Category Archives: Biryanis

“This is so good!” Chicken Biryani

Time was, I cooked, I wrote recipes here, and all was well with the world.

But that seems like a long time ago. I’m what they call a corporate slave now, I think, which leaves little time to spend time here, a place  I used to so love being in.

So yesterday evening, when Sandhya, a friend from college, asked on our chat group if I still blog about food, and I replied – with a pang of regret – in the negative, it reminded of those years when writing here was one of my chief pleasures.

And so here I am. Fresh from having cooked a very decent chicken biryani (have always felt that biryanis are not my forte, as a cook), and having made a very decent guacamole, which has been a sort of bucket list thing for me for for the longest time,  never having made that dip at home before.

It helps, though, to have a teen at home who is  interested in food!
Indira had already said to me a couple of days ago, “Can you please make guacamole?” and I just happened to have an avocado sitting in the fruit basket this morning. So while the biryani was in the oven, I googled and found a great recipe for guacamole and Voila! There is now a bowl of really zingy, flavorful guacamole in the fridge! The biryani has been a decent success too, with Indira saying “This is so good!” as she ate the first forkful at lunch earlier today.

Biryani is rather a time-consuming dish to make, but as with most such dishes I think the trick is to break up the process in to steps that can be spread over more than one period of time when one is in the kitchen. So here are the parts that I see here (the first three can be done ahead of time) and which help me see this as something that can be handled without feeling overwhelmed! The ingredients are all in blue, to help make a list to gather all the many ingredients this dish requires. But read the recipe through to the end, for the list grows until then !


  1. Marinate the chicken (can be done some hours ahead and in fact would make for more tender meat than otherwise)

    Cut 250-300 gms of boneless chicken in to 1″-2″ chunks. Whisk 200-250g yogurt till smooth and then blend in 1/2 tsp of Kashmiri red chilli powder, 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder, 1/2 tablespoon each of chopped fresh green coriander, mint leaves and chopped green chilli (this is optional and skipping it will subtract nothing from the flavor), 1 and 1/2 tsp of salt. Toss the chicken in this marinade and keep in the fridge till you’re ready to cook the meat.

  2. Finely Chop 2 large or 3 medium sized onions, and make tomato puree with 2 large tomatoes after blanching them in hot water to remove the skin.
  3. Make a spice mix by powdering together 1/2 tbsp each of cashew nuts, chironji seeds (there seems to be no ID for this in English, but if not available pine nuts are a decent substitute), poppy seeds, and grated coconut (lightly dry roasted so that it is not wet).
  4. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, soak 1/4 tsp of saffron strands in 1/4 cup of warm milk.
  5. Cook 1 and 1/4 cup of long-grain Basmati rice (wash and then soak the rice for at least 30 minutes before cooking it) in a pot in plenty of water and with a little salt, without covering the pan, till the rice is 3/4ths done. Drain the rice, and leave it aside to cool a little.
  6. Cook the chicken (on medium heat throughout)– In a large cooking pan, heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, add 1 tsp each of ginger paste and garlic paste, and fry for a minute or so. Add the onions, and fry till they are golden brown. Now add the spice mix and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato puree next, and fry everything together till the oil separates and starts to appear on the sides. Turn the chicken in now with the marinade, along with a 1/2 tbsp of lime juice, and mix well. Cover the pan and cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes or till it is tender. By this point, the yogurt, tomato, onion and spice mix will have cooked down to a creamy-looking sauce with a rich color. Turn the heat off.
  7. In a large enough baking dish, or in a wide, deep pot, layer the rice and chicken as follows – first put 1/3rds of the rice, then spread half of the chicken over it. Layer another third of the rice, then the rest of the chicken, and then the remaining rice. Finish by sprinkling the saffron-infused milk over the top, and 1 tbsp of melted ghee. Cover the pot with a lid (or with silver foil if using a baking dish).
  8. Finish making the biryani by cooking on dum over low heat, or by baking at 180 degrees C for 20-30 minutes.

Leave to rest for 15-30 minutes. Serve. Enjoy 🙂

The usual thing is to eat biryani with yogurt, or a -tomato-onion-cucumber raita.
Perhaps that helps cut the heat of the spices. But this dish deserves to be savored on
its own, I’ve always thought, and needs only glass of wine on the side, really :-).
Plum chutney is another unusual and delicious accompaniment for it,
and adds a lovely dash of color to the plate.






Bisi Bele Huliyanna-or, Zingy Khichdi

Technically, this dish is a kind of khichdi, in that it is made with rice and lentils that are cooked together. But, oh, what a difference to the typical khichdi which is often very lightly – though always fragrantly so -spiced and, when not being served to a baby or an invalid (since it is easily digested), is served with an accompaniment such as kadhi, or a vegetable dish on the side.

Bisi bele bhath, or bisi bele huliyanna – hot lentil sour rice, in the Kannada language – however takes the concept of khichdi to a whole another level, packed as it is with flavor and heat. A generous amount of ghee, tamarind juice, and of course the signature spice mix that makes this dish – the result is a  delicious, all-in-one dish that needs no accompaniment except some papad, and maybe some yogurt to balance the heat.

bisi bele

This is Indira’s favorite khichdi, and I’ll always be grateful to my dear friend Harshini for introducing us to this dish soon after we first met Kiran and her in France 17 years ago. Through all these years, the advent of two children, a move back to India and much else that has changed in life, it has remained a family favorite. And I love that Harshini’s version of it is one of those easy, one-pot recipes that I so love!

Bisi Bele Huliyanna

1/2 cup of a small-grain rice variety such as kolam or sona masuri
1/2 cup of arhar daal
(pigeon pea lentils)
a handful of green beans, washed and chopped in to 1″ pieces
a 1″ piece of ginger, washed, peeled and grated
2 small tomatoes, washed and chopped in to large-ish chunks
2 medium onions, chopped in to large-ish chunks
3/4 tsp of turmeric powder
2 tablespoons of ghee
1 and a 1/2 or 2 tablespoons of thick tamarind pulp (to be prepared by soaking 1 tablespoon of   tamarind flesh in some hot water for 30 min or so)
1 level tablespoon of bisi bele bhath powder mix
salt to taste

Wash the rice and daal thoroughly, and soak together – in enough water to allow for the grains to remain covered even after they swell a little – for about 3 hours. Then drain the water, and combine the rice and lentils will all the other ingredients in a pressure cooker. Add 3 cups of water, and cook till 4 whistles of the cooker. Let all the steam escape, then open the cooker and carefully turn out the khichdi  in to a serving bowl. The consistency to look for is of a really soft, thin rather than thick khichdi  (you will be able to move the serving spoon easily through the cooker or serving bowl, sort of like through a smooth and runny porridge).

Serve quite hot, with deep-fried papad. Satisfaction guaranteed.