Friday, 6 May 2011

Chicken biryani

This recipe is fairly time consuming, but the results are oh-so-worth it! I am utterly in love with chicken biryani, so much so that it is a challenge for me to choose something else from the menu when we visit an Indian restaurant.

I should point out that this recipe is almost certianly not authentically Indian, since it is based on one drawn from a book of Cape Malay recipes. South Africa has an enormous 'Indian' population. These are people descended from the Indians brought out to work on the sugar cane farms in what was then known as Natal. In the apartheid era, 'Indian' was one of the four racial classifications and the term is still in use today. Most South African Indians remain in the KwaZulu-Natal area, as a result of which, Durban (the city in which I was born) is often referred to as the 'capital of India'.

The Cape Malays (as the phrase suggests) are largely concentrated in the Western Cape, which is where I spent twelve years of my life, and where both my children were born.

However, there are commonalities in their cuisine, and some fusion has been inevitable...especially in my kitchen, with my exposure to both! Purists will argue one way or the other, of course, but I'm not enough of a connoisseur to get embroiled in that wrangling. I enjoy recipes from both cultures, and I hope that you will enjoy this one. It is one I make fairly often for guests.

So here goes...

Oven temperature
Low (for reheating)

1kg chicken portions
2 onions, diced
A little oil
500ml lentils
500ml uncooked rice (I use Basmati, because my husband is addicted to the stuff!)
10ml butter
2 cinnamon quills/sticks/whatever you like to call them
4 cardamom pods, split open
3 red or green chillies chopped (increase or decrease this number to taste, but biryani is generally not very hot)
4 hard boiled eggs
10ml ground cumin
2.5ml turmeric (if you're feeling flush, you can use some saffron strands instead) plus another 7.5ml
250ml pouring yoghurt
10ml red masala powder
15ml peri-peri oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
5ml finely chopped fresh ginger (or you can use the 'very lazy' bottled kind, but avoid the powdered ground ginger)
5ml ground cinnamon
10ml salt

  • Combine the following ingredients and marinade the chicken for two hours: yoghurt, red masala, 7.5ml turmeric, peri peri oil, garlic, ginger, ground cinnamon and salt.
  • Set the lentils to cook in boiling water until more or less soft. While they're doing that, you can get on with the next steps. When they are cooked, drain and set aside.
  • Boil the rice in boiling water as well, until done, drain and set aside. To be honest, I cook the rice and lentils together, because it frees up one hotplate and means one less saucepan to wash!
  • Heat a little oil and saute the onion and chilli. Set aside.
  • Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the cinnamon quills and cardamom.
  • Brown the chicken in this saucepan, taking care not to burn the yoghurt. If necessary, add a (tiny) bit of water, so that the chicken doesn't stick.
  • When the chicken is brown, add about half a cup of water and 2.5ml of turmeric (or saffron) and cook, uncovered until done through and soft. Remove from heat.
  • In a large bowl, mix the rice, lentils (if they aren't already mixed, that is!), onion-and-chillies and chicken.
  • Transfer half the mixture into a serving bowl, and sprinkle with half the cumin and spread half the egg slices over it.
  • Add the other half and sprinkle with the rest of the cumin. If you have rose water to hand, you might like to sprinkle some of that over, too (yum!). Spread the rest of the egg slices over the top. Cover and place in the oven to heat through.
  • Serve with vegetable curry (for an Indian slant) or Cape Malay style vegetables (recipes for which will be added to this blog at some stage, but can be downloaded from all manner of sites in the interim).

1 comment:

  1. Chicken Biryani, one of my fav dishes. Yum and delicious.