Biryani: A spicy one-pot wonder and store-cupboard favourite

A south Indian dish from the royal kitchens of the Mughal empire

One-pot wonder biryani

One-pot wonder biryani

 

Chicken biryani is one of those delicious one-pot, full-flavoured dishes that the whole family will enjoy. Although biryanis are more traditionally made with mutton or chicken, I do love one made with any vegetables that are in the fridge from peas, peppers and tomatoes to carrots and potatoes. It’s a great way to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet. Everything is cooked in one pot so the warming spices permeate each forkful. 

It’s a real store-cupboard supper, based on rice and spices. I’ve added chicken to this one as it’s the most popular with my family, with a nice mix of protein and carbohydrates making it a complete meal. I’ve also cooked a vegetable version with toasted almonds, and cashews or paneer to add texture and further nutrients, but the chicken is a firm favourite. 

The grains of basmati rice should be fluffy and not stick together. Biryani is a dish where soaking the rice first is worth the effort. Garlic, ginger and green chilli usually form the base for a biryani, but I’ve omitted the chilli here to encourage younger family members to eat it. Add a little to your own, or serve your favourite chilli sides on the table for adding as you eat. 

Pratibha Karan, author of the book Biryani, states that biryani is of south Indian origin, derived from pilaf varieties brought to the Indian subcontinent by Arab traders. Pulao was an army dish in medieval India. Unable to cook elaborate meals, one-pot dishes would be prepared where rice was cooked with any available meat. Royal kitchens of the Mughal empire then mixed native spiced rice dishes with the Persian pilaf to give us what we now know as biryani.

I use the garam masala mix from Green Saffron. It’s fresh, aromatic and pungent. I buy it through my weekly Neighbourfood shop. Cuskinny in Cobh is my local Neighbourfood market and has more than 1,000 products now, having only started a few months back.

It’s a real treat to be able to order online and refill my empty fridge with the click of a button. So far, the locally grown vegetables have been amazing and we’ve really loved the honey, breads and fish. It also gives me access to free-range chicken from East Ferry Farm and outdoor-reared pork from Woodside Farm. This is a shopping experience that will continue to thrive long after lockdown is a distant memory.  

CHICKEN BIRYANI

Serves four to six

Ingredients

For the marinade:

3 free-range chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces 

1tbsp garam masala

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1tsp grated ginger

4tbsp yogurt

Juice of ½ lemon

For the rice:

500g basmati rice, soak in water for 30 mins

25g butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

2tbsp garam masala

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

900ml of stock or water

½tsp turmeric or 1 pinch saffron threads, dissolved in 100ml water

Small bunch fresh coriander and mint, chopped

Method

1 Mix the chicken with the marinade ingredients and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or overnight. 

2 Meanwhile drain the rice after soaking it.

3 Melt the butter in a pan and fry the onion till it begins to colour. Add the garam masala, bay, star anise and cinnamon. Season with salt. Stir to coat well. Add the chicken and cook for a few minutes

4 Scatter over half of the chopped herbs and add a layer of rice, and gently pour over the stock along with half a teaspoon of salt. Bring almost to a boil then place the lid on and simmer on the hob for 10 minutes.

5 Lift the lid quickly and drizzle over the 100ml turmeric- or saffron-infused water. Turn off the heat and leave to sit for another 10 minutes before serving with plenty of the chopped mint and coriander on top.

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