Cooking with Colm: Chicken biryani is the ultimate Indian one-pot meal

This Indian rice dish is best served in the middle of the table with lots of tasty sides
Cooking with Colm: Chicken biryani is the ultimate Indian one-pot meal

This one-pot rice dish is always a winner

This week’s recipe is my take on a classic Indian rice dish. I have developed a recipe that will work for most people, using ingredients that are easily available from the supermarkets. I do not claim that this recipe is fully authentic, I have for example used coconut oil instead of ghee, as that ingredient might be hard to find and not everyone will want to go to the trouble of clarifying their own butter. If you can find some ghee though, use it instead of the oil. It adds a depth of flavour and richness that is lovely.

Some people think biryani is a rather basic dish, a bit like a pilaf; a side dish to have with another curry. However, biryani is intended to be the main dish in a meal. It is highly spiced with complex flavours and is usually served with side dishes and relishes. This is a perfect meal for a family feast, served up in the middle of the table with lots of tasty sides and everyone helping themselves to platefuls of fragrant, spicy biryani.

A few notes: 

Use skinless chicken thighs as they give the best flavour for this dish but add some breast if you wish. There are quite a few spices in this dish, which is what gives it such a beautiful, complex flavour. Do not be put off by that, the recipe is quite straightforward. Measure out the spices before you start to cook, and you will find it easy enough. If you do not have any mace, you can substitute that for one-quarter of a teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Use regular chilli powder if you do not have any Kashmiri chilli powder.

Chicken biriyani

recipe by:Colm O'Gorman

This is a perfect meal for a family feast, served up in the middle of the table with lots of tasty sides and everyone helping themselves to platefuls of fragrant, spicy biryani

Chicken biriyani



Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

50 mins

Total Time

60 mins






  • 500g skinless chicken thighs

  • For the marinade:

  • 60g natural yoghurt

  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

  • 1 tsp ground coriander

  • ½ tsp turmeric powder

  • ½ tsp ground cumin

  • ½ tsp flaky sea salt

  • 2tsp grated ginger

  • 3 cloves grated garlic

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • For the curry:

  • 1 stick of cinnamon

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 5 green cardamom pods

  • 1 whole star anise

  • 5 whole cloves

  • ½ tsp cumin seed

  • A strand of mace

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

  • 1 large onion

  • 1 green chilli

  • 1 tsp garam masala

  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

  • 400g basmati rice

  • 60ml milk

  • Generous pinch of saffron

  • Handful of fresh mint leaves

  • Handful of cashews or flaked almonds, toasted


  1. Mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Cut each of the chicken thighs into about five pieces, and if you are using breast meat, cut that into similar sized pieces. Add the meat to the marinade and stir well. Marinade for an hour, or overnight if you wish.

  2. Soak the rice in cold water for thirty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

  3. Peel and slice the onion. Chop the green chilli, leave the seeds if you like a little heat or remove them for a milder spiced dish. Heat the oil in a casserole dish or heavy-based saucepan with a lid. When it is good and hot, add the cinnamon, bay leaves, star anise, cumin seed, mace, and lightly crushed cardamon. Turn the heat down to medium and let the spices sizzle for a minute before adding the onion. Fry the onion, stirring regularly, until lightly browned and soft, then remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave most of the spices in the pan.

  4. Add the marinated chicken. Sauté the meat for five minutes, then cover the pan and cook it over a low heat for another five minutes. Chop the mint leaves and add to the chicken along with the chopped green chilli, garam masala and chilli powder. Cook for another five minutes and then turn off the heat. Remove the chicken from the pan and set to one side. There should only be a little gravy just coating the chicken at this stage. If is any wetter, allow it to cook for a few more minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

  5. Warm the milk and add the saffron. Allow it to soak for at least fifteen minutes.

  6. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a few teaspoons of salt. Drain the rice, rinse it well and add it to the boiling water. Bring back to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about five minutes. You want to partly cook the rice, so the edges of each grain are soft, but the middle is still a little hard. Drain the rice and begin to assemble the biryani. Do this while the rice is still hot.

  7. Add a tablespoon of melted coconut oil and another of water to the bottom of the casserole dish. Add one-third of the cooked rice, spreading it across the base of the dish. Sprinkle over one-third of the saffron milk, and half of the cooked chicken and onions. Add another layer of rice and repeat as before, using all the remaining chicken and onion. Add a final layer of rice, and sprinkle over the last of the saffron milk. Pour a few tablespoons of water around the sides of the dish and cover it with some greaseproof paper or kitchen foil before closing the lid. Put the pot over a high heat until you get some steam going. You can check to see if that has happened after a few minutes.

  8. Once it is steaming, turn the heat to low and cook for twenty minutes. After that time has passed, check the rice. It should be perfectly cooked and fluffy. Scatter the toasted nuts and, if you fancy them, some crispy fried onions over the dish. Serve with cucumber raita and other of your favourite sides, an onion relish, poppadom and some mango chutney would be perfect.

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