Saturday, November 29, 2008

Berry Pulao

Sometimes, I get this wild urge to eat something (no, no, this is not pregnancy - just the cravings of a total foodie). This time round, it was berry pulao. The thought of the soft fluffy rice, the succulent meat and the tart berries had been making my mouth water incessantly over the last few days and there was precious little I could do but continue drooling.

Because the only place I know of that serves berry pulao is Britannia restaurant in Ballard Estate in Mumbai.

Some restaurants go on to become landmarks in a city. Britannia restaurant , to me, is one such. While I was working in Mumbai, we used to go there regularly for long lunches on Friday afternoons, stuff ourselves thoroughly....and well, burp our way through the rest of the day. They serve many delicious Parsi dishes but their berry pulao (an Indianised version of the Iranian Zereshk Polow) is legendary.

I couldn't just sit and drool...I had to do something about it. And since no Mumbai trip is on the cards anytime soon, I decided to try making berry pulao at home.

The only hitch - the recipe is a closely guarded family secret and no amount of googling threw up any kind of result. I decided to improvise my own recipe.

The other hurdle - the key ingredient - the berries (dried barberries or - zereshk in persian) is not something I could find in Singapore, though believe me, I walked up and down the lanes and by-lanes of Arab Street and Little India in search of the berries. I substituted it with cranberries which look similar and have a lovely tart taste as well.

I used a mix and match of 3-4 different recipes and here's what I came up with...

Recipe for berry pulao:

1. Making the kebab:


300 gms chicken mince

for the marinade:

1 onion finely chopped, juice drained off
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp rose water
1.5 tsp anardana powder
1 tsp jeera powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 egg
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt to taste
saffron infused ghee (toast about 20 strands of saffron, crumble them, add a tbsp of water and a tsp of sugar and let it stand for about 15 mins. Then add 2 tbsp of melted ghee).


Mix all of the above together and let it marinate for atleast 6-8 hrs.
Shape into flat discs, or if you have skewers, shape as you would seekh kebabs. Drizzle some saffron infused ghee and grill till the chicken is cooked tender. ( I grilled mine in the microwave for 18 mins on the grill setting). Keep basting with the saffron ghee frequently - atleast 3 times.
Cut into bite sized pieces.

2. Making the chicken curry:


3 chicken thighs

for the marinade:

1 onion sliced and shallow fried till golden brown
1 tsp each ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1.5 tsp saffron water (10-15 strands of saffron toasted, crumbled and seeped in 1.5 tbsp water and 1/2 tsp sugar)
1 tbsp ground almonds
1 tsp rose water
4 tbsps yoghurt


Marinate the chicken in the above marinade for 6-8 hrs.
In a vessel, heat 1 tbsp oil . Brown the chicken for about 5 mins on high flame, then add the remaining marinade and about 1/2 a cup of water and cover and cook on low flame till the chicken is tender. It is important to cook the chicken with as little water as possible, and as the oil used is very less, you will have to keep an eye out to prevent any burning.
De-bone into large chunks and set aside.

Making the pulao:


1 cup rice, soaked in lukewarm salted water for about 4-5 hrs
3 tbsp dill, finely chopped (berry pulao doesn't use any dill, but I used it as I like the flavour it imparts)
3 tbsp cranberries
chicken kebab and chicken curry (cooked before)
2 tbsp onion, fried golden brown
1 tsp saffron water (same method as above)
2 tbsp oil
1.5 tbsp melted butter or ghee
2 tsp almond slivers, lightly roasted (optional, I skipped these)


Boil 2.5 cups of water with a tsp of salt. Drain and wash the soaked rice, add it to the boiling water and cook till it is just about done. Strain, rinse and drain the rice. Let it sit for about 5 mins.

Take about 5 tablespoons of the drained rice and mix some saffron water so that the rice turns a lovely yellow.

Bring 1/4 cup water and 2 to 3 tbs oil to boil in a large vessel. Spread 1/3 of the white rice and layer the chicken kebabs, the curry chicken chunks, half the dill, and some cranberries. Repeat the layers finishing with the reamaining white rice and all of the saffron rice. Top this with the fried onion, cranberries and almond slivers (if using).

Cover and steam for about 5 mins. Open the lid, poke some holes through the pulao and pour the melted butter. Cover and steam once again for about 15 mins on very low flame.

Open. Serve. Eat. Mmmmm......

This is my entry to the Rice Mela hosted by Cooking 4 all seasons.

(PS: I have actually written this post with a very heavy heart - here I am writing about a landmark restaurant in Mumbai when so many others have been subject to militant attack).

Update: I am also sending this to Original Recipes Round Up #6 hosted by Lore.


  1. Aquadaze, thats really some pulao you have here..:)..fabulous..and your other recipes are interesting too...keep going!

  2. Oh Srivalli...thanks! You are, I think, my first visitor. Thanks for your encouragement...I am so much in awe of prolific bloggers like yourself!

  3. Just visited the Brittania Restaurant and sampled the delicious Berry Pulao for the first time... Words are not enough to describe the flavour and taste that hits you from the very first bite.. Your recipie looks interesting, i'll ask my mum to try it out... Keep up the good work!

  4. good stuff.....

    An uncle of mine got some berries from his trip to Iran. Dried stuff. Had to soak them in water for a good 30 mins.....yup, in the end the zeresh pulav jus turned out awesome!!!

  5. Hi Aqua...visiting your space for the first time today and must say I love what I have some rare recipes, and I must come back to note down the details of some of the recipes I have ear marked. I'm in Mumbai for the last 10 yrs, and till now I haven't been able to make it to Britannia Restaurant...thanks for the Berry Pulao, recipe, I'm sure it must be your star post or something...I myself know atleast 50 people who would be ready to pay for the recipe of the famous Berry Pulao:)Happy to follow you !

  6. Hi Thank you so much for your recipie.. can you pleaase tell me what is it that we need to do differently for EGG berry pulao??


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