I’ve never felt so hungry for the food on a cookery programme than when watching Rick Stein’s India. The curries and other dishes looked so delicious that I was desperate to eat my way around India on my next holiday. But then I saw Rick, sweating so profusely that it reminded me why I’ve not been there yet – it’s just too bloody hot.
I’ve had this recipe in my ‘to do’ folder ever since I saw it on the India programme but until recently every time I looked at it I got scared and found something else to cook – it just sounded far too complicated. So many ingredients, too many steps, and (like many BBC food recipes on the web) not quite enough detail (a bit like that bit in the Bake Off technical bake where Mary or Paul give some instructions but miss out bits to test the contestant’s intuition).
Sometimes though it is nice to try something a bit challenging and when it’s miserable outside it’s rather pleasant to spend a whole Saturday afternoon in the kitchen with the radio on and the children snapping at my heals trying to be helpful. This recipe did work out remarkably well and was worth all the nervousness and effort.
I’ve changed a couple of things, the main one being to bake the assembled dish in the oven rather than cooking it on the hob (I’d seen this in another recipe and liked the idea that the rice would go a bit crispy around the edges of the pan).
Rick Stein’s chicken and rosewater biryani (slightly altered by me)
Serves 2 heartily with left overs for the children
To marinade the chicken
- 300g chicken legs, boned, skinned and cut into quarters (this is roughly two large chicken legs)
- 125ml natural yogurt
- 3 garlic cloves, finely crushed
- 3 cm piece ginger, finely grated
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped, with seeds
- ½ teaspoon of chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
For the crisp fried onions
- 150ml vegetable oil
- 2 small onions, thinly sliced
For the sauce
- 5 whole cloves
- 3 cm piece cinnamon stick
- 3 green cardamom pods, bruised with a rolling pin
- 1 Indian bay leaves (I used a normal bayleaf)
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the rice
- 300g basmati rice, soaked in cold water for an hour
- 1 teaspoon salt per 1 litre of cooking water
- 50g ghee
- A pinch of saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm milk for 15 minutes
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- 10g cashew nuts and 10g shelled pistachios, dry-roasted in a hot pan until golden-brown
In a bowl combine all the marinade ingredients and the chicken. Mix until all the chicken is coated and then set aside to marinate for an hour.
For the crisp fried onions, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and fry for 10–15 minutes until deep golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Set aside.
Pour off all but about 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil from the frying pan, set to a medium heat and add the whole spices. Fry for about a minute and then add the chicken and its marinade. Bring to a simmer and stir in the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over a medium heat for 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is clinging to the chicken. Break some of the chicken pieces in half to form smaller pieces – if you can do this easily with the side of a wooden spoon then you know that the chicken is cooked through and tender. The final sauce should be quite dry. This chicken mixture is so delicious that I would happily just eat this as it is with some plain white rice or naan bread. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan to keep warm and set aside whilst you prepare the rice.
For the rice, drain the soaked rice and tip into a large pan of boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes, or until the rice is just tender but still firm. Drain well. Test that the rice is cooked by squeezing a grain between your fingers – it should be soft and break up at the edges, but stay firm in the middle.
Preheat your oven to 200oC fan.
Assemble straight away while the rice is still hot. There will be five layers: rice, chicken, rice, chicken, rice.
To assemble you will need a small oven proof pan with a lid. I used one 10cm deep with a 16cm diameter.
Make sure you have all the elements to hand – chicken, rice, onions, and that you have measured out the ghee and rosewater.
First pour about 1 ½ tablespoons of water and half of the ghee into the pan, then spoon in a third of the rice. Sprinkle over about a third of the saffron milk and rosewater, then spread with half of the chicken mixture and a third of the fried onions.
Add another third of the rice and repeat as above, using the rest of the chicken.
Top with the remaining rice and splash with the remaining saffron milk and rosewater. Drizzle the remaining ghee around the edges of the rice so that it drips down the inside of the pan and cover with a well-fitting lid (if you don’t have a lid you could use two layers of tin foil crimped around the pan to form a tight seal).
Put over a high heat on the hob to get the ghee hot and some steam going. Then put in the oven for 30 minutes. To serve, spoon out onto a large serving platter and scatter with the rest of the crisp onions and toasted cashews and pistachios.
Serve with a raita (which is a sauce made from chopped cucumber, natural yoghurt, mint and a seasoning of salt and pepper).
The assembled biryani before it enters the oven.