Preparation time: 30 minutes. Cooking time 2 hours.
Serves 8.

This dish is an institution! It originated in the Mughal Empire (mainly Northern India, North Eastern Pakistan and Bangladesh) and is now eaten by people of South Asian origin around the world. There are a number of varieties on the theme of Biriani, and this is my take.

The combination of spice flavours and the flavour of slightly fried rice is fabulous. The inclusion of rice, meat and vegetables mean that it makes for a great one-pot-meal. It is also ideal for catering for a large group as this batch alone will serve 8 comfortably.

It does take a number of hours to prepare but the results are well worth it – enjoy!

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3 tbsp vegetable oil
1kg (2lb 3oz) onions,
8 green cardamom pods
5 black cardamoms
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
75g (2 ½ oz) ginger (weight before peeling)
4 medium sized green chillies
2 tsp each of ground cumin, turmeric, chilli powder, ground coriander and paprika
1 tsp salt
30g (1 oz) butter
1.2kg (2lb 10oz) chicken breast, skin removed
300g (10 ½ oz) frozen peas
140ml (9tbsp) Greek yoghurt
1 x 390g tub or tin of chopped tomatoes
juice of 1 lemon or lime
small bunch of coriander
600g (1 lb 5oz) pilau rice
1.2 litres water
a few strands saffron
100g (3 ½ oz) almonds, blanched (skins removed)


Very large non-stick pan with a lid
Sieve for washing rice


The first stage is to prepare all your ingredients, in the following ways:
• Peel and chop the onion
• Measure out the spices into a bowl
• Peel and grate or crush the garlic and ginger and chop the chilli
• Weigh out the peas
• Chop the chicken into cubes, approximately 2 cm square
• Wash the coriander very well to remove any grit
• Wash the rice in a sieve several times with cold water
• Toast the almonds under a relatively low grill – keep a close eye on these as they may begin to burn quickly.

Heat vegetable oil in the large non-stick pan until quite hot, keeping on a medium to high heat: add onions, bay leaves and both types of cardamoms and fry for 10 minutes until they are getting quite brown.

Add garlic and ginger, turn the heat down a little and fry for 3 minutes more.

Remove a third of the onions from the pan and set aside.

Add spices and salt and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Add butter and allow melting slightly, and then adding the chicken and cook, stirring until sealed.

Add in yoghurt and fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 mins.

Then add the rice and stir gently to avoid breaking down the pieces of meat.

Add water, saffron and peas, bring back to the boil, cover, turn down to as low heat as possible, and simmer for between 20 and 35 minutes. Check it after 20 minutes of cooking and taste it. If it tastes too spicy, add limejuice or more yoghurt.

Once most of the water has cooked off, sprinkle with limejuice, coriander and the reserved fried onions and almonds (if using).

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