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I had planned on taking a Culinary Journey throughout the Indian sub-continent in alphebetical order. But I’m sure, with my modd swings and many food cravings, I will be bouncing about the country from end to end. Nonetheless, I will begin my journey in Andhra Pradesh, or most importantly Hyderabad.

When one talks of Hyderabad, the first image that comes to mind for most is the Nawabi culture and its influence on the city’s architecture. But talk to a foodie like me, and all we can picture is the succelent Biryani that Hyderabad is so famous for.

Paneer Biryani

Biryani is a one pot meal of rice, traditionally cooked with either Chicken, Lamb or a mix of vegetables blended and marinated in an array of various spices. The distinct aroma of the dish is set by the sprinkle of Saffron in the cooking process. While Biryani is cooked in as many ways as possible, the best flavour is derived from the authentic slow-cooking process.

Today, on our first stop in this deliciously mouth-watering adventure, I bring to you this finger-lickin’ dish. But let me warn you, once tried, this will remain a favourite in your recipe files.

Paneer Biryani


  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 500 gms of Paneer (cottage cheese), cut into 1-inch cubes and fried till lightly brown on all sides
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chopped green chillies
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
    • salt, to taste
    • a pinch of saffron, mixed in 2 tbsp warm water
    • 7-8 black peppercorns
    • 7-8 cloves
    • 2-3 bay leaves
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • Fresh coriander leaves for garnish
    • Sliced hard-boiled eggs for garnish (optional)


    1. Par-boil rice and set aside. (You can use about 2-3 cups of water to cook 2 cups of rice. Just make sure the rice is not fully cooked through, or else the Biryani will turn out mushy.)
    2. Heat oil and add cumin seeds. Add onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies, and fry on medium-low heat till they start to brown a bit. Add cinnamon, bay leaves, pepper corns and cloves, and cook for about 2 minutes.
    3. Add tomatoes, salt, chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and cumin powder. Continue to cook on medium heat till it begins to dry up and starts to give out oil. Add paneer pieces and cook for 5-6 minutes till it forms a thick, rich and dry gravy base.
    4. In a non-stick deep pan, put a layer of the paneer gravy, without the paneer. Now add a layer of rice, topped with a layer of paneer. Alternate layers of gravy, rice and paneer till everything is used up. Make sure that the top most layer is rice.
    5. Crush a pinch of saffron into 2 tablespoons of water and mix with your finger till the water catches colour. Pour the saffron water over the top layer of rice.
    6. Cover cook for 15 minutes on a low flame, without stirring. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and hard-boiled eggs (optional).

    Serve warm with Raita and Mint-Coriander Chutney.

    This is my contribution to Paz’s FMR, “For the Love of Rice”.

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