Briyani-Breyani-Biryani…, however you want to spell it, is a traditional feast dish in the homes of Indian families. The accompaniments of Grapes Apple Mint Raita, Indian Spicy Mint and Coriander Chutney, Roasted eggplant with cummin and yoghurt and Red Lentil Tarka Dhal with turmeric and ginger make the serving of biryani a true foodie experience.
This family recipe includes lentils, boiled eggs, spicy potatoes along with the marinated chicken and golden fried onions which combine for a protein and carbohydrate packed pot of deliciousness. Definitely best kept for special occasions!
The chicken can be replaced with lamb for an equally wonderful result.
This recipe should be started the day before or early in the morning to allow the chicken to marinate in the yoghurt-tomato based marinade which tenderises and flavours the chicken. The time and effort required to prepare this delicious layered rice dish is definitely worth the effort and the leftovers are especially delicious the day after
I have organised this recipe with the ingredients and method for each different steps to make it easier to follow, as well as providing a shopping list at the end to help you get all the ingredients you’ll need.
Chicken and Marinade
1 large onion sliced
50g butter and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 stalks of curry leaves stripped from stalk
4 tablespoons of plain yoghurt
1 can of chopped tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic and equivalent amount of fresh ginger
1.5 teaspoons chilli powder
1.5 teaspoons of cummin powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
About 1.5 kg of chicken with or without bones – I use a mix e.g 3 chicken thigh cutlets with bone or 3 chicken drumsticks as well as 4 chicken thigh fillets cut into large chunks
Step 1: Marinate Chicken
Heat oil and butter in a non-stick frying pan, add curry leaves and fry until fragrant, then add onion and cook gently until brown and caramelised. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then pound the onions and curry leaves in a mortar and pestle to break up onion and create a rough paste.
In a separate bowl add the chicken, yoghurt, tomato, pounded onions, ginger and garlic, and rest of spices. Mix well and allow to marinate overnight or for at least 6 hours.
Step 2: Boil Eggs
Hard boil eggs, shell and halve
Step 3: Par-boil Rice
2.5 cups of basmati rice
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon salt
5-6 cups water
Add water to large pot and bring to boil with turmeric and salt
Add rice and cook for 8-10 minutes until par-boiled only – do not overcook at this stage or rice will go mushy when cooked in oven.
Drain rice in colander and set aside
Step 4: Par-cook Potatoes
2 large potatoes peeled and cut into medium size chunks
½ tspn chilli powder
½ tspn cummin powder
½ tspn turmeric powder
½ tspn salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Add potatoes to bowl with spices and 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil to help coat potatoes evenly in spices
Heat rest of oil in a non-stick frying pan, add potatoes in small batches if necessary, frying potatoes until the outside of the potatoes are fried and an outer “skin” is created. Potatoes will not be cooked through but remove from oil and drain on paper towel.
Step 5: Lentils
2 cans of brown lentils, drained
Step 6: Onions for topping
1 large onion cut into thin slices
50 g butter and 1 tablespoon oil
Fry onions gently in butter and oil until golden but not brown
Step 6: Cook Chicken
2 tablespoons oil
1.5 teaspoons of cummin seeds
5 green cardamon pods
2 sticks of cinnamon (preferably cinnamon bark)
1.5 cups of water/chicken stock
Heat oil in casserole dish or large heavy based pot, add cummin, cinnamon and cardarmom pods and fry for 1 minute until fragrant taking care not to burn spices
Add chicken mixture to pot and simmer, stirring so it does not stick to bottom until chicken is sealed
Add 1 cup of water, cover pot with lid and simmer slowly for 25 minutes checking that the mixture isn’t sticking – add a bit more water if necessary. You want a fairly dry resulting mixture as the base for the briyani.
Skim the excess oil off as you go.
After 25 minutes, remove chicken from heat and set aside.
Step 7: Assembly
Handful of Fresh torn Mint leaves
50 g butter
Handful of chopped Coriander
1 cup of water
Partially cooked potatoes
Hard boiled eggs
Heat oven to 150 degrees Celsius
In a large casserole or crock pot begin to assemble the layered briyani:
Place 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on the bottom of the casserole pan
Sprinkle bottom with 1-2 handfuls of lentils
Add the chicken mixture over the lentils using a slotted spoon to minimise the amount of liquid from the cooked chicken that this transferred to the briyani
Add a layer of lentils on top of the chicken, then a layer of rice (3/4 cup), sprinkle a few mint leaves over the rice
Place potatoes and eggs over this layer and sprinkle a few mint leaves over the potatoes and eggs
Place rest of rice over the potatoes and eggs and sprinkle with some water.
Cover the pot with foil to “to seal” the mixture then place lid on top of foil
Place in oven for 30 minutes, then push small knobs of butter into the rice at intervals, sprinkle with more water if rice on the top is drying out. You can check the progress of the cooking of the potatoes by inserting a long spoon vertically into mixture and carefully removing a sample of the dish. The rice and potatoes are the best to sample to determine how much longer you need to cook the briyani – I generally find it will require another 30 minutes at least.
After a total of one hour, check on the briyani again and add the reserved fried onions over the top of the rice and place back in oven for 10-15 minutes. Then remove the briyani from the oven and allow to rest for at least half and hour before serving.
To serve, dish out onto a platter ensuring there is a representation of all the different ingredients, sprinkle with chopped mint or coriander leaves.
Here’s the list of ingredients to use for the Durban Style Chicken Briyani recipe:
- 1.5 kg chicken – 3-4 thigh cutlets with bone and skin and 4 thigh fillets
- 2 cans brown lentils
- Tub of plain yoghurt
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 2.5 cups of Basmati rice
- 1-2 cups Chicken stock (or water)
- Vegetable Oil
- 150g butter
- 2 large onions
- 2 large potatoes
- 5 cloves garlic
- Fresh ginger
- Curry Leaves
- Chilli Powder
- Cumin Powder
- Turmeric Powder
- Cumin seeds
- Green Cardamom pods
- Cinnamon bark (available at Indian Grocers) or quills