Fragrant Rice Layered with Curried Chicken

We had a house full of family and friends this week and we were celebrating another birthday!  Each year at Christmas time, the dog gives me a new cookbook and last year it was a book by Suneeta Vaswani called Easy Indian Cooking.   I decided to flip through the pages and see if I could find something great for dinner this week.  One of our guests is allergic to shellfish so the seafood stew I was thinking about making was immediately crossed off the list.    Everything else was fair game and all our guests said they were up for anything I was willing to create.    I came across a recipe called Hyderabadi Chicken Biriyani (translated to english Fragrant Rice Layered with Curried Chicken) and decided the description of the dish filled the spirit of the evening.

Here’s a photo of the book and the cover has a photo of the Chicken Biriyani which is one of the reasons I decided to make it, the other reason was the paragraph describing when this dish is traditionally served.

easy indian cooking. Suneeta

 “Arguably the most recognized of Moghul rice preparations, biriyanis are elaborate dishes combining chicken or lamb with exotic ingredients and spices, layered with basmati rice perfumed with saffron.  They are a must for weddings and festive occasions”

We had to try it!

It sounded fairly straight forward but it looked like it would take at least three hours to prepare so I started around 2:30 preparing the marinade for the chicken.   These days the only chicken I buy is chicken from a local farm that raises their livestock without any antibiotics or additives.  They are free range and live at a farm without cages and the difference in the taste of the chicken is exceptional.   I purchased an extra four chicken thighs but as I found out, we would have had plenty of food without the extra pieces.  The recipe says it serves 10-12 and it definitely does that.  We had nine people at the table and I don’t believe anyone had two pieces of meat, there was just too much great food to eat and we all left the table wonderfully satiated.  My recommendation is, if you are making this for less than 12 people, stick with 12 chicken legs or one chicken cut into 12 pieces.

The different layers of this dish take approximately an hour and a half to prepare before you assemble the dish, starting with getting the marinade on the chicken and putting it in the fridge for at least an hour.   Browning the onions definitely takes 45 minutes or so.   The rice rinsing and preparation takes a few minutes and heating the milk even less.

Here’s the recipe from start to fabulous finish:

  • 2 cups (500ml) plain yogurt**
  • 2 Tbsp.( 25ml) minced green chilies preferably serranos
  • 1 ½ Tbsp.(22ml) minced peeled gingerroot
  • 1 ½ Tbsp.(22ml)  minced garlic
  • 6 large black cardamom pods – seeds only
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks-each 2 inches (5 cm) long
  • 1 tsp.(5ml) black peppercorn
  • ¼ tsp.(1ml) turmeric
  • 6 ½ tsp.(32ml) salt or to taste – divided
  • 12 skinless chicken thighs (3 ½ to 4 lbs, 1.75 to 2 kg) or a whole chicken cut up into 12 pieces
  • 1 cup (250ml) milk **
  • 1 tsp. (5ml) saffron threads
  • 3 cups (750ml) Indian Basmati Rice
  • 3 Tbsp.(45ml) vegetable oil
  • 8 cups (2 L) chopped onions
  • 1 ½ tsp.(7ml) garam masala
  • 3 cups (750ml) mint leaves, chopped, divided
  • 4-5 whole green chilies (optional – I did not include these in my version)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil  (I used  EV olive oil)
  • 2 Hard cooked eggs, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp.(25ml) fried cashews
  • 2 Tbsp.(25ml)fried raisins
  • 1 tomato quartered

** (I use goat yogurt and milk because of Dennis’ dairy allergy.  He does not seem to react to goat dairy the same way he does to cow dairy)


  1. Stir yogurt to a creamy consistency.  Combine with chilies, ginger, garlic, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, turmeric and 2 ½ tsp.(12ml) of the salt.  Add chicken.  Mix well. Cover and set aside for 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat until very hot.  Stir in saffron threads and set aside.
  3. Place rice in a bowl with plenty of cold water and swish vigorously with fingers.  Drain.  Repeat process 4 or 5 times or until water is fairly clear.  Cover with 3 or 4 inches (7.5-10cm) of water and soak for 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Fill large saucepan three quarters full with water.  Add remaining salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Drain rice and add to boiling water.  Return to a boil and cook until rice is soft on the outside but uncooked in the centre, 2-3 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Drain immediately and spread in shallow pan to cool.
  5. Meanwhile in another large saucepan, heat 3 Tbsp.(45ml) of coconut oil or other vegetable oil, over medium high heat.  Add the chopped onions and sauté until they begin to colour.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to sauté until very dark brown.  This entire process can take up to 45 minutes.   When done, remove from heat and leave covered.
  6. Meanwhile, place chicken with marinade in a separate saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over low heat.  Remove from heat and leave covered.  (I missed this step and placed the chicken in the layers without heating it.  The meal was still delicious and I cannot say whether it would make a difference to heat it or not at this stage.)
  7. To assemble:  Spread half of the browned onions on the bottom of ovenproof casserole with tight-fitting lid.  Layer with chicken and marinade on top.  Sprinkle with garam masala.  Spread half of the rice over the chicken.   Layer remaining onion, half of the chopped mint and the whole green chilies, if using.  Top with remaining rice and mint.  Pour saffron milk evenly over entire surface.  Drizzle ¼ cup (50ml) oil on top.  Cover casserole tightly with foil before putting on lid.  Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.  Turn off oven and let rest for 10 minutes without peeking.
  8. To fry raisings and cashews: Heat 1 Tbsp.(15 ml) vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Stir in 2 Tbsp (25ml) nuts and 2 Tbsp (25ml) raisins.  Sauté until nuts are golden and raisins plump up, about 2 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
  9. Once casserole is done, carefully spoon onto large platter.  Arrange chicken pieces on top of rice and, if desired discard whole cloves (I certainly didn’t root around to remove the whole cloves and peppercorns.  I did take out the cinnamon sticks) cinnamon sticks and whole green chilies.  Arrange egg quarters decoratively on top (I did not use the eggs in this dish).  Sprinkle with fried cashews and raisins and garnish with tomato quarters.

Voila, here is the spectacular dish!  It was a great hit, and even though it took a lot of work, I would do it again for any special occasion.  Everyone loved it!

Chicken biriyani

Traditionally this dish is served without side dishes, accompanied only by a raita known as pachadi.  The recipe follows:

  • 1 ½ cup(375ml) chopped tomatoes
  • ¾ cup(175ml) chopped onions
  • 3 Tbsp.(45ml) chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups plain yogurt.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Directions:  Mix ingredients in a bowl  and set aside for an hour or so to let the flavours blend.   Serve in a bowl with the Biriyani at the table.

Dessert was a special birthday cake purchased from the Sweet Tooth Cakery in North Vancouver.  This is an amazing gluten-free bakery and the cake was a fresh lemon cake.  It was divine and the best part was every one could eat it!

gillian's birthday cake 04.13

I am going to be out of town next weekend so I’ll miss next week’s post.  Please come back the week of the 28th for another edition of Sunday Night Dinner at Julia’s Place!


About Julia

I am an RHN who's passionate about helping people live their best lives. My focus is on body mind and spirit and I guide people on work life balance and holistic nutrition. Join me as I wind my way through this wonderful world we live in.
This entry was posted in Gluten-free, Nutrition, Recipes and ideas, Sunday night Dinner with Julia, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Fragrant Rice Layered with Curried Chicken

  1. Pingback: Fragrant Rice Layered with Curried Chicken | nourish2flourish

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