A colourful bowl of Kenyan Swahili biriyani Image: HANNIE PETRA
A colourful bowl of Kenyan Swahili biriyani Image: HANNIE PETRA

Biriyani is a one-pot mixed rice dish mixed with highly seasoned meat and/vegetables (such as potatoes) that draws its origin from among the Muslims of India.

Its name is derived from the Persian word "Birian" which translates to "fried before cooking."

The meal is not only highly flavourful but aromatic and fiery with a unique taste as well.

Ideally, it's chicken curry buried under a mound of delicately spiced fluffy rice made in one pot.

The rice is steamed over low heat so as to allow it to absorb the flavours of the curry bubbling underneath.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole Chicken
  • 4 whole tomatoes
  • 6 onions Sliced
  • 2 red chilli
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 3 potatoes
  • 3 tbsp Coriander
  • Food colour
  • cooking oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups pre-cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup natural yogourt/coconut rice
A plate of chicken biriyani served with kachumbari Image: HANNIE PETRA
A plate of chicken biriyani served with kachumbari Image: HANNIE PETRA

Method

Thoroughly wash all your vegetables, chop them accordingly and set them aside.

Note: for a richer taste, marinate your meat overnight or a couple of hours before you start cooking the dish. Allow your rice to cool, it's best if it's at room temperature so that it's not sticky.

In a bowl, mix all your spices plus soy sauce together. Use half of the mixture for marinating the meat and the other half for frying the meal.

In a frying pan, add oil and cook your onion rings until they caramelize, add the crushed garlic and ginger and allow to cook till fragrant. Add the rest of the spices and stir well allow to simmer then added the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste as well.

Stir and cover the cooking pot to allow the mixture to cook for a few minutes, you can check on it in between to ensure that it doesn't stick to the pot.

Add in your coconut cream/mala/natural yogourt (whichever you prefer using) and allow it to simmer under low heat. Add in the chicken pieces and stir till well mixed. Add half a cup of water, stir and cover the pot.

Allow the meal to boiling under a medium heat source.

As the meal boils, fry the potatoes until a crispy skin forms. While still checking on the chicken to ensure it doesn't stick to the pot/burn.

Biriyani topped with caramelized onions and gravy Image: HANNIE PETRA
Biriyani topped with caramelized onions and gravy Image: HANNIE PETRA

Once the meal is ready, scoop out any excess oil that's formed on the top of the pot and set it aside.

Note: don't switch off the heat source just lower it to a low temperature. 

Remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside, add half of your cooked (and coloured) rice to the cooking pot breaking it up with a fork to ensure it's well separated.

Then add the chicken pieces, potatoes, and half the top layer oil that you'd scooped then top it off with the remaining rice and the rest of the top layer oil, cover the dish and allow it to simmer for a few minutes.

Once your biriyani is ready, serve with kachumbari, gravy of choice and enjoy.