If you had to ask me what my favourite cuisine was, I would probably not be able to tell you. But I might be able to narrow it down to three or four and in those Indian food would rank pretty highly. I am so obsessed with Indian cuisine. I love how the Northern and Southern regions differ so much with their use of ingredients and methods and above all, I can’t get enough of the depth, fragrance and flavour that accompanies all things Indian.
As an Afrikaans girl, my introduction to Indian food was “Kêrrie en Rys” which was served at church fêtes all over the country. This very loose interpretation of curry was made from minced beef and included onions, carrots, peas and small cubes of potatoes and would be flavoured with curry powder bought from a supermarket. It was usually served with turmeric-flavoured rice, Mrs Balls chutney, desiccated coconut and some sliced bananas. I don’t want to knock my culture but let me just say, it was not great. Usually bland and under seasoned and not really deserving of the word “curry”. In my early teens a few Indian restaurants opened in our town and I started experimenting with proper curries. For my limited palate, butter chicken and lamb korma was a hit and as I got used to spice I quickly fell in love with vindaloo as well. I loved the copper bowls the curry was served in, I loved the raita and poppadoms and naan bread it was served with. I just loved it all.
Best of all is that Winter is coming up and Winter time = Curry time in this house. In anticipation, I decided to make a Chicken Biryani over the weekend which is one of my favourite curries. And the way I do mine makes it a really easy chicken biryani recipe. There are a few steps but they are very simple and the end result is so worth it. I topped my chicken biryani with crisp, fried onions which added stunning texture as well as a lovely sweetness to the finished dish and served it with a big bowl of herbed yoghurt sauce which adds a bit of creaminess and finished it off beautifully. It’s also a great make-ahead dish and can be assembled up to a day in advance before baking off before serving. What more could you ask for?
for the biryani
- 3 cups cooked and cooled Basmati rice cooked with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 kg boneless chicken thighs cubed
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 3 cm piece fresh ginger grated
- 2 cardamom pods crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon hot masala spice
- 1.5 cups chicken stock reserve 1/2 cup of stock
- 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt to taste
- 3 large potatoes cubed
- oil for frying
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
for the crispy onions
- 2 onions finely sliced
- enough oil to deep fry the onions
for the herbed yoghurt sauce
- 2 cups Greek yoghurt
- 2 tablespoons coriander finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
- Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot.
- Fry the chicken in the oil until they start to brown. Remove and set aside.
- Fry the onions, garlic and ginger for 2 minutes before adding the spices. Allow to fry for another minute and add the chicken back into the pot.
- Stir to coat the chicken in all the spices and add the tomatoes, sugar and chicken stock.
- Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a large frying pan and fry the potatoes, cumin seeds and chilli flakes until golden and crisp. Season with salt and set aside.
- To assemble the dish, layer a 1/3 of the rice at the bottom of a greased oven-proof dish. Next, cover the rice with the chicken curry but reserve some of the sauce. Follow with the rest of the rice and spoon over the remaining sauce. Finally, cover the rice with the fried potatoes. Pour over the reserved chicken stock and cover with foil (or a lid if your oven-dish has one).
- Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
- To make the crispy onions, heat the oil in a small saucepan then fry the onions until they are brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and drain on kitchen paper before seasoning with salt.
- To make the yoghurt sauce, combine all the ingredients then set aside.
- Remove the biryani from the oven and top with the crispy onions.
- Serve with a generous dollop of the yoghurt sauce.