Prawn biryani

Keep a light touch when stirring together Anjum Anands biryani for a dramatic centre-piece
By Anjum Anand
Prawn biryani
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Effort: easy


For the garnish

  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 2 pinches saffron
  • dashes of vegetable oil
  • 1 small onions, sliced

For the curry

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2.5 cm stick of cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 5 cm peeled ginger
  • 400 g tomatoes, quartered and roughly chopped
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 60 g creamed coconut, grated
  • 20-28 g medium-sized raw prawns

For the rice

  • 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 7.5 cm stick of cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 green cardamom
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 300 g basmati rice, washed well and drained
  • 600 ml water


1. To prepare the garnish: heat the milk gently in a small saucepan with the saffron, then remove it from the heat and leave to infuse. Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan, add the onion and fry until crisp and brown. Set aside.

2. For the curry: using a spice ginder, coffee grinder or a sturdy pestle and mortar, grind the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon shard, cloves, dried chillies and cardamom pods to a fine powder.

3. Make a paste of the garlic, ginger and tomatoes in an electric blender adding a little water to slacken the paste.

4. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan, add the onion and fry over a moderate to high heat, stirring often, until well browned.

5. Add the ground spices to the cooked onions and give the pan a good stir. Add the tomato, garlic and ginger paste, along with the turmeric and salt, to taste (about 1½ teaspoon should be fine). Mix well and cook over a high flame until the whole thing has reduced and the oil comes out at the sides - around 12-15 minutes.

6. Add the coconut and a good splash of water. Leave on a low heat, giving the pot an occasional stir and topping up with water, if necessary, while you devein the prawns.

7. To devein the prawns, twist the head off the prawns (the shells can be used to make stock). Turn the prawn over and pull the shell open along the length of the belly to unpeel it. Once you've removed the shell, remove the black line running down the back of the prawn using the tip of a sharp knife.

8. Add the prawns to the curry along with some water if necessary: the curry should be of a medium-thick consistency. Once the prawns are done (around 2-3 minutes depending on their size), turn the heat off.

9. For the rice: heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan, and add the whole spices. Cook for 20 seconds over a moderate heat. Add the rice and stir well to coat with oil.

10. Add the measured water and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes, then cover, turn the heat down and cook for 9-11 minutes, or until the grains are just soft. Take off the heat and leave to steam for a few more minutes.

11. To assemble the biryani: layer half of the rice in a large serving dish, top with an even layer of the prawns and masala (the prawn curry). Finish with the remaining rice.

12. Drizzle with the hot saffron milk and the fried onions, if using. Using a large spoon, fold spoonfuls of the rice into the prawns to mix lightly, while retaining all the separate colours. Serve.

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