First things first: Garam masala: 1 teaspoon
The trick, says Qureshi, lies in not doing different things but doing things differently. “What sets this Lucknawi biryani apart is the fact that it’s not too spicy like its Hyderabadi counterpart and, yet, is rich in terms of ingredients and taste,” he says as he checks his ingredients. “A tablespoon each of javitri elaichi, garam masala and kali mirch are the primary ingredients. You can’t do without them, but as opposed to red chillies, we use a lot of peeli mirch in Lucknow; it’s spicy but not as strong and hard on your throat,” he explains.
“When it comes to choosing the meat for biryani, we prefer tender meat (preferably from the shoulders and the ribs) as it’s moist,” he says as he slices a chunk into four neat pieces. Chef Qureshi takes about 150 gm of desi ghee, heats it and adds the spices till they crackle, adds the raan and lets it simmer, regaling me with his childhood stories all the time. “I grew up hearing tales about the origins of biryani from my grandfather. Since the erstwhile maharajas used to travel with all their paraphernalia, it used to be tough for the cooks to come up with elaborate menus in difficult terrains. So, they came up with this idea of working out a dish that was wholesome, in terms of both taste and ingredients,” he explains as he adds a cup of fried onions to the raan and cooks for about two minutes.
Mixing It Up:
He now adds about 30 gm of ginger garlic paste, a tablespoon of chilly powder, and 60 gm of hung yoghurt. He turns the meat over for a few minutes and, simultaneously boils 150 gm of basmati rice, drains it and keeps it aside. He then mixes the raan with the rice, and adds a teaspoon of javitri elaichi, 5 gm of saffron and kewra water and “dum” cooks the biryani in a cooking pot. “Javitri elaichi is one of the strongest of our spices and a quintessential ingredient of Lucknawi cuisine. The technique lies in mixing the spices well so that the taste of spices won’t overpower you. Musharraf and his begum personally complimented me on this one,” he concludes, with more than a hint of pride. We dig in. It’s a meal fit for royalty.
Chef Qureshi learnt this dish when he was still in his teens. With a royal name like Bhaap Ghosht, it continues to impress diners.
Ingredients (for two):
Meat (Lamb): 300 gm
Salt: To taste
Dhaniya powder: 1 tablespoon
Mirchi powder: 1 tablespoon