Chicken Biriyani - the Taj Mahal of Indian cooking
Firstly I am not a great Indian chef by any means but I have spent some time in both Dehli and Southern india, specifically Goa, and I love love love the food. The mystery of the aromas, flavours and spices has always intrigued me so I sought out a recipe for one of my favourite Indian dishes, Chicken Biriyani. It turned out far better than I expected given I had no idea what I was doing. At the start it was like arriving at the Delhi airport at midnight but once I got things moving it was that sort of chef-like pleasure of lots of pots bubbling but with plenty of time to clean up as I went. Anyway, here you go, enjoy x.
300g natural yoghurt
6 garlic cloves - finely chopped
10cm ginger- peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 long green chillies - finely chopped
2 tsp salt flakes
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
700g chicken thigh fillets, cut in half
1 tbsp rosewater(in the cake decorating aisle in the supermarket - who knew?!)
1 pinch saffron threads
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamom
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
200ml olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
3 tomatoes - diced
500g basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained
30g butter, melted
1/2 a cup of pistachios
350g natural yoghurt
Small bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped
½ bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp castor sugar
1/2 tsp salt flakes
Juice of 1 lime
I started on Tuesday night. While dinner was cooking I whipped up the marinade, chopping the garlic, ginger and chillis, and stirred them together with the tumeric, salt, curry powder, coriander seeds and yoghurt until combined in a large bowl. I then chopped the chicken thighs in half and tossed in the marinade to thoroughly coat and popped it into the fridge overnight.
On Wednesday night after I got home from the pool (so about 7pm) I started putting this together, it did take the best part of an hour and a half, so next time I would do it on a night when I'm home earlier!
Start by soaking the rice. Then gently warm the milk, rosewater and saffron in a small saucepan and set aside to infuse.
Put the cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and bay leaves in a small bowl – ready to add to the hot pan all at once, so you are less likely to burn them.
Chop the onions and heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the onions for about 7 minutes until they are golden, lift the onions out of the oil and set aside. While the onions are cooking chop the tomatoes.
Add the spices to the pan and fry for one minute. Add the chicken with the residual marinade and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato and cook for about 20 minutes over medium to low heat stirring frequently. The sauce should be clinging to the chicken with a little extra still in the pan when it's done.
While the chicken is cooking chop the mint and the coriander and mix with the salt, sugar, lime juice and natural yoghurt to make the raita and pop it in the fridge.
When you have about 5 minutes to go with your chicken boil the rice in salted water for five minutes – it should be a little bit soft but still quite firm. Drain, stir with a fork to separate the grains but don't rinse or refresh.
Remove the chicken and sauce from the pan and reuse the pan to make the biriyani, you can use a different one but it seems crazy to make more washing up!
To construct the biriyani start by lining the base of a large saucepan with a third of the rice and a splash of melted butter. Top with half the chicken and sauce. Layer on another third of the rice, half the onions and half the saffron milk. Finish with the remaining chicken, followed by the remaining rice, butter, saffron milk and two tablespoons of boiling water, reserving the remaining onions to finish the biryani.
Place the pan over high heat and, watch it very carefully. Once you see the first puff of steam turn the heat to low, cover tightly and cook for 25 minutes. Then remove the lid from the pan and cook for 5 more minutes.
Scatter the pistachios and remaining onions over the cooked biryani and serve with the raita on the side.
I made a lot of dishes and cut more laps of the kitchen than a rickshaw driver in Dehli but it was worth it. I can't even describe the magic flavours... just another secret from India.