This Paneer Biryani with Makhani gravy is a unique twist on a vegetarian biryani that combines my love for paneer makhani and biryani! It's got layers of paneer makhani, fragrant basmati rice, mint, coriander and fried onions and every bite is super tasty.
Wrap the whole spices (bay leaf, cardamom, cloves, pepper) in a cheesecloth or muslin to make a bouquet garni.
In a large pan or kadhai, heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil. Add onion, kashmiri red chillies, tomatoes and ginger garlic paste and saute for 2-3 minutes
Next add cashews, chilli powder, poppy seeds, turmeric powder, water and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the muslin cloth with the whole spices and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Remove the muslin cloth and keep it aside. Add kasuri methi, garam masala and ketchup and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool.
Once cooled down, transfer to a blender and blend to a smooth consistency. Set aside.
Bring water to a roaring boil in a large stockpot. Add bay leaf, salt and soaked basmati rice. Add ghee and mix to combine.
Cook for 7 minutes or until the rice is 85% cooked. Drain the water once done and keep the rice aside for later.
Add the prepared gravy to a large heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. Allow it to simmer and add the paneer cubes. Stir to combine and allow it to cook for 1 minute.
Sprinkle mint, coriander leaves and fried onions. Now add parboiled rice and level it. Drizzle ghee on the top. Place a small cup in the centre and place a piece of hot coal inside it. Add a spoon of ghee or oil. Once you see smoke come out, tightly cover it immediately.
Cook on a low flame for 15 minutes. If you don't have a heavy bottomed pot, keep your pot on a tava or skillet with the flame on. This prevents the bottom from burning. Once 15 minutes are up, turn off the flame and rest for 10 minutes.
Finally remove the coal and sprinkle the remaining fried onions on top, lightly mix and serve hot.
While buying basmati rice, make sure you buy rice that’s labelled basmati and not just long grain rice. Basmati Rice is fragrant and has slightly thinner grains than long grain rice. Real basmati rice is what gives biryani its distinct flavor and taste.
Paneer: If you'd like to try and make paneer at home, you can check out this recipe. If you are using store bought paneer, submerge the packet in hot water for 10 minutes before using. This will soften the paneer.
Tomatoes: Roma tomatoes work best for paneer butter masala because they are not as sour as the local varieties. Substitute fresh tomatoes with a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes. Or use 1 ½ cups Tomato Puree or Tomato Passata.
Garam Masala: I use homemade garam masala, but you can substitute it with any store bought garam masala. Please note that garam masala is different from curry powder
Butter: I love adding butter to this dish, but you can substitute it with ghee
Sweetness from Ketchup: I think a really mild sweetness (almost negligible) in butter paneer is actually nice and it balances the sourness from tomatoes. But feel free to reduce or skip the ketchup based on what you like.
Kashmiri Red Chilli: Use this variety to get that dark red colour in the gravy. Red chilli varieties like Byadgi and Guntur do not give the same colour and will be spicier
In the last step of layering and cooking the biryani, all the ingredients are par cooked.
Cooking the biryani on a low flame for 15 minutes, steams and cooks everything to doneness. Its also important to let it rest because the rice continues to cook to perfection in the residual heat
If you don’t have a heavy bottomed pot, and are using a regular pot, you can place it on a tava (or flat griddle) and then place it on the stove on a medium flame to avoid burning the chicken. The tava or griddle creates a degree of separation between the flame and the pot and provides the perfect heat source.