Chicken Biryani


This layered chicken and rice dish originated in North India but is such a firm favourite locally that we can view it as an adopted child of South African cuisine. Serves 6.


  • 2 cups basmati rice (uncooked)
  • 2 tots butter
  • 2 onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tot ground turmeric
  • 3 tots curry powder
  • 1 tot ginger (crushed)
  • 12 – 18 pieces of chicken
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tots fresh coriander (finely chopped)
  • almonds (flaked and toasted – optional for serving; not only tastes great but looks and sounds cool as well)

Make the raita:

  • 2 cups plain yoghurt (I prefer Greek to Bulgarian)
  • 1/2 cucumber (seeds removed and coarsely grated)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tot coriander leaves (finely chopped)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Just mix the ingredients together.


  1. Cook 2 cups of basmati rice in 12 cups of water and then drain.
  2. Put your potjie on the fire. Apart from the initial frying part, this dish is made with medium-low heat all the way through, so make sure your fire is not too hot. Rather keep adding coals if the heat is not enough. Add the butter, onions, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Fry for about 5–10 minutes until the onions are soft and shiny but not brown.
  3. Add the turmeric, curry powder and crushed ginger. Stir all of this around for another minute.
  4. Now it’s time for the chicken, salt and pepper to go in. Fry for a few minutes just to give it some colour. Pour in the chicken stock, then stir and cover with a lid. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring half-way through.
  5. Remove the lid, and top with the cooked rice, spreading it out to the edges and flattening the top. Cover with the lid, then cook for another 10 minutes over very low heat.
  6. Take the potjie off the fire and leave to stand for 10 minutes before opening the lid.
  7. Serve with chopped coriander and some toasted flaked almonds.


Chicken biryani can be slightly dry, which is just one of those things. You counteract this problem, and add to the taste, by serving it with a raita sauce, which is similar to a Greek tzatziki and is very easy to make.