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
• 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.