Simple Biryani with Whole Spices


The kitchen at my sister Sophie’s, is always open round the clock!. Ok, I take it back. There might be a quiet time between, say around 12 midnight to daybreak 5. But the rest of the time, a stove is always lit. It might not come as a surprise to you, knowing how greedy I am about food, that this is one among the many things I look forward to when I visit India. And like I have mentioned before, Sophie is a fine cook and I’m one of her biggest fans. This simple Biryani recipe that she often makes, uses whole spices and it is amazing how different, spices taste when ground, and when used as a whole.


1 lb skinless and boned chicken cut into medium sized pieces
1 large  or 2 medium sized onions finely sliced
4 large tomatoes, diced in chunks
5- 6 green chilies, slit length wise
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp diced garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
8 cloves
6, 1/4 inch pieces of cinnamon
1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds/saunf
3 cups jeera samba rice
1/4 cup curd
pinch of saffron
refined vegetable oil
2 tsp sesame oil or ghee (clarified butter)
2 tbsp chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
1 tbsp chopped mint
1/2 tsp red chili powder, alter this based on tolerable spice level
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste


  • Marinate the chicken in lemon juice, curd, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, pepper corns, green chilies, chili powder, mint, cilantro  and salt over night in the fridge.
  • Soak washed rice with 5 cups of water and set aside for an hour.
  • Heat 2 – 3 tbsp of oil  in a wide bottomed  hollow pan, make sure the pan can be fitted with a tight lid that doesn’t let steam escape.
  • Add fennel, and let it splutter.
  • Add 3/4th of the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown.
  • Crush the grated ginger and garlic and add them to the pan along with the green chilies and continue to sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add in the diced tomatoes and sauté until oil separates.
  • Add salt to taste
  • Add in the chicken along with the marinade and sauté for 5 -10 minutes and then reduce the flame to low let it cook until chicken is done.
  • Add 2 tbsp of sesame oil or ghee, salt and cook the rice until the water boils and the rice is only  3/4 done.
  • Gather all the chicken and the masala mixture together and flatten it at he bottom of the pan
  • Dissolve a pinch of saffron in 2 tbsp of milk and add to the boiling rice and mix it.
  • Pour in the boiling rice into the pan making the rice form a layer on top of the masala and has no direct contact to the bottom of the pan.
  • Close the pan tight shut and let it sit on the very low flame for 15 – 20 min or until the rice at the top is done.
  • Remove from the stove and mix in the rice and masala
  • Deep fry the remaining sliced onion and sprinkle on the rice as garnish.
  • Serve with raitha or baingan masaledar.
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