Chicken Biryani

It’s the ultimate all-in-one-pot dinner. Words cannot describe how fabulous the biryani is. It’s quite possibly the jewel in India’s crown. Tender meat, beautifully spiced with fluffy, fragrant rice. All cooked together in one pan. The best I ever tasted was in the Keralan city of Ernakulam near Kochin. I’m told it was cooked by a famous Hyderbadi chef, which would make sense as this is where the dish originates. It was absolutely amazing for many reasons. The chicken was moist, packed full of flavour and the rice fluffy and separated. The restaurant was obviously famous for its chicken biryani as it was the only thing on the menu. It’s easy to see why it’s become one of the favourite Indian dishes around the World. Try this yourself – it’s actually a really simple dish to make at home despite looking rather involved and tricky. The key to this dish is getting the rice right. Make sure you buy good quality basmati – and make sure you soak it first. It’s essential!


1kg chicken pieces
1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon ginger (minced)
2 green chillies (roughly chopped)
5 cloves
5 cardamom pods
2 black cardamom pods
3 pieces mace
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 cinnamon stick (snapped in half)
½ cup fresh coriander (chopped)
½ cup fresh mint (chopped)
⅓ cup melted ghee (or vegetable oil)
3 cups natural yoghurt

Other Ingredients:
1 onion (thinly sliced)
1 1/2 cups basmati rice (soaked for 30 minutes in lukewarm water)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (chopped)
15-20 saffron threads
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt

Heat a frying pan with half the oil and fry the onion over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until dark medium brown and crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Mix the chicken with all the marinade ingredients. Stir in half the onions and set aside.

In a small bowl, pour 4 tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron and leave for 15 minutes.

Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil and add the remaining oil and the salt. Drain the rice of its soaking water then tip into the pan and cook until HALF cooked (about 5-6 minutes). Drain the rice again and set aside.

Tip the chicken into a large, deep pan and flatten out. Cover with the rice then scatter over the remaining onion. Sprinkle with the saffron water and coriander. Place a tight fitting lid on top and cook over a medium/high heat for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium/low and cook for a further 10 minutes. Reduce the heat again to very low and cook for a final 15-20 minutes. Do not stir the mix at any time. Remove from the heat completely and leave for 10 minutes before serving.

Either serve direct from the pan or portion onto plates or a platter. Serve with onion and chilli raita and/or some tamarind pulp and a hot and sour lime pickle.

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