Chicken Biryani

Most biryanis take time to prepare and cook, but the result is well worth the little extra trouble. My biryanis are not, I must add, authentically Indian; they have been influenced by Indonesian attitudes and techniques. This chicken biryani is a quick version, but delicious for all that. If you gather together all the ground ingredients in a single bowl before you actually settle down to cook, you will feel you are halfway there already.

Preparation: 10–15 minutes
Cooking: 15–18 minutes + 5 minutes waiting


  • 4 boneless, skinned chicken breast fillets, sliced diagonally into very thin slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger root
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • 170 ml/6 fl oz/¾ cup natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp raisins or sultanas (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 225–285 g/8–10 oz/1–1¼ cups rice: Basmati, Texmati, or Australian long grain
  • 1.7 litres/3 pints/ cups water
  • ½ tsp salt

    For the Garnish

  • 1 tbsp fried shallots
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds


Wash the rice and drain. Boil the water in a large saucepan. When it boils, put in ½ teaspoon of salt and the rice, a little at a time so that the water stays on the boil. Stir the rice once and keep the water at a rolling boil for 8 minutes. Drain the rice in a colander and set aside.

In another large saucepan, or a casserole with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil, and fry the shallots, garlic and ginger root for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Put in the chicken slices. Increase the heat and stir-fry the chicken for 3 minutes. Now add all the ground ingredients, stir again for a few seconds only, add the yogurt, and continue stirring for 1 minute. Add the sugar and raisins or sultanas (if used), stir again once, adjust the seasoning. Then pile the rice on top of the chicken and sauce.

Cover the saucepan or casserole with aluminium foil or a tea-towel/dishcloth and put the lid on tightly. Lower the heat and leave it to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it rest, undisturbed and with the cover still tightly on, for 5 more minutes. Then uncover, sprinkle the garnishes over the dish, and bring it to the table, if possible in the pan or casserole in which it was cooked. Serve straight away, with freshly cooked beans or okra.