Since the time I started Bawi Bride, every time someone finds out what I do, their eyes light up and they talk about precisely two things – Dhansak and Berry Pulao. While I wrote about the former early on and have likely so far served up almost 2000 litres of Dhansak, I stayed away from the ubiquitous Berry Pulao. In fact, until a month ago this dish didn’t even feature on our menu (Yes, Gasp!)
Search for a recipe of the Irani Berry Pulao on the internet and you will come up with countless articles of the famous Britannia. They are rumoured to be the ones who brought this Iranian dish to the notice of Mumbaikar’s when they put it on their menu more than 35 years ago. Apparently, such is the popularity of the dish that according to a Hindustan Times article a few years ago the owner, Boman Kohinoor has stated that “Even the American security forces won’t be able to decode the recipe”.
Now, while I have immense respect for what Mr. Kohinoor has done for Parsi food, I will be honest and state that nothing in the food world annoys me more than someone saying that their recipe is a ‘secret’.
All recipes are built on the foundation of another dish and by keeping a recipe secret you are doing it grave injustice. If you truly loved food, you would want people to enjoy what you made them even after you are not around. That means sharing the recipe. And, lets be honest, just because you can make your mom’s curry, does it mean you no longer like to have her version of it?
I know that caterers and food professionals globally may call me naive for saying this but I happily share all the recipes for the food I professionally make and it has never impacted me financially. If it does, I will be sure to come back here and admit I made a mistake.
For me, more than the recipe of the Berry Pulao, what was the bigger secret was where one could source the Zereshk Berries in Mumbai – Asiatic Stores in Crawford Market, Motilal Masala Stores if you pre-order with them and apparently also at the International Airport on Friday when the Iran Air plane lands (mind you, I haven’t tried the last option so if it work for you, please do let me know).
Anyways, many recipes you will find online will tell you that you can replace the Zereshk in the pulao with cranberries. In fact, this is what many restaurants serving the Pulao currently do to unsuspecting Berry Pulao lovers. In a pinch, you could indeed do this. But note that the Pulao will taste sweet and will be missing the sour tang of the Zereshk. Because, here’s the secret.
Without the berries, the Pulao is just a basic Parsi Pulao minus the potato and the egg and plus the fried onions. In fact, rumour has it that this Pulao originally came about because the inventor had some leftover mutton from a batch of of Sali Boti and some rice he didn’t know what to do with. So, he added in some kebabs and garnished it with these unique berries from Irani and voila, the Irani Berry Pulao was born. What genius!
Irani Berry Pulao
- 250 gram mutton mince
- 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
- 0.5 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 0.5 tsp garam masala powder
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 6 slices bread, small size
- 0.5 bunch of coriander
- 0.5 bunch of mint
- Oil for deep frying
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 3 tomatoes, boiled and pureed
- 4 tbsp oil
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 2 tbsp Bombay Biryani Masala (Shaan)
- 1 tsp Parsi dhana-jeera powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 500 gram boneless mutton
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 tbsp green chili and cumin paste
- Salt to taste
- 100 gram fried onions
- 100 gram zereshk berries
- 500 gram basmati rice
- 0.5 tsp saffron
- 2 tsp warm milk
For the Kebabs
- Soak the bread slices in some water and then drain out the moisture.
- Mix all the kebab ingredients together along with the bread slices and let the mixture marinate for an hour
- Form small coin sized kebabs and deep fry until they are golden brown
For the Mutton Masala
- Marinate the mutton in the ginger garlic and cumin-chilli-garlic paste along with some salt. Set aside for a few hours or preferably in the fridge overnight.
- In a pressure cooker heat up the oil. Add in the onions and fry until they go soft. Now add in the cinnamon stick, cloves, salt and all the dry spices and mix well.
- Once the aroma of the spices comes, add in the tomato puree as well as the mutton pieces. Mix everything well and just add a little bit of water to ensure the meat doesn't stick (about a cup).
- Seal the cooker and cook for 3 whistles and about 20 minutes on slow. Wait for the pressure to release by itself.
- If required, dry off any extra moisture from the mutton - you want to end up with a thick chunky gravy.
For the rice
- Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add in the rice and cook until it is 3/4 done. Strain out the water.
- Dry roast the saffron in a separate small pan and add it to the warm milk - stir to get a fragrant light yellow colour. Add this to the rice and lightly toss.
Assembling the Pulao
- In a vessel that is more wide than deep, add some oil at the bottom and some of the mutton gravy only.
- Top this with rice, then adding mutton, kebabs, fried onions and the zereshk berries.
- Repeat this to form atleast two layers and top the last layer of rice with more berries as well as finely chopped coriander.
- Seal the vessel with foil and then the lid and place the vessel on a hot tava. Allow the rice to cook for a further 15 - 20 mins on medium heat until it is completely done.
This post is part of my ongoing series on the blog, the A to Z of Parsi Food which has been curated in collaboration with Parsi food enthusiasts globally. For more interesting recipes follow the hashtag #AtoZChallenge mentioned below.