Thursday 20 December 2012

A Very Festive Supper - Chicken Biryani / Nasi Briyani

Chicken Biryani or Nasi Briyani is one of those dish that always looks spectacular whenever it land on a dining table. Part of the charm of growing up in Singapore/Malaysia was that I got to enjoyed delicious food from the various diverse culture such as Chinese, Malays and of course Indian. My nan would sometimes made this Indian classic when she was in a more adventurous mood. Just something completely different from the usual Nyonya cooking that she was so good at.

As we are fast approaching the festive season, this seemed to be the perfect time to make and to share this celebratory dish. As you know, in a few days time, I will be stuffing my face with majestic turkey and all the trimmings and once again, I am planning to chuck the stuffed bird over hot coals on a BBQ out in the garden while I seek cosy comfort indoor. But before that, it's rather nice to treat myself  to something very different and yet still have that sense of festiveness and grandness to it and that's where this dish comes in.

It might not have been the most easiest dish to make but the end result certainly make it all seem worthwhile. Hours of marinating the chicken in the yogurt helped to tenderise the chicken, yielding an even more juicier meat. With it's bright luminous yellow and warmth and aroma from the assorted spices, this is the perfect celebratory supper to graze any dining table, especially mine. But the icing on the cake will have to be the fried onion which added a touch of caramelised sweetness making this an even more exuberent meal.Ahh...Bliss!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

4 free-range chicken legs, skinned 
a small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
a small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
4 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp chilli powder 
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
2 star anise
4 cloves
6 cardamons pod, lightly crushed
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
200ml natural yogurt
3 tbsp melted ghee
juice of 1 lime

For the fried onions:
4 tbsp ghee
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced

For the Biryani:
600g basmati rice 
Water, to parboil the rice
200ml evaporated milk
a generous pinch saffron
2 tbsp melted ghee
1 tbsp rose water
2 tsp sea salt
4-6 green chillies, to garnish
a small handful of coriander leaves, to garnish


Using a sharp knife, make a few incision into the chicken pieces, this helps the marinade to permeate through. Combine all the ingredients for  the chicken in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of at least 4 hours.

For the fried onions, heat up the ghee in a pan. Fry the sliced onions until golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. 

Rinse the rice a few times until water runs clear. Soak in cold water for 20 minutes. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and parboiled the rice, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Warm up the evaporated milk in a pan. Remove from heat,  add the saffron and let it steep for 15 minutes until the saffron imparts its colour to the milk. Combine with ghee, rose water and salt. Set aside.

Heat up a pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces along with the marinade and cook for about 5 minutes, until the surface of the chicken are just cooked and changes colour. Turn off the heat.

In a large heavy-bottomed casserole pot, arrange half the chicken in a layer at the bottom of the pot. Scatter a third of the fried onions, then top with half of the parboiled rice. Pressed to compress and then layer the remaining chicken. Pour over the marinade, sprinkle the remaining onions (remember to save some for garnish) and then top with the remaining rice. Lightly press down to compact ingredients. Drizzle the milk mixture over the prepared rice.

Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes. (To make sure it's completely sealed tight, I've layered some kitchen foil over the pot before putting the lid on) Turn off the heat and leave the pot covered for another 15 minutes. Uncover the lid and transfer to a large serving dish. Garnish with the fried onions, coriander leaves and green chillies. Serve immediately.

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