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    Jhingay ki biryani (prawn biryani)

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    Jhingay ki biryani (prawn biryani)

    By Asma Khan

    • Preparation time: 3 hours + soaking
    • Cooking time: 55 minutes
    • Total time: 3 hours 55 minutes

    Serves: 6-8


    700g basmati rice
    1 bay leaf
    4 green cardamom
    2 whole cloves
    5cm piece cinnamon stick
    1 tbsp ghee

    For the saffron layer
    100ml milk
    1 tsp saffron strands

    For the prawn layer
    4 tbsp vegetable oil
    275g onions, 100g thinly sliced, 175g puréed or finely chopped
    ½ tsp caster sugar
    4 tbsp ghee
    1 tbsp ginger paste
    1 tsp garlic paste
    ½ tsp ground turmeric
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp chilli powder
    1 tsp ground coriander
    3 small tomatoes, chopped
    500g raw king prawns, deveined


    1. Wash the rice in a bowl with cold water. Do not wash under running water, or it may stick. Wash gently, moving your hand in one direction to prevent breaking the delicate tips of the rice, which would then become glue-like as it cooks. Once the water runs clear, soak the rice in cold water for at least 1 hour (preferably for 3 hours).

    2. For the saffron layer, warm the milk until tepid, then add the saffron strands and set aside to infuse.

    3. For the prawn layer, warm the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. To check it is warm enough, take 1 slice of onion and dip one edge in the oil – it should immediately start to sizzle. If not, wait a few minutes before adding the sliced onions, then sprinkle the sugar over the top. While the onions fry, get a plate and slotted spoon ready to remove them when they brown. It may take 15-20 minutes to caramelise the onions. As they take on a golden-brown appearance, keep stirring to ensure they are evenly fried. Remove from the heat. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the oil behind in the pan. Separate and spread the onions on the plate with a fork so they cool and become crisp.

    4. Return the pan to a medium heat and add the ghee, followed by the puréed onions, ginger and garlic. Stir for 2-3 minutes then add the ground turmeric, cumin, chilli and coriander. Stir for 1 minute, then add the chopped tomatoes and 1 tsp salt. Add 2.5cm water and let the tomatoes cook down. As the liquid reduces and thickens, wait until you can see oil at the edges of the tomato mixture before adding the prawns and cooking over a high heat for 2-5 minutes, stirring to ensure each one is cooked through and opaque. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside, uncovered. There should be a thick sauce around the prawns.

    5. Fill a large saucepan to ¾ of its depth with boiling water. Drain the rice that was soaking and add to the boiling water with 3 tsp salt, the bay leaf, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Cook the rice for 5-6 minutes, or until half cooked. This is critical as it will go through another cooking process. To test, carefully remove one grain of rice from the boiling water and press between your fingers. There should be a hard inner core in the grain and the outside should be soft. At this stage, drain in a colander, then spread the rice out on a couple of large plates or platters to stop the cooking process.

    6. Assemble the biryani in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish with a well-fitting lid. Add ½ the rice, then ½ tsp of ghee and ½ the saffron milk on top. Stir gently to ensure the ghee and milk spread evenly. Add the prawn mixture, including any sauce on top of the rice. Sprinkle ¼ of the caramelised onions on top of the prawn layer, followed by the remaining rice. Add the remaining saffron milk on the rice layer and the remaining ghee. Sprinkle another ¼ of the caramelised onions on top.

    7. Place over a high heat until you can see steam coming through the surface from more than one area. Cover tightly with the lid and reduce the heat to low. Remove from the heat after 15 minutes, set aside for 10 minutes then remove the lid and gently mix the layers. Garnish with the remaining caramelised onions and serve immediately.

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