Autumn is now well under way and today I found myself putting on my winter coat and scarf to go out and about. The displays in Glastonbury shop windows are starting to feature ghouls, ghosts, skulls and pumpkins in readiness for Halloween. How quickly the year turns!
As it’s now getting cooler, it’s time to make dishes with slight ‘chilli kicks’ to ward off coughs and colds. I have a theory that dishes with spices and chillies really help fight off colds – it’s just my opinion but one I’ve believed in for years. So this weekend was a great excuse for making an Indian dish. I’ve always wanted to make Biryani, but because most recipes for the dish call for raisins (which I don’t like in main meals), I’ve never made it. I found this recipe in an old curry recipe book and the only added “fruit” are tomatoes. The recipe was really easy and tasted delicious.
The word ‘Biryani’ is derived from the Persian culture from where this dish originated. One theory is that it originates from “birinj”, the Persian word for ‘rice’. Another is that it derives from “biryan” or “beriyan”, to fry or roast. Some say that the dish originated in West Asia. The nomads would bury an earthen pot full of meat, rice and spices in a fire pit. After some time the pot was dug up and there was the Biryani. It’s often served at Indian weddings or at special dinners. According to one legend, Mumtaz Mahal (the beauty who sleeps in Taj Mahal) concocted this dish as a “complete meal” to feed the army.
I loved layering the rice and the partially cooked spiced chicken and then baking it in the oven. It was so easy to do and yet it looked quite special when served with the pepper and tomato chutney. A vegetarian variant would include potatoes and cauliflower. Hard boiled eggs can also be served with the Biryani. The cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, turmeric and saffron made the cooked rice yellow and tasty.
- 275g (10oz or 1½ cups) Basmati rice
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) oil
- 1 onion thinly sliced in half moons
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 green chilli, finely chopped
- 2.5cm (1 inch) of root ginger, finely chopped
- 675g (1½ lbs) chicken breasts, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) Balti curry paste
- 1.5ml (quarter tsp) salt
- 1.5ml (quarter tsp) garam masala
- 3 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
- 1.5ml (quarter tsp) turmeric
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 4 cloves
- 1.5ml (quarter tsp) saffron strands
- Tomato and chilli Chutney to serve
- Fresh coriander to garnish
- Wash the rice in several changes of cold water. Put into large bowl and cover with plenty of cold water and leave for 30 minutes
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped onions for around 5-7 minutes until golden and lightly browned
- Add the chopped ginger, chilli and ginger and fry for a further 2 minutes
- Add the chopped chicken and fry for 5 minutes occasionally stirring.
- Add the curry paste, garam masala and salt and fry for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and continue to fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 190C (375F or gas 5)
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil
- Add the drained rice and turmeric
- Cook for about 10 minutes or until rice is almost tender
- Drain the rice and toss together (gently) with the bay leaves, cardamom pods, cloves and saffron.
- Layer the rice and chicken in an ovenproof dish until all the chicken and rice is used, finishing off with rice
- Cover and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is tender
- Serve with tomato and chilli chutney.
- Garnish with coriander