One of the joys of overseas visitors – daughter Robyn, son-in-law Adam, granddaughter Erin and friend Travis – is having the opportunity to explore cuisine which we’re inclined to take for granted.
Biryani is a fine example. We boast some of the finest biryani spice mixes right here in South Africa, and if you’re fortunate enough to get to Durban periodically, you can visit any one of a number of markets to curate that special mix.
Or, if you have a dear friend who travels to Durban regularly on business, you can lean on that friend to bring it back for you. Which is what I did. Thanks to dear Anne Coetzee, (who loves cooking as much as I do), not only for the delightful biryani mix, but also this amazingly brief biryani recipe, a dish that can take anything up to half a day to prepare.
Biryani spice mix typically includes coriander seed, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, fennel seed, cumin seeds, chilli, cardamom green, nutmeg and cloves, and is generally available from the major supermarkets, if you do not have a kind friend like I do.
Our visitors absolutely loved the dish, an exotic culinary experience for them, but something which we take largely for granted, and that is a shame.
Frankly, I had forgotten just how delicious a good chicken biryani is, and I plan to make it more often in the future, using Anne’s quick and easy recipe.
Ingredients, selection and preparation
1 kg chicken legs and thighs
4 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp Garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder: If you want to add a bit of heat
2 tsp curry seeds
2 tsp biryani spice mix
1 large stick cinnamon
3-4 star anise
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 large onion: thinly sliced
2 tsp (heaped) crushed garlic
2 tsp (heaped) grated fresh ginger
300g Basmati rice
3 cups (750ml) chicken stock
20g chopped fresh coriander leaves: for serving
Toast the coriander and cumin in a dry pan if you’re using seeds, and grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
Heat the oven to 200C. Meanwhile, place the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Combine the Garam masala, turmeric, cumin, coriander, biryani spice mix and chilli powder in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the chicken pieces, then toss to coat evenly.
Heat the canola oil in a large pan, and brown the chicken pieces in batches, for 3-4 minutes on both sides. Add more oil if necessary. Set chicken aside.
Add the onion, garlic, ginger and curry seeds to the pan and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to colour golden brown.
Add the Basmati rice, and mix together, cooking for about 2 minutes, or until the rice is coated.
Spread the rice mixture evenly in a casserole dish, and arrange the chicken pieces evenly on top in a single layer. Add the cinnamon stick, and the star anise.
Stir the salt into the chicken stock and pour it carefully into the casserole dish.
Place the casserole dish covered in the oven and cook for 45 to 60 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is tender.
Sprinkle with the chopped fresh coriander and serve.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Yield: 4 – 6