This chicken biryani is a regular midweek meal for us, complemented by just a salad and a scattering of peas and perhaps a little raita.
I use ghee for this recipe, just 1 tablespoon for the whole recipe, to enhance the overall taste. This will give you just under 13g of fat from the ghee alone (serving 4 people), which is comparable to what you’ll get from other oils/fat. However, ghee is much higher in saturated fats and unlike olive oil, does contain cholesterol. Incidentally, if you’re looking for an alternative to olive oil, try rapeseed oil. So, bear this in mind, choose what fat you prefer but my mindset has always been that moderation is the key. The only other noticeable fat comes from the evaporated milk, but, again, I use only 1 tablespoon and the semi skimmed version. You can always use yoghurt instead but I prefer the richer taste of evaporated milk which adds to the end result.
A note on the chicken. For healthy dishes, chicken breasts are an obvious choice as they are naturally lower in fat and calories than the equal amount of thigh meat. Another thing to note is the stock used. For my low fat recipes, I prefer to use very good shop bought, no additives added stock, for the simple reason that I can tell the amount or lack of fat it contains. While I always have homemade stock in the freezer, this is kept for weekend type food. Brown rice is always better but if truth be told, brown rice and brown pasta are just not my thing, you know?
Don’t be put off by what looks like a long list of ingredients, getting them together is a cinch and once you’ve done that, it’s a walk in the park. I like to finish the biryani off in the oven but if you prefer, do it all on the stove. Instructions for both are given. Let me apologise for the different spacing in the instructions below. No matter what I do, it’s not obeying me!
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
4 lean chicken breasts, skinless naturally
2″/5cm ginger, pounded
3 cloves garlic, pounded
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder (mild or hot, to taste)
300g basmati rice (white or brown, up to you)
550ml hot very low/no fat chicken stock
2 medium onions, sliced in rings
1 green chilli, sliced in half lengthwise, (seeded/less to taste)
1 tbsp ghee
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
half tsp cumin seeds
half tsp chilli powder
half tsp coarsely ground black pepper
small pinch saffron
1. Place the saffron in the stock and let it soak.
2. Mix all the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken for at least an hour, more, if you have time. I usually do it in the morning and leave it in the fridge all day to cook for dinner.
3. Heat half the ghee in a pan on medium heat and fry the onions for about 3-4 minutes until they are just browning.
4. Take half out and set aside.
5. Increase the heat and add the chicken, stir and brown on all sides.
6. Add the water, mix and cook, uncovered for 10 minutes on low heat.
7. While the chicken is cooking, let’s do the rice.
8. Heat the other half of the ghee in a large casserole dish and fry the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise, cumin, chilli powder & black pepper for 30 seconds.
9. Add the rice and coat and also to toast the rice, for about a minute.
10. Add the stock with saffron, the bay leaf and green chilli and bring to boil.
11. Lower heat, cover and cook for about 10 minutes until the stock is almost all dried up.
(If finishing in the oven turn it on now at 200C/180Fan)
12. Give the rice a good stir.
On the stove
Place all of the chicken curry on top of the rice, spreading it and cook on the lowest setting, covered for another 15 minutes.
In the oven
1. Take a fairly shallow oven proof dish with a lid and place half the chicken curry in it. If you don’t have one with a lid, just use a foil to cover it later.
2. Follow it with half the rice and half the onions that were left aside earlier.
3. Repeat this step with, i.e., chicken, rice, onions.
4. Cover with lid and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, just before the rice at the edge starts browning and drying.