Chicken Biryani


I always used to think it was called “breyani”. I never really took note of how it was actually spelt until I started doing a deep dive into curries from around the world. It makes for interesting reading if you enjoy that kind of thing, which everyone here knows I do!!!! I do enjoy a good curry and my best food memory of a good curry was from Durban back in the 90’s. My sister Lynne and Kevin, her fiancee at the time, took us to the Dutch East India Company. I went in search of it but can no longer find it, so it must have closed down.

Regardless of how you spell Biryani or Breyani and you will still find a million recipes for it on the internet. I know you come here to my page so that you don’t have to sift through a million recipes to get to a good one. Kev, my brother-in-law always gives me a jibe about my food. He likes to pretend I don’t actually know what I’m doing in the kitchen. We joke and jossle back and forth because he too is a good cook. He learned to cook in the navy if that’s anything to go by.

Family dinners are for sharing and catching up

Last night they came around for dinner with my Dad, Iain. I made this quick chicken biryani. This was inspired by my niece, Tayla. She loves chicken and onions and what better way to give her what she loves in the form of a biryani. I pulled out my notes and got cracking on the Biryani curry paste. Of course you can go out and buy a paste, but honestly this one is super quick and easy to make. It’s also very versatile, as curry is, so you can play around with the flavours you enjoy most.

Brother’s-in-law you’ve gotta love them

Back to Kev last night, we are sitting around the dinner table chatting and catching up with my Dad’s day at the doctor. He’s a stubborn old goat and had been refusing to see one for a while. Lynne, eventually persuaded him to go, much to all our relief. It turns out he’s the picture of health, apart from a hernia that needs attending to. Kev is merrily tucking in to the biryani and mutters “this is not bad” I let it slide and continue on with our chatter around the table. Again a small mutter comes from Kev “this is good” smacking his lips in appreciation. Again, I let this comment wash over me as I sip on my chardonnay. I’m on full alert! I’m waiting! Everyone else is singing my praises about the biryani, but I’m always waiting for that one small utterance of validation from Kev. And there it is. It slips out almost silently. I think he was oblivious to actually saying a word, I’m sure he believed it was only uttered in his thoughts, but is snuck out and I pounced. “this is VERY good!” he says, digging in now almost licking the bowl wondering where it all went in such a hurry. HaHuh!!!!! I say in delight, “VERY Good” hey!!!! Well will you listen to that Lynne! That’s high praise from old Kevie indeed. So don’t take my word for it, let Kev be the judge on this one.

Sometimes, you just want to jump in the car or call Mr D to get a good curry. I urge you to give this one a try. Technically its not a curry but more an aromatic chicken. Biryani in my experience is mostly lots of rice and you have to dig around to find the chicken. Here you can enjoy as much or as little chicken and rice as you like. To add more punch to the curry have extra chilli sauce on the side. This way you never have to fight about how hot to make it, you can just add the heat after you’ve served yourself in your own bowl.

I feel like I’m the only one on this planet who doesn’t have an airfryer. My goodness talk about hype, even my Dad has inherited one from Lynne. I’m sure you can use it to get a quick chicken crackling going. I’m told it crisps up just about everything. So if you do have an airfryer, give my chicken crackling a go. If not give it a go anyway in the oven. It’s a very good alternative to pork crackling and a whole lot quicker to make.

Chicken Biryani


  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 2½ cm fresh ginger peeled use a teaspoon to peel it
  • 4-6 garlic cloves skinned
  • 2 green chillis
  • 2 Tbls Olive oil
  • 10 ml ground tumeric
  • 10 ml ground coriander
  • 10 ml ground cumin
  • 5 ml ground fenugreek
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • 1 stick cinnamon

Biryani Curry Paste marinade

  • 1 batch Biryani Curry Paste (see above)
  • 16 Chicken thighs bone in skin on 
  • 100g Double cream yoghurt 

Caramelized onions

  • 2-3 Tbl olive oil 
  • 2 large onions sliced 3mm thick  red or white will do

Biryani Basmati

  • 6 strands of saffron 
  • 100 ml warm milk 
  • 1 tsp rose water 
  • 400g basmati rice washed until water runs clear 
  • 2L water 
  • 2cm ginger grated 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs of mint
  • 2 fresh green chillis cut in half 
  • 2 tsp Himalayan salt 


  • mint and cucumber yoghurt
  • Chutney
  • chopped banana
  • corriander, tomatoes and onion mix
  • papadums


  • Biryani Curry Paste – Place the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli in the blender and blits to form a rough paste. This can be smooth or chunky depending on how long you blend it for. Both ways work well.
  • Add olive oil to pan and tip in the blended onion mix. Cook for 5 minutes stirring continuously to ensure it doesn't burn.
  • now add the rest of the spices and continue to stir for a further 4 minutes.
  • Mix the yoghurt and the paste together. I didn't and realized afterwards that its less fuss doing this together rather than spreading the paste then adding the yoghurt.
  • Chicken Crackling – Optional- At this point you may want to remove the chicken skin and make chicken crackling -I pulled the skin off the thigh
    Add salt and pepper to the skin, lay flat between 2 sheets baking paper bake 12 min in pre heated oven at 180°C. Viola chicken crackling. Or use an airfryer if you have one.
    Drain on Carlton wrap. Use as garnish 
    If you don't feel like the fuss proceed to next step. I have to say it's really delicious if you do decide to give it a try.
  • Spread the biryani yoghurt paste over each thigh. Place in a glass dish and leave for 2-3 hours to marinade. You can leave for longer in the fridge. If you want to make this in the evening, do this part before you go to work in the morning. It will be ready to cook when you get home. (Just remember my tip about getting it to room temperature first before you cook it. Chicken is tough when cooked cold.)
  • Caramelized onions – Put a pan on moderate heat Add the olive oil Fry until brown and golden and sweet. About 10 minutes. Stir often to ensure they don’t burn set aside until ready to assemble biryani 
  • In a small bowl add the saffron and the warm milk and leave to infuse while the rice is cooking ( next step). Add the rose water to the saffron milk. Set aside until ready to sprinkle over the biryani basmati rice.
  • In a large saucepan add the water and all the herbs and spices except the rice to the pot. Bring to the boil for about 5 min now add the rice and hard boil for 10 minutes. Drain water and set aside rice and aromatics to cool and continue infusing
  • Get the glass dish with the marinading chicken. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs on both sides. Add 2 Tbls of olive oil to the pan used to cook the onions 
    add 5-6 pieces of the chicken skin side down, unless you removed it to make the crackling, and batch fry to crisp up the skin or seal the meat.
  • Assembling the Biryani 
    In a heavy based pot, I used my big 28cm Le Creuset, place the thighs again skin side down (unless you removed the skin to make crackling , then its better bone side down, but not critical either way)) on the base of the pot. Add a bit of water to the frying pan used to sear the chicken. Deglaze the pan and pour in all the flavour over the chicken 
  • Now sprinkle the drained basmati rice with the aromatics over the thighs
  • Next spoon over the saffron and rose water milk , Top with the onions
  • Wet a clean kitchen dish towel with water, cover the pot with the dish towel ,
  • place the lid on top and fold the dish towel over the lid ensuring it doesn’t dangle near the flames of the gas stove.
  • Place an a very low heat, ensuring that the rice and chicken will gently steam not boil for 90 minutes.
  • Serve with sambals
  •  Make sambles 
    Extra Chilli sauce for those who prefer a bit more punch 
    Minted yogurt 
    Sliced banana 
    Mrs Balls Churney 
    Chopped onion and tomato 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

Fresh Kitchen © Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.