Tuesday 7 August 2012

Soul Food - Hariyali Chicken Biriyani

You have not celebrated a festivity if you have not celebrated the Indian way! I shall be so bold and state the fact. Indians love grandeur and splendor, especially us Keralites, and being a warm hospitable lot we splash out on celebrations and festivities whenever the occasion allows us to. However, Indian weddings are the most extravagant and lavish festivity one can ever experience.

It's been a while since I've attended an Indian wedding, a typical mallu wedding to be specific but my memory is filled with rich vivid pictures: a kaleidoscope of colors with such unique and glamorous flair. Splashes of glorious gold, opulent orange, ravishing red, a burst of marvelous mauve, brilliant blue and gorgeous green radiate the exhilaration and liveliness.

Indian marriage ceremonies are very ritualistic, often beginning days before the actual wedding. Pre-wedding ceremonies are a lot of fun and really the perfect excuse for more partying. Syrian Christian weddings in Kerala are vibrant, exhibiting splendid elegance. Most weddings within our community don't have pre-wedding ceremonies or any such rituals but are often loads of fun with jam-packed homes, filled with loving and awesome family - brothers, sisters, cousins, friends.....

The actual wedding ceremony is a very solemn affair but is followed by festivities through the day. Once the formal ceremonies are complete, it is finally time to indulge in mouth-watering food. Indian weddings (be it any community) offers opulent and lavish food preparations and guests are treated to a magnificient variety of dishes.

Biriyani is a dish that is made in almost every country of the world and each place has it's own version to show off. The same goes with Kerala. Each place in Kerala boasts of it's one-of-a-kind biriyani and I must say every version of this yummy dish is tasty yet distinct in flavour. This wonderful dish, the biriyani is probably one of the most widely served dishes at Kerala weddings and guests enjoy this hearty meal with a host of other tasty delicacies.

One dish I personally enjoy is rice prepared in a typical Biriyani-style well known to the Indian sub continent. Flavours of spices, coriander and mint leaves, chicken/mutton/beef to name just a few bring texture and colour.

Anyway, though I talk very highly of "The Biriyani", unfortunately all my attempts at making a good biriyani have always left me feeling extremely disappointed and dejected. Today's recipe however is adapted from various biriyani recipes from different people, cook books, food shows etc. It does not boast of any authentic credits or recipe, doesn't use the traditional biriyani cooking style but is a definite must-have! This may sound like quite a fancy thing to make at the end of a working day, but it is fabulously easy and quick and every ingredient would be found in your pantry and refrigerator if it is well stocked.

Succulent chicken, subtle spices and herbs, and cartloads of aromatic flavour, this rice dish is irresistibly good.

Have a great day and happy cooking! :)


For Marination of Chicken

Ginger & Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Lemon juice - juice of 1 lime
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - a pinch

For Biriyani Rice

Basmati Rice - 2 cups
Chicken (cut into medium size pieces) - 1/2 kg
Cinnamon - 1 big piece (1 inch approx.)
Cloves - 5
Cardamom - 5
Bay leaf (coarsely crushed) - 1
Star anise - 1 small petal
Salt - to taste
Yoghurt - 5 tbsp (heaped)
Water - 4 cups (refer notes)

For Coriander-Mint Chutney

Coriander leaves - 1 cup
Mint leaves - 1/2 cup
Coconut (grated) - 4 tbsp
Green chillies - 2 to 3 (adjust as per spice tolerance)
Ginger & Garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch

For Garnish

Cashew - 15
Raisin - 15
Big Onion (finely sliced) - 1 (medium)


Make gashes in the chicken pieces and marinate with ingredients listed under "For Marination of Chicken". Let it rest in the refrigerator for atleast 2 to 3 hours. Overnight marination in the refrigerator is the best.

Wash and soak basmati rice in water for 1/2 an hour. Drain and keep aside.

Preparation of Coriander-Mint Chutney

Grind all ingredients listed under "For Coriander-Mint Chutney" into a coarse paste. Keep aside.

Preparation of Chicken

Heat oil in a wok and add the chicken pieces to it. Saut'e for a few minutes on medium heat till the chicken pieces loses it's pink colour. Reduce flame and cover and cook till almost done. (20 to 25 minutes approx.) Keep aside stock or gravy from the cooked chicken pieces.

Preparation of Biriyani

Heat ghee/oil in a pressure cooker and fry the spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf and star anise) for a few minutes till the aroma comes through. Add the basmati rice and stir constantly on a medium flame for 5 minutes till rice turns glossy and starts crackling. (this helps to avoid the rice stick to each other) Now throw in the cooked chicken pieces along with the coriander-mint chutney and yoghurt. Spread the chutney and yoghurt evenly on the rice. Pour water and left-over chicken stock and enough salt and combine till everything is mixed well. (do not overdo the salt because the chutney and marinade also consist of salt) Close the pressure cooker (do not put weight) and wait for high steam to come. Once high steam appears, after a minute reduce the flame to low or sim and cook for exactly 5 minutes. Once done, switch off flame and open lid after 1/2 an hour. (Timing of cooking is crucial in this procedure of cooking rice, so make sure you follow the above mentioned timings to the to get the perfect consistency and texture of the biriyani)

Preparation of Garnish

Heat ghee in a pan and fry onion, cashew and raisin and keep aside.

Separate the rice with a fork without pressing it too much. (refer notes) Garnish with fried onion, cashew and raisin.


1. Adjust the quantity of water according to the stock you get after cooking the chicken. The whole dish requires only 4 cups of liquid. Too much water or liquid will leave you with soggy biriyani.

2. I have cooked the rice in my own style of cooking basmati rice since I find this an extremely easy method. But you can choose your most convenient method of cooking the same.

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