Green masala prawn biryani


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Breathing in the salty, balmy sea breeze of the Arabian Sea is a memory I never forget - growing up in Karachi with lazy, hot Sundays by the beach, nothing came as close to comfort food as this Green masala prawn biryani - a celebration of fresh seafood, coriander leaves, chillis and mint infused with bay leaves, cardamom and carom seeds - nothing quite like eating fragrant prawn biryani by the seaside.

One who had never lived in Pakistan would rarely associates seaside picnics with Pakistan, but growing up in Karachi, the main port city, our beaches were alive with families at sunset enjoying fragrant seafood biryani or spicy fried fish. One of the most exciting outings in Karachi is that of ‘Crabbing’. You can hire a sailboat at the port for less than £5, with a skipper-cum-chef on board – you are taken outside the main port to areas where you can catch an abundance of prawns and crabs.

Once you gather your bounty, you're whipped up a spicy crab curry, red chilli and salt ‘Lolipops’ a crab claw dish accompanied with hot potato stir fry potatoes and naan bread. Sometimes we were treated with a prawn biryani, and this recipe is based on something I once had on one of these crabbing trips. Cooked in a green masala made of coriander, mint and green chilli plus the addition of carom seeds (Ajwain) this is a delectable dish that is infused with a aroma of the sea and the essence of Pakistani cooking - a celebration of fresh ingredients and a balance of flavours.




Biryani base

Whole garam masala

Green masala

To begin, deep-fry the sliced red onion until browned
In a large saucepan on a medium heat, add a little of the remaining oil left over from deep-frying the red onions. Add all of the whole garam masalas until they pop and add half of the fried onions. Cook for a few seconds
Pour in the green masala ingredients and cook for about 5 minutes until the oil rises to the top. Add the yoghurt, cook again until the oil rises and add a few splashes of water if it dries up. Add the prawns to the curry sauce and cook for no longer than 1 minute. Add ajwain, red chilli powder, fennel seeds and salt at this point
In another saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, add half of the par-boiled rice to create an even layer, pour over all of the prawns and curry and layer the remaining rice on top
Now pour the saffron over the top layer of rice, poke mint leaves and lemon into the rice and cover the pan with foil. Place the lid firmly on top to create a seal. Turn heat to very low and allow to cook under its own steam for no more than 15 minutes
Once ready, the rice should be steaming. Take off heat, stir gently with a fork and serve immediately. This dish is great eaten with cucumber and cumin raita
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