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Apricot chicken biryani

Apricot chicken may sound retro, but it still tastes great in this take on a classic biryani.

By Emma Knowles
  • 35 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 15 mins cooking plus overnight marinating
  • Serves 4 - 6
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Apricot chicken biryani
Apricot chicken might sound a bit '70s, but it doesn't just belong on a retro dinner table - it works beautifully in this take on biryani. Crisp fried onion is a classic biryani topping; for a shortcut opt for shop-bought fried shallots instead. We've used slightly underripe fruit for a tart finish and firmer texture. Begin this recipe a day ahead to marinate the chicken.


  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 150 ml vegetable oil
  • 2½ tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp each black peppercorns, cumin seeds and coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp each ground turmeric and ground chilli
  • ¼ tsp each ground cloves, ground cinnamon and finely grated nutmeg
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 500 gm thick natural yoghurt
  • ½ cup each finely chopped mint and coriander, plus leaves to serve
  • 1½ tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 long green chillies, thinly sliced, plus extra to serve
  • 4 chicken Marylands, halved through the joint
  • 40 gm dried apricots, softened in hot water for 15 minutes, drained
  • 6 fresh, slightly underripe apricots, halved, plus extra wedges (optional), to serve
  • 400 gm basmati rice
  • 50 gm butter, diced
  • 90 ml milk
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads
  • Fried onion or fried shallots, chopped pistachio nuts and lime cheeks, to serve


  • 1
    Fry onion in 120ml oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden (6-8 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and cool. Dry-roast spices and bay leaf over medium heat, then pound to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Add to onion along with yoghurt, herbs, ginger, garlic, chilli and 2 tsp sea salt and mix well. Add chicken, stir to coat, cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
  • 2
    Spread chicken mixture in a heavy-based casserole with a tight-fitting lid and tuck dried and fresh apricots in between chicken pieces. Combine rice, 20gm butter, remaining oil and enough water to cover by 2cm in a saucepan, season generously and bring to the boil. Drain and spread rice over chicken.
  • 3
    Bring milk, saffron and remaining butter to a simmer in a saucepan, then pour the mixture over rice, cover casserole with foil, then place the lid on. Cook over low heat for 50 minutes, then, without uncovering, stand for 15 minutes. Serve hot scattered with extra apricot wedges, herbs and green chilli, and fried onion, pistachio nuts and lime cheeks.