Green chicken biryani

Anjum Anand's biryani is lighter and fresher than a traditional biryani - the list of ingredients may seem daunting, but it's quick and easy to make
By Anjum Anand
Green chicken biryani
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 6
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes plus 30 minutes soaking
  • Effort: easy


For the masala

  • 120 g coriander, leaves and stalks
  • 3 sprigs mint, leaves only
  • 15 large leaves basil
  • 3 sprigs tarragon
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 cm piece ginger, peeled
  • 2-4 green chillies, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp white poppy seeds
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 8 small cloves
  • 1 small shaving cassia bark, available from specialist Indian stores, alternatively use a 3cm cinnamon stick

For the chicken

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 750 g chicken, skinned and jointed
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • butter, for greasing
  • 3 sprigs coriander, chopped
  • 3 leaves mint, chopped
  • 3 leaves basil, chopped
  • 2 sprigs tarragon, chopped

For the pilau rice

  • 1 tbsp ghee, or vegetable oil
  • cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 300 g basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes, then drained


1. For the masala: blend all the masala ingredients to a fine paste in a blender or food processor.

2. For the chicken: heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick chef's pan or saucepan. Add the chicken and sear on all sides over a high heat for about 2 minutes. Stir in the masala paste, 200ml water, and salt to taste.

3. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently over a low heat until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.

4. Squeeze over some lemon juice to taste and make sure the curry is well seasoned with salt and pepper, as it will seem less so when mixed with the rice. The curry should not be watery; if it is, then boil over a high heat for a couple of minutes to reduce the volume of liquid.

5. For the pilau rice: heat the ghee or oil in another lidded saucepan. Add the whole spices and onion and fry over a medium heat until well browned. Add the drained rice and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often.

6. Pour in 550ml water and season with salt, tasting the water to make sure it is enough. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 7-8 minutes. Try a grain; it should be tender and cooked, but not soft.

7. Remove the rice from the heat and leave to stand with the lid on for 3 minutes, and another 3 minutes with it off.

8. To finish the chicken: grease a large lidded baking dish with butter. Spoon in half the rice, top with the chicken, the fresh herbs and another layer of the remaining rice.

9. Dot more butter evenly over the surface of the rice, cover well with aluminium foil and the lid so that the steam stays in the dish. Place in the oven and heat through for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

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