Fish with aromatic basmati rice


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook: 300 Classic Recipes from the Great Regions of India

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

By Mridula Baljekar

Published 2017

  • About

Madhya Pradesh does not have a distinct style of cooking of its own and many dishes are based on those of its neighbouring states. This popular recipe, Machchi Biryani, originated in Uttar Pradesh and has been adapted to suit local ingredients. It is essential to use firm white fish fillets in this dish.


  • large pinch of saffron threads, pounded
  • 30ml/2 tbsp hot milk 450g/1lb basmati rice
  • 675 g/lb firm white fish fillets, such as cod, pollock, monkfish or sea bream, skinned
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2.5 ml/½tsp chilli powder
  • 5 ml/1 tsp salt
  • 60 ml/4 tbsp sunflower oil or light olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2.5 cm/1 in fresh root ginger, grated, or 10ml/2 tsp ginger purée
  • 2 fresh green chillies, thinly sliced at an angle (deseeded if preferred)
  • 10 ml/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 5 ml/1 tsp ground fennel
  • 2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 115g/4 oz/¾ cup frozen peas
  • 2.5cm/1 in piece of cinnamon stick
  • 6 green cardamom pods, bruised
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • large pinch of salt
  • 15 ml/1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), to garnish


  1. Crumble the saffron into a small bowl. Pour over the hot milk and leave to soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

  2. Rinse the rice in a sieve (strainer) under cold running water, then transfer it to a bowl, cover with plenty of cold water and leave to soak for 20–30 minutes.

  3. Pat the fish dry with kitchen paper. Cut into 2.5cm/1in cubes and sprinkle with lemon juice, turmeric, chilli powder and half the salt. Rub in. Set aside for 10 minutes.

  4. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Pour 2 litres3/2 pints/8 cups of water into a large pan and bring to the boil.

  5. Heat half the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and brown the fish in batches. Remove and set aside.

  6. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onion over a medium heat until golden-brown, stirring frequently. Add the ginger, chillies, ground coriander and fennel. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add 30ml/2 tbsp water. Cook until the liquid has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and peas.

  7. Add 45ml/3 tbsp water, the remaining salt and the fried fish. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes to allow most of the liquid to evaporate. Remove from the heat. Cover.

  8. While the fish is cooking, add the cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and a large pinch of salt to the pan of boiling water. Drain the soaked rice, add to the pan and bring back to the boil. Cook uncovered for 6 minutes, then drain in a large sieve.

  9. In a casserole dish or Dutch oven large enough to hold the rice and fish together, spoon in just enough of the rice to cover the bottom, then dribble over some of the saffron (both milk and saffron threads).

  10. Place a layer of the fish mixture on top, and cover with another layer of rice and sprinkle over some more saffron. Continue to layer until you have used up all the fish, rice and saffron, ending with a layer of rice.

  11. Cover the dish tightly with a double piece of foil held in place by the casserole lid. Cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with coriander, then serve.

Per portion Energy 325kcal/1356kJ; Protein 34g; Carbohydrate 10g, of which sugars 6g; Fat 17g, of which saturates 2g; Cholesterol 78mg; Calcium 73mg; Fibre 2.7g; Sodium 313mg.