As much as love a day spent in the kitchen or with a big hunk of pork slowly roasting away in the oven, sometimes the thought of a house filled for a whole day with the smell of hot meat just isn't appetizing. Especially with the weather warming up, it's far nicer to be able to whip something tasty up that can be done in one pot so you don't have to spend an hour washing up afterward.
This is a pretty simple chicken biryani dish made with lots of fragrant but not too hot spices and takes less than an hour from start to finish. I have made a simple fresh shallot and cucumber relish to add a little fresh lift and texture contrast.
I have used the dark meat of the chicken, as I usually do with curry dishes, but you could use breast meat instead, just cook it for a shorter time before adding the rice as it will overcook and become dry and stringy otherwise.
Chicken Biryani with Shallot and Cucumber Relish
serves 4, takes less than one hour
2 each chicken thighs, wings and drumsticks, skinned and boned (leave the wings on the bone)
1 large onion, sliced
500ml plain yoghurt
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
3cm piece ginger
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
1/2 tsp ground chilli (or to taste)
4 cardomom pods
2 bay leaves
salt to taste
3 tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
Cut the chicken into large bite size chunks, then mix together the yoghurt and half each of the garlic and ginger and stir in the chicken well. Set aside at room temp for 30 minutes while you do the onions. *you could also do the marinade the day before and refrigerate it over night for an even fuller flavour.
Slice the onions thinly and fry with 1 tbsp of the ghee in a large sautee pan on a med-high heat until dark golden brown-chestnut, then remove them and allow them to drain on some paper towel.
After the chicken has marinated for half an hour, heat the rest of the ghee/oil in the same pan that you cooked the onions in and tip in the rest of the ginger, garlic and the spices. Fry for a minute or so until very fragrant but not burnt or browned, then tip in the chicken pieces, including and stir-fry for 5-6 minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked away and you have a thick, fragrant sauce and the oil is starting to separate.
Stir in the rice well, season with some salt and add the water, then bring to the boil and immediately lower the temperature to a low simmer, cover and leave to cook for 10-12 minutes, until all of the water has been absorbed by the rice. Try not to stir the rice once the water is boiling, as it will break up the starch in the raice and make the dish sticky, instead of fluffy and loose.
While the rice is cooking, you can make a small side dish of shallot and cucumber relish:
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
6cm (2 1/2") cucumber (English) seeds removed and chopped into a small dice
1 green chilli, seeds and membrane removed, finely chopped
7-8 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade)
a few coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
pinch, red chilli flakes
2 2tbsp white wine vinegar
Put the sliced shallots into a small bowl of ice water to crisp them up and take the edge off a little, drain when ready to mix the relish, right before serving
Mix the sugar, chilli flakes and salt with a couple of tbsp of boiling water and stir to dissolve then add the vinegar.
When ready to serve, mix the shallots, cucumber, mint, coriander and dressing.
When the rice is cooked, spoon directly onto serving plates and scatter with the fried onions. Serve with the relish and some plain or spiced poppadums.