Chicken Biryani

Biryani is a classic Indian dish which makes for a wonderful sharing meal. The tender chicken and beautifully spiced fluffy rice is a guaranteed hit! There are many versions and numerous regional variations but this is my hybrid version which has always served me well!

This is quite a complex recipe but you can cheat by omitting the biriyani spice mix and adding 2 x tsp coriander powder, 1 x tsp cumin powder, 1/2 x tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 x tsp chilli powder and 1 x tsp turmeric.  It will still be delicious but I think it’s well worth making the effort for the spice blend which will keep for weeks in an airtight container.


4 x dried red chillies (ideally Kashmiri)
5 x Dried bay leaves
2 x tbsp coriander seeds
1 x tbsp cumin seeds
3 x blades mace

2 inch piece cassia bark

1/2 x tsp cloves

3 x star anise

10 x green cardamom

1 x tbsp black pepper corns

1 x tsp fennel

1 x tsp turmeric

Biryani Spice Mix

Do this once and it will make 3-4 biriyanis as the mix will keep for weeks in an airtight container.


Toast all the spices except the turmeric in a pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly then blitz till smooth in a blender or a pestle & mortar, spice mill or coffee grinder.
Add the turmeric and store in an airtight container.

Biryani Recipe


  • 400g Basmati rice washed and soaked for 30 minutes.
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of oil
  • 2 x onions thinly sliced (garnish)
  • 10 x skinless/boneless Chicken thighs cut in half
  • 1 x diced onion
  • 4 Tablespoons of the Biryani Masala (or alternative spice option above)
  • 1/2 x tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 x sticks cassia bark
  • 8-10 x green cardamom pods
  • 2 x star anise
  • 3 x dried bay leaves
  • 1  x Bunch fresh coriander
  • 2 x chopped green chillies
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 150ml thick Greek yoghurt
  • 2 x Tablespoons of Ginger & Garlic paste (you can buy this or simple whizz equal parts of ginger and garlic with a splash of water and oil and freeze in an ice cube tray for future use)
  • A pinch of Saffron strands soaked in 50mll warm milk
  • 25g unsalted butter cut into cubes
  • Salt to taste


  1. Get your chesneys up to temperature, I place the charcoal in the middle of the base then light it, put the baffle down and reverse the grill to the lower setting so the pan will fit under the lid.
  2. Add the soaked rice to a shallow heavy bottomed lidded pan (or a heavy oven tray that will fit on the grill with the lid down) with boiling water and boil for 3-4 minutes. Drain and set aside (the residual heat will keep cooking the rice). Wipe the pan or tray clean.
    You can part cook the rice for the step above on the hob in advance if you wish.
  3. Heat half the oil in the same tray/dish and fry the sliced onions till they are golden and starting to crisp. Drain on kitchen roll and set aside (this can be done a couple of days in advance if you would like – just store them in the fridge till needed).
  4. Heat the remaining oil and fry the whole spices along with the chopped onion, the ginger & garlic paste and a pinch of  salt for 10-15 minutes over a low to medium-heat (take off the heat if the onions start to darken too much)
  5. When the onions are soft and starting to colour add the chicken along with the ground spice mix, green chillies and yogurt and stir well. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes (check every 5 minutes to make sure it’s not catching or burning). Add a splash of water if it starts to catch or stick.
    Again, this section of cooking the chicken with the spices can be done a day or two ahead of time if you so wish.
  6. Take the chicken out of the pan and keep on a plate, add half the semi-cooked rice to the pan stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape off any of the spice mix stuck to the bottom.
  7. Sprinkle over half the butter, fresh coriander and saffron/milk mixture.
  8. Lay the chicken on top of the rice, top with the rest of the rice and the add the remaining butter, saffron/milk and coriander over the top. Pour over any juices from the plate you were resting the chicken on and scatter over half the crispy fried onions. Squeeze over the lemon.
  9. At this point I move the coals to the far left hand side of the base of the Chesneys and place the biryani on the grill on the right hand side so that the costs are not directly underneath.
  10. Cover with the lid with some parchment underneath or tightly with a layer of baking parchment and then foil. Close the lid and cook for 20-25 minutes. You don’t want the unit going over 200c so use the vent to control the heat.
  11. Take off the heat and rest for 10 minutes.