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Chicken biryani

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By Emma Knowles
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 15 mins cooking plus marinating, standing
  • Serves 4 - 6
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Chicken biryani
In this one-pot Indian classic, the rice soaks up all the spicy goodness and chicken juices. Use a heavy-based casserole to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Start 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
  • 2½ tsp each ground turmeric and ground chilli
  • ¼ tsp finely grated nutmeg
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon quill, broken into rough pieces
  • 2 long dried chillies, broken into rough pieces
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 500 gm thick natural yoghurt
  • ½ cup each finely chopped mint and coriander, plus extra coriander sprigs to serve
  • 1½ tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 chicken Marylands, halved through the joint
  • 400 gm basmati rice
  • 50 gm butter, diced
  • 70 ml milk
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads
  • To serve: fried shallots and lemon wedges


  • 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, chilli and bay leaf over medium heat, then pound with a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. Add to onion along with yoghurt, herbs, ginger, garlic and 2 tsp sea salt and mix well. Add chicken, stir to coat, cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
  • 2
    Spread chicken mixture in the base of a heavy-based casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Bring rice, 20gm butter, remaining oil and enough well-salted water to cover by 2cm to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Drain and spread over chicken.
  • 3
    Bring milk, saffron and remaining butter to the simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then pour over rice, cover with foil, then the lid. Cook over low heat until rice is fluffy and chicken is cooked through (50 minutes-1 hour). Stand for 15 minutes without removing the lid, then serve hot, scattered with fried shallots and coriander sprigs, and with lemon wedges to the side.


Drink Suggestion: Perfumed viognier. Drink suggestion by Max Allen