Sometimes I need a meaty rice pullao – fragrant, warming, filling and full of meaty comfortness. A yakhni pullao delivers. A pullao infused with flavours of garam masala, caramelized onions and with either chicken or mutton. It’s cooked in it’s own stock or “Yakhni” as it is known in Urdu. This can make it tricky, as people usually either land up with a mushy rice dish or an undercooked one. This perfection comes with practice, yes but also but constant vigilance while it’s cooking. It’s not as hard as it sounds and soon you will get the hang of it. This can be a complete dish eaten with just a simple or spicy raita.
My mother used to make this on cold days and warm days alike. The aroma of the onions caramelizing and the garam masalas cooking adds to a much needed comfort that this dish caters for. The house will smell beautifully inviting and fragrant for hours. Simple as this dish is, it brings back feelings of safety and warmth of home, my Nanni Mummy’s soft hugs, my Mummy’s warm bed and most of all lazy days of my childhood.
Whole garam masalas consisting of:
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 medium cinnamon stick
1 tsp aniseed (if using mutton, substitute the aniseed with 1 star anise)
1 tsp cloves
1 black large cardamon
3-4 green cardamom
2-4 medium onions, chopped into half rings
1 heaped tbsp ginger and garlic paste
1 kg whole skinless chicken, cut into 12 pieces (ask butcher to cut the chicken into curry pieces)
1 1/2 cup of whipped natural yogurt
1 1/2 cups of basmati rice, washed and rinsed then soaked for 30 minutes before cooking
salt to taste
1 green chilli (optional)
Corn oil to cook
1-2 cups of water
1. Heat about 2-3 tbsp of oil in a saucepan over medium heat and once the oil is hot pop in the garam masalas and allow to fry until you can smell their aroma (do not allow to burn!). Now add the onion half rings and fry on medium low heat until caramelized and brown – this is important as these add sweetness to the rice and create the flavour for the yakhni (stock for the rice to cook in).
2. Once the onions are brown add the ginger and garlic paste and cook until the raw garlic smell escapes. Do not let this burn either. Now add the yoghurt and fry until the yoghurt dries up a bit.
3. Add the chicken and fry a bit until sealed and then drain rice and add and fry for a couple of minutes. Now add enough water to just about cover the rice and chicken and turn the heat low. Cover and cook in “dam”, under steam for about 10-15 minutes until the rice and just cooked. The liquid should be completely absorbed. Fluff up the rice in between cooking so as to avoid the rice from stick under the pan and try to use a fork as this will cause minimal damage to the grains of rice (which can break if you use a big spoon etc).
4. Once ready, serve with a lovely fresh raita and enjoy!