First off let me explain the qualifier “Kolkata” I used for this Biryani’s recipe. Each region in India has it’s own version of Biryani, they vary so drastically that today Biryani can be defined only as “rice and meat cooked together”. There are loop holes even in that definition.
The predominant biryani gharana (style) in India is the fiery South Indian or Andhra style, the Royal Awadhi or Lucknowi style and the North-western (Punjabi) style. Kolkata or Bengali Biryani is a sub-variant of Lucknowi style and like people in Bengal is a bit sweeter :P.
Which is better is an argument that can only be settled with arms. However, I know of a lot of Bongs who lived in Hyderabad and totally disliked the local biryani and yearned for the bong/Awadhi variant. My husband is of those guys who made it a point to carry back Biryani from a Bong store in Bangalore each time he visited there (quiet often at one point of time).
Cook the pre soaked rice in enough water seasoned with salt, green cardamom, cinnamon stick and few cloves. Cook till the rice is almost done. Drain the rice on a colander and spread on a flat plate. Sprinkle very little sugar on it.
Take oil in a heavy bottom pan or in a pressure cooker and heat it. Add chopped onion and fry till they are brown. Add the meat pieces and sear them on high heat. It will help the meat pieces to retain their juices.
Add ginger, garlic paste and fry along with the meat pieces. Once the raw smell goes away add yogurt and Kashmiri chili powder. I love to add the potato halves at this stage followed by salt and sugar and fry them along with the meat and spices. Cook till the potatoes are 90% boiled. Remove the potatoes and keep them aside. Rest 10% cooking will be done in Dum.
Add water required to boil the the meat pieces and either pressure cook it or cook it covered for atleast 40 mins.
Once done remove the meat pieces from the gravy and keep it handy for further use.
Strain the gravy and keep the strained juice. This is called Tar (there’s a picture of it in a glass cup in the ingredients section).
Now comes the assembly part of the biryani. Take a heavy bottom pan which you can heat on your stove top.
Grease the inner walls of the vessel with 1-2 tbsp. of ghee. Now start building up the layers. The thumb rule of layering biryani is the base and top layers should be made by rice.
This is the sequence I usually follow for my biryani. Rice layer followed by a layer of by meat, potato, saffron infused milk, 2-3 tbsp. of Tar. I finish this layer by sprinkling about 1 tsp. of biryani masala and a few drops of rose and kewra water. Use all your meat and rice to complete the layering. There should be 1/3rd space left in the pan once you finished layering. Cover the biryani pot tightly.
Now we are ready to put the biryani for Dum. Dum is basically slow cooking where the vessel doesn't come in direct contact of heat. I take water in a bigger vessel and place the biryani pot inside that as shown in the photograph on the right. Let the water boil and then lower the heat and allow it to cook for atleast 45 minutes. Turn off the heat. Let it stand for at least an hour before serving.
Kolkata mutton biryani is best enjoyed with chicken chap (oh that recipe will surely follow).