Behold, the Biryani Ice Cream!

By Madhulika Dash

Necessity, they say, is the mother of all inventions. The culinary world is no different.

Take the case of the Biryani Ice Cream. This little treat sold in Hyderabad began not as a need to have a newer flavour in place, but out of a guest’s interesting (read: strange and funny) order.

"It all began with a guest's request of having Biryani without the rice, but with all the flavours and bite," recalls Chef Amey Marathe (Corporate Chef, Ohri’s). Chef Marathe, then working at an Italian restaurant, took the challenge of presenting the dish in a totally different, unexplored manner.

To know more on gelatos and ice cream, Chef Marathe turned to the one queen who singlehandedly changed the way French dined and brought Italian cooks to the fore – Catherine de' Medici (wife of Henry II of France). Queen Medici, in fact, was credited for giving ice cream its regal status and rich exterior by not only making it a signature dish served at her wedding with Henry d’Orleans, but also an important course in the sit-down feasts she hosted for celebrations and political diplomacy.

And all this she could do because of one chef called Ruggeri from Florentine. A chicken seller's son, Ruggeri is considered by many as the creator of ice cream or frozen dessert, as it was called back in time.

It is said that Medici, who were the main family controlling commerce, would often organize competitions to discover unique and interesting dishes for their table. Legend has it that it was at one such competition that Ruggeri created the most unusual dish later called frozen dessert, and eventually ice cream.

Ruggeri, who was a part of the Queen’s culinary retinue, was so good with it, that Catherine once is said to have declared, “Anything, just about anything can be made into an ice cream.”

But was turning a well known dish such an easy task? Clearly not, confesses Chef Marathe who tried to create cheese-like consistency of each and failed miserable.

“You simply cannot mush everything,” says the Corporate Chef, who after several failed attempts zeroed on what was the essence of the biryani, the flavour profile (in other words: masala). The fact that most of our biryanis use curd at some point of the cooking and had the use of spices like cardamom, cinnamon and clove came `came as Chef Marathe's Eureka moment. “These are the same spices we use for infusions to create new flavours for icecream.”

For three months, the chef experimented to get the flavour right. “My goal was to get the flavours that one gets in a bite instead of each grain,” says Chef Marathe, who is now refining the recipe that can bring out the signature of different biryanis like the slight sourness of Hyderabadi Biryani, smokeyness of Dum Biryani and the heat of Mappila Biryani.

So how did he manage to get the flavours right? “With infused oil and gelatin. And keeping the other elements as they are. In this case for instance, it’s the caramalised onion shavings to get the whole palate feel of eating the real deal.”