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Friday, 29 May 2009


This recipe and others can be found in the 12-part illustrated series "A World of Curries". You can read all about this unique Indian flavor here.



At a glance
East Indian
Cooking Method
Heat Level
Main Course
1 tablespoon saffron strands
4 teaspoons warm milk
2 fresh green chiles, such as serranos, stems removed
2 fresh red chiles, such as serranos, stems removed
2 large onions, chopped
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
8 cloves garlic
8 peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 1-inch piece of cinnamon, crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon powdered nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon powdered mace
1/2 cup mint or cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups plain yogurt
3 pounds of boneless chicken, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ghee, recipe here
1 onion, finely chopped
8 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cups basmati or long grain rice
1/3 cup each raisins, cashews, and almonds
6 hard boiled eggs, halved


Soak the saffron in warm milk for 5 minutes and then puree in a blender.  Add the chiles, onions, garlic, ginger, cloves, peppercorn, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, poppy seeds, nutmeg, mace, mint or cilantro leaves, and lemon juice. Blend into a smooth paste. Put the paste into a large bowl, add the yogurt, and mix well.

Marinate the chicken in the yogurt mixture with salt to taste for at least 2 hours. For the best results, marinate for 6 hours.

In a  skillet, heat the oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the ghee, and 15 seconds later, add the onions, and fry them for about 8 minutes. Reserve for garnishing.

In the same skillet, cook the marinated chicken with the tomatoes for about 10 minutes over medium heat, uncovered. Remove the chicken pieces from the sauce and set aside.

Add the rice to the sauce, bring to a boil, and cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes. Return the chicken, any remaining saffron paste, raisins, cashews, and almonds; mix well. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

Place the chicken, eggs, and the rice in such a way that the yellow of the eggs, the saffron colored rice, the nuts, and the chicken make a colorful display. Add the reserved onions as a garnish.

Additional Tips

One of the most aromatic, rich, colorful, and tasty of Indian dishes, biryani is prepared across India. But the best biryani--whether made from beef, lamb, chicken, fish, or vegetables--is found in the regions around Delhi.  These regions were ruled by Muslims for several centuries, and their hearty love for rich food has left behind a culinary legacy.  Biryani is a time-consuming culinary exercise, but it has rich rewards.  Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.


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