3 cups long grain fragrant basmati rice (good fragrance will balance the smell of sea fish, if using, which some people find offensive)
Whole spices for using during the initial cooking of the rice (you can use whatever spices you have at hand like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, mace, etc.)
About 5 cups of warm water for cooking the rice
Few strands of saffron soaked in 1 tbsp cold milk
Finely chopped coriander and mint leaves
Deep fried onions (about 2 small onions crispy fried)
1-2 tbsp ghee as per preference (optional but recommended)
For the fish masala
600 gms boneless fish cut into 2 inch cubes (boneless is preferred though not mandatory; you can use any fish as said earlier; I used a beautiful white snapper fillet)
3 medium onions thinly sliced
2 tomatoes finely chopped
3-4 tbsp tomato puree (I prefer store bought which lends a better color)
1 big tbsp ginger garlic paste
2-3 tbsp coriander finely chopped
1/2 cup yogurt whipped
1 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2-3 green chillies chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder, non spicy
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
Oil as needed
1 tsp red chilli powder
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 cloves garlic minced
In a bowl, mix all ingredients listed under marination and add the fish cubes. Coat the fish evenly with the marinade. Cover and keep aside for a minimum of 1-2 hours and upto overnight.
Meanwhile, wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes. Then bring the water to a boil and add the soaked and drained rice, whole spices, and a bit of salt (I skipped) and cook till the rice is just 3/4th done. I cooked the rice in my electric cooker.
Now heat oil in a pan and fry the fish cubes little at a time just until slightly golden on high flame. They need not be properly cooked at this point but just firm enough to hold their shape in the biryani. Discard the marinade. Keep the fried fish cubes aside until further use.
In the same pan, add some more oil if required and heat. Now add the sliced onions and fry till golden. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till soft and mushy. You can cover and cook to expedite the process. Now add the puree and the spices and fry till oil starts appearing on the sides. Add the nicely whipped yogurt and continue frying till the water is absorbed and a thick gravy with oil coming out from the sides is formed. Now add the fried fish cubes and gently stir taking care not to break the fish. Check for seasoning and adjust. Add the coriander leaves and mix. Remove from heat.
Time for the final step. There are two ways of doing it. You can either do it on stove top or in the oven.
For stove top, take a deep bottomed non stick vessel (preferably) and apply a generous amount of oil or ghee at the bottom. One step further, you can also line the bottom with a layer of sliced potatoes. Now arrange one layer of the rice evenly followed by the fish masala reserving just about 4-5 tbsps for the top. Now sprinkle the finely chopped mint and coriander and some fried onions. Drizzle a little ghee. Top it up with the leftover rice and followed up with the left over fish masala in the center. If any rice is still left you can sprinkle on top of the fish masala. Garnish it some more fried onions, the soaked saffron, and mint and coriander and another tbsp of ghee. Cover the lid tightly and place the vessel on a tawa or griddle and cook on slow flame for 30 minutes.
Alternatively, you can arrange the layers as mentioned above in a oven proof dish and cook covered with aluminium foil at 180 degree celsius for 10-15 minutes. Make sure your oven is pre heated. You can also get the layers arranged and keep it ready and cook the final stage just 30-45 minutes prior to serving to enjoy steaming hot biryani. Serve it with some cucumber raita and enjoy!