With more time to savour the simple joys of life at the moment, home-cooked meals are seeing a well-deserved resurgence. The UK is well into lockdown now, and whilst staying at home and keeping safe, my household has been spending a lot of that time on cooking. Chicken Biryani is one of the all-time comforting and feelgood foods in our home. When given a little time and love, it is a feast, and this is how we do it in our home in Bath, in the South West of England.
This is a southern Indian, or Hyderabadi-style biryani, in which a cooked curry base infuses the fluffy rice above with delicate flavours and spices. This version is all cooked in an ovenproof/stovetop proof casserole dish. We cook a chicken version, but the beauty of biryani is that you can cook with any ingredients, and create a meaty feast, veggie option or vegan wonder- and everything in between!
It is a truly beautiful meal to prepare and enjoy, and I find it very soothing to make. For an hour or so you can lose yourself in the lovely colours and textures of spices, and enjoy the recipe coming together. It is a pure and enjoyable mindfulness activity, with a delicious gift to share with loved ones at the end. This is my own recipe, which I have borrowed and stolen from several other recipes from England and India.
So, how's it done? Just follow the three steps below. The biryani can be cooked in one session, or the marinade and onions prepared the day before. Entirely up to you.
1. Measure out all of the marinade spice ingredients, the yoghurt, water and meat/vegetable curry base, and then stir to combine, straight into the pot. You can use fresh coriander and ginger, but I used supermarket dried spices and the result was still delicious. Leave to marinade. As you measure out the spices, your kitchen will be filled with heady aromas and gentle sandy coloured spice.
2. Select all of the herbs needed for the rice, then bring water to the boil, adding the basmati. Leave the herbs and spices in the rice, to add complex and woody flavours to the rice. At this point, you can also finely chop an onion, and then fry the strips until golden brown and crispy. This will decorate the top of the rice.
3. Cook the marinaded curry on a high heat for five minutes uncovered, then another five minutes with the lid on the saucepan. Turn the pot down to a low heat here, then drain the rice and place it on to the curry base, patting it flat as you go. Pop on your fried onions at this point. Then add saffron water and ghee/butter if you wish, pop the lid on and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes, on the hob.
There you go! A delicious meal which is a welcome distraction during uncertain and anxious times. When you serve it, let the biryani rest off the heat for 10 minutes, and then aim to serve everybody a good old slice, full of your base curry layer, fluffy white rice, onions and saffron- yellow rice. Enjoy folks, and please let me know how you got on with the recipe if you try it.