Chicken biryani

Chicken biryani

Spice Kitchen
Jana Liebenstein

This is a special rice and chicken dish, and a complete meal in itself – a one-dish entertainer for a casual evening, or for lunch on the veranda. Any alfresco setting will do! My memory takes me back to warm, moonlit nights and picnics in lush tropical gardens shadowed by mysterious ruins of civilisations long gone. This biryani recipe is different from other versions that use lamb and vegetables. Its origins are in Persia, and when you prepare it, the flavour and fragrance will fill the whole room. The only accompaniment it needs is some Dahi Chutney.


Quantity Ingredient
75g Fried onions
large handful coriander leaves, chopped
large handful mint leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon Saffron infusion
1 teaspoon turmeric
hard-boiled eggs, to garnish
sultanas, to garnish
unsalted roasted cashew nuts, slivered almonds, shelled pistachio nuts or pine nuts, to garnish


Quantity Ingredient
200g basmati rice or other long-grain rice, washed and drained
4 bay leaves
4 black peppercorns
4 cloves
2 green cardamom pods
2.5cm cinnamon stick


Quantity Ingredient
1 x 1kg chicken
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2 bay leaves
3 black peppercorns
3 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
2.5cm cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon whole mace
2 green chillies
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Ginger paste
1 tablespoon Garlic paste
125g plain yoghurt
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
1/2-1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Dahi chutney, to serve


  1. To prepare the rice, put it in a large heavy-based saucepan with the bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon and 1 litre water. Bring to a boil, then cook uncovered over a high heat for 15 minutes, or until parboiled. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, to prepare the chicken, joint or cut it into eight serving pieces with a very sharp knife or a cleaver. To do this, remove the legs from the breast section and divide each leg into two pieces – the thigh and the drumstick. Halve the breast section lengthwise along the breastbone, then cut crosswise in half again.
  3. Continue preparing the chicken. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, mace and green chillies, and cook, stirring continuously, for about 1 minute, or until the spices release their aroma. Stir in the onion and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir in the ginger and garlic pastes and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, yoghurt, tomato and salt and stir to mix through. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  5. In a casserole dish, arrange layers of the rice, chicken, fried onions, coriander and mint, finishing with a top layer of the rice. Mix together the saffron infusion and turmeric in a small bowl, then carefully pour it into one corner of the dish. Cover and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
  6. Garnish with the hard-boiled eggs, sultanas and nuts and serve.
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