biriyani masala powder (this is a family recipe courtesy Ammuedathy)
- 2 teaspoons aniseeds/fennel seeds (perinjeera)
- 4 cloves
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 4 green cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon black cumin seeds (shahi jeera)
Heat a "tawa" or small skillet and roast all the above, until the "masala" aroma wafts through. Then just powder everything together in your spice grinder.
Now to put everything together!
- First, for the fish: Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and spread it on the fish slices. Rest it for 10 minutes.
- Heat oil in a large skillet that can accommodate all the fish slices at once and shallow fry until well done on both sides. Remove fish slices from the skillet, and keep the skillet aside for later use.
- Next, for the rice: In a wide-mouthed heavy bottom pan (we use a "uruli"), heat the ghee and throw in the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, aniseeds, and let them splutter, but make sure they do not burn.
- Now put in the onions and fry till translucent.
- Then add in the rice and fry on medium heat until all the grains take on a nice shimmer and some of them start to "jump around" the pan (my grandmother's tip!).
- Now pour in the hot water, salt to taste, and stir everything around.
- Cover with a lid and let it cook on low heat until all the water is soaked up. Do not stir in between (but if you must, use a fork to check). Remove from fire and keep aside.
- Now, for the masala: In the skillet in which the fish was fried, pour some more oil and tip in the onions and fry till translucent.
- Now add the ginger-garlic paste and green chillies and fry again until the raw smell is gone.
- Then add the diced tomatoes and cook till it becomes really soft and mushy.
- Now add the biriyani masala powder, salt, and fry well for about 2 minutes.
- Then add the yoghurt, chopped cilantro and mint leaves, and mix well.
- Place the fried fish slices in between this masala, taking care not to break them and to cover them well with the masala.
- Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet and fry the onions, cashewnuts and raisins, one by one, until golden brown (done best on a low flame). Keep aside.
- Now to arrange and bake the biriyani: Preheat your oven to 200 C.
- Take a glass dish (Pyrex or Borosil are just some of the reliable brands) and arrange the rice as the first layer, the fish masala as the second layer, some of the fried onions on top, then the rice as another final layer, topped off with the remaining fried onions, cashewnuts and raisins.
- Bake for 10 minutes (without covering).
Serve it straight from the oven to the dining table, piping hot and fingerlicking deliciously good!
We normally serve it with raitha, chutney, pickle, and pappad.
And, it is rounded off with a very special and easypeasy Malabar pudding....yes, the one and only "pappadavum pazhavum kozhachathu"!
For the raitha:
Chopped onions, green chillies, and tomatoes, mixed with thick yoghurt and salted to taste.
For the chutney:
Grind together a handful of 1 cup shredded coconut with 4 to 5 green chillies, a handful of fresh curry leaves and a 1-inch piece of ginger with salt. Add a little yoghurt at the end to round off the taste.
For the Malabar pudding:
Preferably do this in the same plate in which you've polished off the biriyani! Take as many bananas as you want, mash it up well with sugar and ghee. Lastly, crumble up a couple of pappads and add it as a topping or mix it in. Dig in immediately!
On a final note, let me say that this is something that, in our families, the eldest person used to do for everyone else, on one plate, and then handed over to the individual plates (my dad does the honors now!). My dad also says a story associated with this, that he first read about this being called "Malabar Pudding" in the magazine called Sun (India) in the 1970s in which the writer said that the best part of eating a Malabar Pudding is licking your fingers after its over! We have to agree!
I'm linking this to the April Kerala Kitchen Event hosted by the multitalented Ria (another Malabar girl!) at her blog Ria's Collections. I am also so proud to say I've been included as a member of this incredible collection of bloggers!
I'm also linking this to Hearth and Soul Hop at the Hub-Vol #44