Pheasant biryani

Pheasant biryani

Mark Hix On Baking
Jason Lowe

This is not the kind of biryani you'll find in your average curry house, which is unfortunate because a well-made biryani has a lot going for it. This makes an impressive dinner party dish if you are putting on an Indian spread – lift the lid off at the table to reveal the fluffy rice and saffron and the fragrant spices underneath. I’ve noticed pheasant thighs becoming more readily available in supermarkets and good butchers, but if you are struggling to find them you could always use chicken thighs, lamb, mutton or even venison instead.


Quantity Ingredient
12 pheasant thighs, boned and skinned
60g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 small, green medium-heat chillies, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
a good pinch curry leaves
12-15 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
2 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped
500g basmati rice
200g ghee
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
250ml thick natural yoghurt
a good pinch saffron strands, soaked in 2 tablespoons hot milk

For the sealing dough

Quantity Ingredient
150g wholewheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
100-120ml water


  1. Mix the pheasant thighs together with the ginger, garlic, garam masala, chilli powder, turmeric, chillies, cumin, curry leaves, cardamom and coriander in a stainless-steel or non-reactive bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for 3–4 hours.
  2. Rinse the rice a couple of times in cold water to remove excess starch, then drain in a sieve. Heat the ghee in a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the onions and fry for about 10 minutes, stirring, until golden brown. Drain in a sieve over a bowl to reserve the ghee.
  3. Remove the pheasant from the marinade (reserving it for later). Return three-quarters of the ghee to the pan, add the pheasant a few pieces at a time and fry, turning, until lightly browned on all sides. Transfer to an oven-proof serving dish with a lid, add the yoghurt, browned onions and remaining marinade and cook on a low heat for 40–50 minutes, until the pheasant is tender. Remove from the heat.
  4. Cook the rice in plenty of boiling salted water for 5 minutes, drain well, then spread over the meat. Spoon over the remaining ghee and the saffron-infused milk. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  5. Mix the flour and salt with enough water to form a smooth, elastic dough. Roll the dough with your hands into a sausage shape long enough to fit around the cooking dish. Press the dough around the dish edge and press the lid lightly onto the dough. Put the pot over a high heat for a few minutes to bring the contents to the boil before transferring to the oven for 40 minutes. Break the dough seal to serve.
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