Prawn Biryani

I love this! Biryani is one of my favourite Indian dishes. It’s a one stop shop of a meal – everything’s in the one pan! I’ve only ever eaten meat biryanis so I was very keen to try a seafood version. I must say, it works pretty fabulously. It’s a spicy dish, but not massively so feel free to tone down the heat by adding fewer chillies if you like. It may seem like a bit of an effort, but it’s actually quite a simple dish to prepare if you’re organised.

Prawn marinade:
500g prawns (shelled & deveined)
1 cup yoghurt
1 lime (juice of)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
salt & white pepper

For the spice mix:
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
5cm piece cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 dried red chillies
15 black peppercorns

For the Masala:
2 fresh red chillies (seeded)
1/2 cup fresh coriander (stems leaves)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

500g Basmati rice
4 medium onions (sliced thinly)
2 tomatoes (finely chopped)
30 saffron threads (soaked in 3 tablespoons warm milk)
fresh coriander (chopped)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil

To marinade the prawns:
Combine all the marinade ingredients together and add the prawns. Set aside.

To prepare the rice:
Cook the rice in plenty of boiling water as you would pasta until 2/3 done. Drain and set aside.

To make the spice mix:
In a dry frying pan, roast the spices until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Grind in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar until fine powder. Set aside.

To make the masala:
In a pestle & mortar, blend the chillies, coriander and mint until smooth and set aside.

To cook:
Preheat oven to 220ºC

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, cook 1/3 of the onions for 15-20 minutes over a moderate heat until the onions are slightly charred and crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

In the same oil, fry the remaining onion until soft and golden then add the tomatoes and fry for 4 minutes until pastelike. Add the spice mix and the masala and 3 tablespoons water and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the prawns and cook for 2-3 minute only until they just start to cook and the liquid bubbles. Remove from the heat.

lightly oil a large ovenproof pan then place 1/2 of the rice in one layer. Spoon over the prawns into one layer then top with the remaining rice. Sprinkle over the fried onions and saffron in milk and a little more fresh coriander. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes then rest for 10 with the lid on.

Serve hot on its own with Indian condiments like tamarind pulp, spicy tomato kechap or coriander raita.

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