Turkey Biryani/Vaankozhi biryani

Just like Turkey is special for Thanksgiving here in the US, turkey features as a special around Diwali back in my hometown. Not sure where they get the connection. But roadside shops will put up boards for ‘Vaankozhi briyani’ right around Diwali time. It was an item that was never made home, nor eaten from those roadside shops…but the idea that I could briyani from turkey owes mention of those little shops.

There are two things that you would observe when you make briyani with turkey. The first being that it doesn’t cook as quickly as chicken and I needed to cook it for 1 whistle in the pressure cooker before adding the rice. The next is the flavor. Now we all know briyani is a dish where the rice obtains the flavors from the spicy broth that the meat/poultry was cooked in(plus spices and veggies). Now when I cooked the turkey I knew it was so much more flavorful and richer than that of a chicken, because of the deep, rich color of the broth. My husband tasted it, and confirmed it. It is as rich as a goat/lamb briyani, sans the fat…because surprisingly turkey is a lean meat.

2 lbs turkey thigh/drumsticks
3 onions minced
15 – 20 green chillies minced
2 tomatoes minced
1 onion sliced very thin
5 cups basmati rice, soaked for 30 mins in warm water
1/4 cup ginger garlic paste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup canola oil
5 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
5 cardamom pods
1 mace
1 tbsp briyani masala
salt to taste

In a wide heavy bottomed vessel(I used my 7.5 litre pressure cooker) heat the oil. Wait until the oil becomes very very hot, and reaches a smoking point. Drop in half the thinly sliced onion and let it get golden brown. Drain with a slotted spoon and add the remaining. Don’t add them all at once, because it will lower the temperature of the oil and you wont get brown crispy onions. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on the onions and set aside.

Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, mace and bay leaves into the oil. Reduce the heat to medium high. Add the minced onion and green chillies. Fry until golden brown. Add the ginger garlic paste and tomatoes and fry until the oil seperates out. Add salt and the turkey pieces. Add the yogurt and the briyani masala. Add a couple of cups of water and cook for one whistle. Switch off and let steam release.

Add the soaked, drained rice and 5 more cups of water. Taste for seasoning. Add the cilantro and the mint leaves. Cook until almost all of the water is absorbed by the rice. Reduce heat to low and place the lid and the weight. Let it sit for 10 minutes and switch off stove. Let it rest for another 10 minutes before opening.

Avoid stirring the briyani too much to avoid breaking the rice. I find that using a rubber spatula(heat proof of course) helps here. When ready to serve, use a fork to fluff the rice. Spoon it from the bottom down(like you would a cake), this helps you get a even distribution of rice vs meat. Top the rice with the fried onions. Serve with raitha.

Verdict: Very easy to make and very flavorful too. I made this on a week night, and shared it with some of my friends too. DH enjoyed it so much. He’s been having briyani almost all week now. ūüôā

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