Paneer Dum Biryani

This is our first rice based dish on Break&Binge and the fact that we have never made this one ever before so it was an anxious moment in the kitchen. Woahh – the happiness of a super successful attempt needed to be shared – Paneer Dum Biryani it is!! A food that’s more than a food for us and more of an emotional chord reminiscing friendships, trips to Hyderabad to meet friends & relatives, group cooking with friends after office hours, and even now in Singapore when our friends would get it specially packed for us in their trips back from Hyderabad!

Despite the fact that we cannot make it the true “dum” way (in a pot on fire), what we got as an outcome was so authentic, just like how we have had in our many trips to Hyderabad. Making any biryani is an art but what we loved about this recipe is the ease without making it an extensive dish to make and the foolproof way of marination for the best aroma of all the spices and flavours. It is a two-step marination process and while it might sound lengthy, it lets you parallel process so all in all it is an hour long of your cooking time and a total of 4-4.5 hours including marination and dum time. Here we go with this magical recipe, thanks to our friend!

Procedure: (yields for four) – we like paneer biryani the most, but you can also make aloo dum biryani the same way

For paneer marination, stage 1:

  • Take 300g of curd and churn it till it gets smooth.
  • Add 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste, 1/4 tsp red chilli powder, 1/4 tsp coriander powder, 3 tbsp biryani masala, 2 tbsp chopped mint leaves and salt to taste. Add a green chilli to it, slit along length in two pieces.
  • Take 250g cubed paneer and coat gently with yogurt paste. Can add 5-6 small mushrooms (each sliced into 2-3 pieces) too, they taste nice in final preparation
  • Let this mixture marinate for 2 hours

Masala prep and marination stage 2:

  • In a pan, take 2 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp ghee. Add Indian spices to it: 1 clove, 2 black pepper corns, 1 small stick of cinnamon, 1 small cardamom, 1 big cardamom (optional – we did not use), 1 star anise, 1 bay leaf and any other flavourful Indian spices (khada masala) of your choice. Toss on low flame till they turn aromatic
  • Add 1/2 tbsp chopped ginger, 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic, small piece of green chilli. Toss on low flame till garlic just starts turning light brown
  • Add 1.5-2 slice chopped onions (medium size). Fry till onions get cooked/turn brown
  • Add 1.5-2 chopped medium size tomatoes. Add 1/4th tsp red chilli powder, 1/4th tsp coriander powder, 1.5 tbsp biryani masala, 2 tbsp chopped mint leaves and salt to taste.
  • Mix well and cover with lid. Cook for 7-8 minutes or more while tossing it regularly in between. Tomatoes should be completely cooked, mushy and integrated in the end
  • Cool the mix and grind to make a paste of it. Take out green chilli and bay leaf before grinding, to keep the spices balanced
  • Add this paste to the pre marinated paneer mix (from stage 1)
  • Let the combined mix marinate for 1.5-2 hours more and absorb flavours. (Important note: This is cut short across most recipes where masalas and paneer yogurt mix is directly put to flame without stage 2 marination, but that leaves the curd grainy post cooking and flavours don’t blend in well. So don’t miss it please!)

Rice preparation: (do this while paneer marinates)

  • Soak 1 and 1/4 cups of rice for 30 min atleast
  • In a pan, take a tbsp of ghee. Add 1 clove, 2 black peppers, a small stick of cinnamon, 1 small cardamom, 1 star anise, 1 bay leaf. Roast till they turn slightly aromatic
  • Add 6 cups of water and let it come to a boil.
  • Add presoaked rice to and boil for 2-3 minutes on high flame
  • After 2-3 minutes, cook on low flame till rice is 80% ready. Rice not to be fully cooked
  • Rinse water and spread the semi cooked rice in a big plate and let it cool

Final assembly:

  • Heat a non stick pan slightly and spread 1 tbsp of ghee evenly across
  • On this, lay down the marinated mix (take out green chillis for less spicy biryani)
  • Now spread the layer of semi-cooked rice on it
  • Spread 1/4th small cup milk with saffron dissolved in it (for the aroma). Add 1/4-1/2 cup water depending on how dry the marinated paneer mix is at bottom of the pan
  • Pour 1-2 tbsp of ghee on top of rice. Spread finely chopped mint and coriander leaves on top. Add a layer of fried onions and some roasted cashewnuts
  • Ideally use dough to seal the lid of the pan (we used a thick kitchen towel double folded for practical reason) and cook in dum for 15 minutes on low flame. Alternatively, cover with lid and put weight on it, objective here is to avoid the steam and aroma to escape
  • Last check is for rice to be cooked before serving

Raita: (do this while paneer marinates)

  • Take 200g curd, add half the amount of water to it and make a thin smooth paste by churning
  • Add 1/2 to 3/4 tbsp chaat masala, 1/4 tbsp roasted cumin, bit of finely chopped chillis, 2-3 tbsp chopped coriander and salt to taste. Add 1/2 onion and 1/2 tomato – chopped into small pieces
  • Let raita rest in the fridge for a couple of hours for all flavours to blend in well. Serve chilled with hot flavourful biryani

Enjoy!

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