Baked Paneer Biryani or Baked Cottage Cheese Rice should be cooked as a rare indulgence, as it is a special one pot meal. The word Biryani is derived from the Persian word ‘Birian’. In Farsi, Birian means ‘Fried before Cooking’. In the past, rice was fried in Ghee (Clarified butter).In doing so the rice gets a nutty flavour and it burned the outside starch layer and gelatinizes it. After the rice is stir-fried, it was boiled in water with spices and cooked. The long grain basmati rice has a captivating aroma and when this is combined with the flavorful Indian spices, it makes a heady combo. What is a Biryani if it doesn’t entice the neighbours with its aroma?
This is not your run of the mill biryani recipe. It is a baked Paneer (cottage cheese) biryani with a blend of north and south Indian flavours coming together to create a delectable fusion of taste. Dry coconut mixed with coriander seeds, cumin, saunf or fennel, chillies combined to make a spicy paste for the bland paneer and the rice cooked in a bouquet of potent spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, star anise and peppercorns is sure to add piquancy to your palate.
Baked Paneer Biryani or Baked Cottage Cheese Rice
¼ kg Paneer
Ingredients for Paneer gravy
7 Red Chillies
½ Dry coconut
Roast all of the above and grind finely
2tbs Ginger/Garlic paste
7 Green Chillies
1 cup Curd
Make a paste of the above ingredients
2 large onions sliced finely
Salt to taste
Red food colour
Cut the Paneer into diamond-shaped pieces and put in hot water with a pinch of turmeric and red food colour. Keep aside.
Fry the onion slices in the ghee till they turn pink in colour. Then add the ground masala powder and the paste. When done add the paneer chunks. Add red food colour and salt to taste. Cook till the ghee separates. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
Ingredients for rice
½ kg Basmati rice
2 Bay leaves
1 1/2 glass milk
1 1/2 glass water
Heat a pan and add the ghee. Season it with the jeera, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves. Add the rice and salt to taste. Cook the rice in the milk and water. Keep aside.
Grease a pyrex dish, layer it with the rice and the paneer gravy. Then a layer of rice on top.
Garnish with fried onion rings, fried cashew and small paneer balls wrapped in silver vark or paper. I couldn’t get the silver paper so I added a little food colour to the paneer and made colourful orange-red balls. Serve hot Baked Paneer Biryani or Baked Cottage Cheese Rice with a raita of your choice.