Mum’s birthday biryani

It was mum’s birthday on Sunday and we wanted to cook something special for her.

We’d had an incredible but busy Saturday.  We got up early, packed the dog into the car and went off to Saltaire in Yorkshire. Saltaire is a place where the buildings look like they’re made out of carved sand, people say hello to one another and the scenery is made of rare old stuffs: industry and hillsides.

We gave in to our Sunday entirely – with late showers and Sunday papers – so a special one pot, no-tinkering biriyani was exactly perfect.

Once cooked, it’s a dish that keeps on giving with lots of delicious layers, flavours and textures from richly spiced rice to tender juicy chicken and caramelised onions, every bite is a pleasure.

Mum’s Birthday Biriyani

Yields: enough to feed 8 people


  • 500g basmati rice
  • 400g new potatoes (or 6-7 new potatoes
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 mild green chillies
  • 6 fat garlic cloves
  • 1.5tbs grated garlic
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1kg chicken (thigh fillets)
  • 3 tbs olive oil

The spices

  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ¾ teaspoon of turmeric
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chilli powder

Firstly, tackle the prep – it will make the dish much more enjoyable to cook wash the potatoes, cut them into quarters. Wash the rice in a couple of changes of water and leave to soak and chop the chicken into 4cm x 4cm pieces.

Now, chop the onions into rings and heat the oil in a heavy bottomed and lidded pan. Once hot, add the cumin seeds, cinnamons sticks, quartered and de-seeded chilli, cloves and cinnamon. Temper for a minute, stirring, and then add the onions.

Fry on a medium / low heat until they turn golden. I like to sweat my onions for around 10 minutes stirring every now and then to ensure they don’t burn.

Add the tomatoes now and put a lid on the pan – after around 5 minutes add the garlic and the grated ginger, turn up the heat and stir through. After another 5 mins add the spices: the garam masala, turmeric, salt and chilli powder.

Then add the potatoes and the chicken and stir, leaving to cook through for 5-7 mins before adding the rice, stir to coat the rice and add around 500ml of water, stir and pop the lid back on.

Finally, turn the head down a little, and wait for the rice to cook through – this should take around 20 mins. Do keep checking to make sure it’s not dry but be careful not to tinker too much as you don’t want to break the rice up.

Once cooked, you can decorate with spring onions or fried onions or a spot of coriander.