Fragrant Chicken Biryani

Isn’t it odd that although life should always come before one’s blog, a strange pang of guilt manifests itself within one’s gut following every unannounced hiatus? To tell you the truth, I had found a good blogging-groove and was rather comfortable posting every other day. However, on Friday I jumped aboard a coach bound for Cardiff, in order to see my friend Tom. He played the part of host rather well and even cooked me a rather tasty prawn caldine, something which I hope to make frugal at a later date. The trip was just what I needed; an opportunity to get away from Aberystwyth and to do a little chilling. Since my eagerly awaited return I have found myself full of a kind of arrogant, yet not oppressive, verve and I intend fully to blog your socks off.

Regular Sunday roasts have always been a tradition in my family. Of course, what this means is that at the beginning of most weeks in the month we are left with a great deal of chicken meat and a carcass. As one might expect, the carcass invariably ends up in the stock pot with some bay leaves, veg and peppercorns; there is no better way to use it. However, the leftover meat has the potential to supply our dinner table with a far greater variety of food. Though variety can sometimes be a curse, as we’re always looking for different and interesting ways to use it up, throwing it away would be the antithesis of frugality. Indeed, there are certain dishes which are better suited to pre-cooked chicken than they are to great big hunks of uncooked chicken breast; this biryani is just one such dish. Of course, one may opt to use fresh chicken in this curry, but it certainly isn’t necessary.

The secret behind a perfect biryani, if there is such a thing, is that it should be light and fluffy, as opposed to dense and saucy. It is for this reason that I always try to make fragrant biryani; the flavour and texture work far better this way – the choice of rice is very important. If one opts for a cheap, shorter grain of rice the dish will end up a little claggy. Instead, one should always choose a longer grain of rice, ideally basmati. Of course, the method by which one prepares the rice is also important and one of two will do just fine. Indeed, the method used in last year’s sweet potato and mushroom biryani works just fine, as does the technique used by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – his method will be used in this particular recipe. This really is rather a delicious biryani and I urge all of you to consider it. Enjoy!

Fragrant Chicken Biryani

Serves 3-4


• 2 onions, finely sliced

• 1 tsp coriander seeds, ground

• 1 cinnamon stick, ½ tsp ground cinnamon will do

• 2 bay leaves

• 4 cardamom pods, bashed

• ½ tsp ground turmeric

• 1 tsp chilli flakes

• A small knob of ginger, grated

• 2 cloves of garlic

• Rapeseed oil

• 200g basmati rice

• 2 handfuls of leftover chicken

• 1 lime

• A handful of coriander

• Salt and pepper


1. Begin by frying the onions in a little oil with the cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, bay leaves, turmeric, chilli flakes, ginger and garlic. Cook for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse the rice thoroughly and boil in enough water to cover it by 2cm, until the water has evaporated. Once that has happened cover the pan with a tea towel, pop the lid on and turn the heat right down.

2. Preheat the oven to 160C. Add the chicken to the onion and spices, mix thoroughly. After 5 minutes, fluff the rice and stir into the biryani. Add the juice of the lime and then throw the rest of it in for good measure. Season and pop in the oven for 20 minutes until hot and fragrant. Serve with a little chopped up coriander.

Cost: Using left over chicken is so much cheaper that using packaged chicken breast. Indeed, by my reckoning this entire biryani should set one back a mere £2, at the most. It really is difficult to go wrong at such a pleasing price point.

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101 comments on “Fragrant Chicken Biryani

  1. cookinginsens
    July 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Nice and spicy! Looks and sounds good Frugal.

  2. lorrielorrieb
    July 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Oh perfect!! I’ve been waiting for THIS one!! I actually looked up recipes for Biryani recently but they all seemed too bothersome……can’t wait to try this!!

  3. movita beaucoup
    July 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I’d love to leave a comment about how wicked awesome that chicken biryani looks, but I’m too busy looking for my socks…

  4. Juls
    July 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I felt compelled to google ‘prawn caldine’ and I wish I hadn’t because between that and your biryani, tonight’s pie is looking mighty insubstantial. (“prawn face” was one of the options google presented me with and I regret being curious because a google image result of the close up of a marine crustacean’s maw is fairly terrifying – I’ll return to staring at how pretty your crockery is. You do have very pretty crockery.)

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Haha! Dreadfully sorry, Juls. I love my crockery :D. I may get some more this week. That terracotta pot was only £2.99!

  5. thesinglegourmetandtraveller
    July 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Lovely recipe and beautiful photos.

  6. putneyfarm
    July 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Looks great. And it is funny how we start to feel some guilt if we take a break from the blog for a few days. It almost feels like tending a garden…

  7. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
    July 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I love biryani, but never thought to make it with leftover chicken before. Probably because with two teenage boys, there rarely is leftover chicken. 😉 Maybe next time I’ll hide a drumstick and make this recipe – it looks delicious. Love your serving ware too! 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      It worked very well. That’s fair enough though. Good idea :D. Thanks, I’m slowly collecting bit and bobs.

  8. Conor Bofin
    July 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Excellent on two counts. One, it looks great. Two, you are back in my reader.

  9. simplybeingmum
    July 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    A little bit impressed by your blog! Okay, so that was an understatement! This is on the hit list… imminently…

  10. Promenade Claire
    July 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Fragrant indeed!

  11. soffiagudrun
    July 10, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    I want to try this. leftover chicken is also great with leftover risotto, all pan fried the day after…
    You are doing a great job with the photos. It´s a full time job sometimes to make a nice photo to go with the blog, so Kudos!

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      You should! That’s a good idea. Thanks! I do take quite a while sometimes.

  12. Just A Smidgen
    July 10, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    My friend makes biryani.. nice to see your take on it. I’ve never tried it because she does it so well… I’m thinking I’d take a shot at it now:) Great photos btw!!

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      You must, Smidge! That’s an order – I know you’d love it.

  13. gaele1
    July 11, 2012 at 1:17 am

    I tried this tonight… Yummy. Thank you. None of the recipes I have found before were as simple. But – I used Jasmine rice – done in an asian steamer basket and it was nice and fluffy. I also omitted the chopped coriander and put a bit of fresh tarragon.. Now I need to go play with my curry recipe. Cheers!

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      I’m glad you liked it so much. I do like simple cooking. Thanks.

  14. ceciliag
    July 11, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Lovely, I am all for using left overs the next day.. this would be perfect! c

  15. Michelle
    July 11, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Very nice! I know what you mean about the pressure to post, though. We’ve been having work done in our kitchen plus I went to my high school reunion, and now I’m feeling really far behind.

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      Thanks, Michelle! You ground out that post well though :D.

  16. Eat Healthy Be Happy
    July 11, 2012 at 4:04 am

    The mix of spices sounds lovely. I usually make chicken enchiladas with leftover chicken roast (I don’t roast chicken once a week, though. =]), but I think this will have to be my next left-over meal!

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks! That’s a great idea, perhaps I’ll get round to that 🙂

  17. thekalechronicles
    July 11, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Pray tell us Yanks what “claggy” means, Nick. The chicken biryani looks lovely. The one I make is tomato-based, from the Ajanta cookbook.

    • Somer
      July 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

      Yes please do, and then proceed to blog our socks off. I’m going to attempt achicken-less version as yours is stunning and I can see will do fine without it. I swear I can smell it from here.

      • frugalfeeding
        July 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm

        Haha – I’ll do my utmost. Oh yes, I’m sure it would be yummy even without the chicken! To be honest, you probably can’t 😛

      • Somer
        July 16, 2012 at 8:43 pm

        Caught. You’re right, but I could imagine the smell wafting from your photos 😉

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      Umm. It is a very specific word. Perhaps the best way to describe it is dense and tricky to swallow… I’ll have to try a tomato based one.

  18. Stephanie
    July 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

    The mixture of spices must have made your kitchen smell amazing!

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      They did, Stephanie. Particularly the lime actually.

  19. Chica Andaluza
    July 11, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Now how did you know I had some cooked chicken to use up today (and a huge craqving for curry)?! Perfectly timed and a great recipe 🙂

  20. theintrepidbaker
    July 11, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Wow! I can’t believe making briyani is that cheap! I always thought the spices alone would be very costly. Can’t wait to try out your recipe. Would you recommend cooking this in a rice cooker?

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Nah – spices are relatively cheap! Umm. I have no idea, since I’ve never used one. Give it a go?

  21. Joanne
    July 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Oh wow, that looks fab, i think i may have to make that soon, possibly Saturday night.

  22. Savory Simple
    July 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    My husband LOVEs chicken biryani. I have to make this for him!

  23. Shira
    July 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Looks just incredible Frugal – wow! We’ve missed you yes – bring on the curry dishes!

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks, Shira. I’m glad you like the look of it.

  24. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    July 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    I want this. REAL bad. Must make!

  25. Willow
    July 11, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    What an inviting dish! The combination of spices sounds incredible.

    And I know exactly that guilty feeling – my blogging has slowed down in lieu of other life stuff. Which, of course, is more important, but it does nag at the back of my mind…

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      Thanks, willow! It does – it’s probably because we crave success 😀

  26. sybaritica
    July 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Very nicely done … Biryani is one of my wife’s specialties 🙂

  27. Karista
    July 12, 2012 at 3:38 am

    This recipe looks so full of flavor and completely delicious! I love these kinds of recipes, especially when I can use leftover chicken. Have a lovely week Frugal!

  28. Peter - The Roaming GastroGnome
    July 12, 2012 at 3:48 am

    Looks delicious!

  29. Cara
    July 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Duuuuuuuuuuuuuddddddeeee, you are making me so hungry right now! I need to eat breakfast 🙂 Nick, this looks unbelievable! You better believe that homegirl is making this!

    • frugalfeeding
      July 16, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      Haha, thanks, Cara… who is homegirl? Is that you?

  30. Jennifer Stott (@JenSto2t)
    July 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I’ve never made anything like this, but it sounds fantastic! And it’s making me hungry!

  31. The Dusty Baker
    July 13, 2012 at 1:10 am

    LOVE this recipe. Biryani is one of my favorite go-to dishes when out. Definitely bookmarking this one friend!

  32. spree
    July 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Sounds positively scrumptious. I’m pinning this for a future (near future) dinner!

  33. lorrielorrieb
    July 16, 2012 at 5:18 am

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was fantastic!! Thanks so much for this, it will be in regular rotation in our house from now on!!

  34. Korena in the Kitchen
    July 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    WOW, this sounds fantastic! Pinning this for dinner at some point… 🙂

  35. lapetitebaker
    July 17, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I am always looking for ways to spice up some rice and this looks fantastic! I can’t wait to make it.

  36. fork&thimble
    August 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    YUM! I love biryani! I’d definite trying this out 🙂

  37. myentertainingthoughts
    August 5, 2012 at 2:48 am

    This looks great! I have chicken I need to use tonight. Chicken Biryani it is!

  38. kanzensakura
    August 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    This looks wonderful – recipe and pics. I am certainly going to do. I don’t know if you do this or have the space, but when chickens are on a really good sale (the nice ones without those hormones and such), I buy several and cook by putting in my pressure cooker – less time and less cooking gas. I then strip the meat and put in in two cup packages seperating dark from light meat. The broth of course goes in the freezer along with the unseasoned broth, all ready to pull out at a moment’s notice. I have found no difference in taste or texture of “freshly cooked” or leftover chicken. So I am going to put out chicken to thaw and use for this for Sunday dinner tonight. Thank you for this recipe! I hope you will come again and visit me. I love company! Thank you for liking my blog on Tater Cakes.

    • frugalfeeding
      August 7, 2012 at 9:31 pm

      Thanks! I don’t have a pressure cooker. It’s a good idea, but I don’t think I eat enough chicken either :D. I shall surely visit again!

      • kanzensakura
        August 8, 2012 at 1:03 am

        I can certainly understand that. My family are the main meat eaters! It save me time and money looking after them. I am making the Biryani this weekend, with and without chicken to take to potluck dinner. I think it is going to be wonderful and different from the usual Southern fare.

  39. babso2you
    August 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    FF — Thank you for the like on my blog on Wild Caught Salmon in Browned Butter!

  40. theunchemicalchef
    August 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    I also had the sensation of being able to smell the biryani! I look forward to trying the recipe, which looks scrumptious. AND had a tough time with my most recent post, which started out about a bean salad and became a research project into soaking beans and phytates. I am sure we give more thought to our food than any generation ever — my blog is all about thinking about it — , whether for good or ill!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 7, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Haha – very strange :D. It’s good to think about what we eat, but I’m a little too lazy to do it thoroughly.

  41. ilovelucca
    November 26, 2012 at 11:14 am

    this i will be making:)

  42. taplatt
    September 4, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I just made this the other evening and it turned out really well. I tweaked some spice measurements and added leftover potatoes, but otherwise pretty much stuck to your directions. Thanks!

  43. zarwhitetaker
    June 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Well whenever I feel like I want to try something new, I look for you site and Afghani recipes website. If ask me what I like most then I will say your site has my best of the best vote. I thank you all for sharing such outstanding info with us. I am really looking forward to reading more from you guy.

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