Indian Moghul Chicken Biryani

"Biryani is perhaps one of the most elaborate rice dishes. Of Moghul origin, it is cooked with lamb or chicken, streaked with saffron, and garnished with raisins and nuts. The chicken is first marinated for at least 2 hours in a delicious paste of ginger, garlic, onions, yogurt, lemon juice, and spices. It is then cooked briefly. Partially cooked rice is placed over it, and the chicken and rice are allowed to steam for about an hour."
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Ready In:
3hrs 30mins




  • First you have to make the marinade for the chicken.
  • Peel and coarsely chop 3 of the onions.
  • Place the chopped onion, garlic, and ginger in an electric blender, along with the cloves, peppercorns, the seeds only from the 8 cardamoms, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, poppy seeds, mace, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the lemon juice. Blend all of these at high speed until you have a smooth paste. Place this paste in a large bowl. Add the yogurt and mix well.
  • Now peel the 3 remaining onions. Slice them into very fine rings, and halve all the rings.
  • In a 10 inch heavy bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium flame. When hot, add the bay leaves and 4 black cardamoms. Fry for about 10 to 15 seconds. Now put in the onions and fry them, stirring, for about 10 minutes or until they get brown and crisp (but not burned). Remove them carefully with a slotted spoon, squeezing out as much of the oil as possible. Reserve all the onion flavored oil, the black cardamoms, and the bay leaves. You will need them later. Mix in 2/3 of the fried onions with the marinade paste. Place the rest on a paper towel to drain. Set aside for garnishing.
  • Remove skin from the chicken legs and breasts. Cut the legs into two pieces each (drumstick and thigh), and quarter all the breasts. Pierce the chicken pieces with a fork and place in the bowl with the marinade paste. Mix well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Turn occasionally.
  • After 2 hours (or more), remove the bowl from the refrigerator and place all its contents in a 3 to 4 quart heavy bottomed pot. Bring slowly to a boil, cover, lower heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove only the chicken pieces, place them in a 5 quart casserole dish, and cover. Set aside. On a medium flame, boil down the marinade paste, stirring, until you have about 9 to 10 tablespoons left. Spoon the paste over the chicken. Cover again.
  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Soak the saffron in 2 tablespoons hot (not boiling) milk.
  • Bring about 13 cups of water with 3 teaspoons of salt to a boil in a 4 quart pot, then add the rice. After it has come to a boil again, cook 5 minutes, timing very carefully (the rice must not cook through). DRAIN the rice in a colander, then place it on top of the chicken in the casserole. Pour the saffron milk over the rice, streaking it with orange lines. Spoon out the onion flavored oil from the pan, RESERVING a level tablespoon to fry the raisins if you like. Sprinkle the oil, cardamom, and bay leaves over the rice. Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil, cut 2 inches wider than the rim of the dish. Now put the lid on and use the protruding foil edges to seal the dish as best you can by crinkling it and pushing it against the sides. Bake 1 hour.
  • GARNISHES: There are several garnishes that can be used for biryani; you can use them all, or only what you like, but the fried onions are a must. If you wish to use raisins, you can fry them in a tablespoon of the onion flavored oil just after you have fried the onions.
  • TO SERVE: As you lift the cover off your casserole dish you will see beautiful saffron streaks on the white rice. Spoon the rice and chicken out onto a large platter. Sprinkle fried onions and other garnishes of your choice over, and serve hot. With biryani, serve Koftas and some yogurt dish—Yogurt with Tiny dumplings, or Yogurt with Potatoes. If you wish to serve a vegetable, Cauliflower with Ginger and Chinese Parsley would be very good. Serves 6-8.
  • Biryani is quite definitely not an everyday dish. It is served at weddings and important dinners. Try serving it at a late supper party. It was, and is, a dish worthy of a king.
  • NOTE: This very expensive stigma of the crocus flower is used in Moghlai meat and rice dishes as well as in desserts. Ideally, saffron stigmas or “leaf” saffron should be lightly roasted in a hot skillet, crumbled, and allowed to soak in a tablespoon or so of warm milk for half an hour before being used.
  • Madhur Jaffrey An Invitations to Indian Cooking.

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  1. lists
    This is a great recipe, even my husband and picky daughter agree. I just wish it didn't take so long to cook.



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