Wednesday Wisdom: How To Make Mutton Yakhni Pulao
I do a weekly reposting on Fridays as “Friday Flashbacks” which goes only to the blog’s Facebook page and Instagram story. There is a method to my madness and these throwbacks have a purpose or relevance or a hint as what is coming up next and this Friday, Chicken Yakhni Pulao (Chicken Pilaf) was reposted, keeping Eid Ul Adha and this post in mind. Yakhni pulao is traditionally uses mutton which can be swapped for beef or chicken as well, although cooking time and technique will get altered according to the type of meat. All necessary details about this fabulously aromatic and rich dish has already been shared in Yakhni Pulao post which has chicken and it would be helpful if you give it a read first to understand how to make yakhni/stock and which garam masala to add along with guidelines to seasoning. With Eid Ul Adha approaching I decided to do a pictorial post on Mutton Pulao for Wednesday Wisdom … Here it goes…
Making Stock/Yakhni: Pulao is all about aroma and richness for which perfectly extracted stock is mandatory. This step is surprisingly easy and a little tweak in proportions won’t matter much. For pulao, rice and meat should be equal in weight. Please note that both ingredients should be measured by weight and not by volume. For 1 kg mutton there is 1 kg of rice. That is the rule of the thumb. Make sure there is enough meat and not just bones. Everyone has their own personal preferences about meat cut for pulao. It could be ribs or neck or even leg. There should be some fat on the meat to add richness. Put washed and cleaned meat in a big pot and add salt, whole garam spices, onion, ginger and garlic. Add twice as much as water, like for 1 kg meat, add 2 kg/liters of water. Cooking time can be anywhere from 30-50 minutes, depending on the meat cut. I prefer letting everything hang around over medium low flame to extract maximum flavor.
Straining the Stock: Once meat is all nice and tender. meat is removed from the stock with a slotted spoon and broth is strained. I prefer discarding all whole garam masalas and mushy onions, ginger and garlic as they have served their purpose during cooking duration. It is a good idea to measure the stock.
Browning/Caramelizing Onion: This step is crucial as it determines the color and appearance of pulao. Some prefer to only saute onion which keeps pulao white and some, including myself, like to deepen the the color plus it adds depth to flavor as well.
Roasting Mutton: Once onion is brown we add cooked mutton pieces to the pot and roast them. This step enhances the flavor and keeps mutton from falling apart when cooked further with rice. It is a good idea to add some ginger garlic paste at this point to make mutton more fragrant.
Bringing Stock to a Boil: After browning mutton evenly, pour in measured stock. I like to add some white cumin seeds and slightly crushed coriander seeds with a dash of red chilli powder and some garam masala powder along with a big green chilli. Do not forget to soak the rice. Again, the quantity and quality of rice will dictate the amount of stock. You can add more water to the yakhni/stock if required. I use basmati rice and in my opinion this liquid should be a little less than double the amount of rice. (Usually the instructions on the rice packaging suggests to keep 1:2 ratio of rice and water, 1 kg rice : 2 kg water) For 1 kg of rice, I would keep yakhni/stock around 1.75 kg or lets say for 4 cups of rice about 7.25 cups of broth because there will be some water in the soaked rice plus pulao will be put on simmer too.
Adding Rice: When yakhni/stock comes to a rapid boil, drain water from soaked rice and add them to the pot. Give a gentle stir to spread evenly. Let cook over medium flame without covering the pot with a lid. Do not be tempted to keep stirring as it will break the rice. About 2-3 gentle stirs will be more than enough during the cooking duration.
Putting on Simmer: When almost all the moisture is absorbed and rice are about 90% cooked, it is time to put it on simmer. Bring the flame down to lowest and place a simmer plate or tawa over the flame. Cover the pot with lid and place the pot on the simmer plate/tawa. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Then switch the flame off but do not take the lid off the pot for another 10 minutes.
To Serve: After simmer and taking the lid off, give a good stir to the pulao with a wide spoon to separate the rice from clumping together. Using a wide spoon will ensure minimum rice breakage. Serve hot with salad/raita.