Chicken Biryani - Smitten at the Franschhoek Village Market


2kg. Chicken Pieces

Pinch of Saffron soaked in water

Pinch of Saffron soaked in warm milk

3 Bay Leaves

1 Branch Curry Leaves

1tsp. Cumin Seeds

1tsp. Mustard Seeds

2Tbsp. Ghee

Drizzle of Olive Oil

2 Large Onions, chopped

3 Cloves of Garlic, chopped

Large piece of Ginger, peeled & grated

1Tbsp. Cumin & Coriander Powder

1tsp. Black Pepper, crushed

Pinch of Clove Powder

1tsp. Cardamom Powder

1Tbsp. Masala Paste

3 Cups Plain Yoghurt

2tsp. Turmeric Powder

Juice of 2 Lemons

Large Handful of fresh Coriander, chopped

Fresh Mint Leaves, torn


Start by heating up a large frying pan and add the curry leaves, bay leaves, cumin seeds and mustard seeds to the pan. Allow to start popping before adding the ghee and olive oil to the pan.

Once the ghee has melted, add the onions, garlic and ginger. Stir and allow to cook for a few seconds before adding the black pepper, cumin & coriander powder, clove powder, cardamom powder and masala paste. Stir to combine and cook until the onions have softened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Place the yoghurt in a large mixing bowl and add the water soaked saffron followed by the cooked onion & spice mixture. Stir well to combine the ingredients.

Add the lemon juice and some of the fresh coriander and mint leaves to the mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt. Mix to combine. Now add the chicken pieces to the marinade, making sure the chicken is well coated and steeped. Cover with cling film and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or preferably overnight.

Chicken Biryani


Parboil 1½ cups of Basmati Rice & 1½ cups of Brown Lentils and set aside until needed.

Place the marinated chicken and all of the marinade into a large roasting dish.

Spoon half of the basmati rice over the chicken followed by most of the lentils. Use the back of your spoon to gently flatten the rice and lentils. Scatter some of the fresh mint and coriander leaves over the rice and lentil mixture. Now add the final layer of remaining rice and flatten again. Pour the milk soaked saffron over the rice, followed by a scattering of the remaining lentils.

Cover the roasting pan securely with foil before placing it in a pre-heated oven of 160ºC for 60 minutes. Then increase the temperature to 180ºC and cook for a further 20 to 30 minutes. Once cooked remove from the oven and allow to sit (with the foil still on) while you prepare the vagaar or vaghaar (tempering of spices).

Chicken Biryani


For the vagaar:

1Tbsp. Cumin Seeds

1 branch of curry leaves

2Tbsp. Ghee

2 large onions, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 green chillies, slit lengthways

1Tbsp. Garam Masala powder

Handful of toasted Nuts such as Cashews or Almonds

Handful of Sultanas or Cranberries


Heat a large frying pan over high heat and add the curry leaves and cumin seeds. Once they start to pop add the ghee followed by the onions, green chillies and garlic. Stir to combine. Add the nuts, sultanas or cranberries and garam masala. Once the onions have cooked and started to colour you can remove the pan from the heat.

Uncover the biryani and spoon the vagaar over the top.

Serve with raita, sambals or chutney – and enjoy…

With love, from Team Smitten!

Smitten at the Franschhoek Village Market