Written by Hayley Koita

food | recipes

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10 Apr, 2021

Chicken Breyani

It was recently my godmother’s 12 year death anniversary. She is one of the people I shadowed in the kitchen and part of the reason I (for the most part) don’t know much of anything I put in a dish – I cook by heart and by smell, which I learned from her. Many dishes we grew up with were because she was so comfortable making the most intricate meals (and making it look completely effortless!). My godmother could cook so many different cuisines and a lot of what I do in the kitchen was inspired by her, including Cape Malay dishes like this breyani.

This recipe might seem daunting but if you break the steps down and make it over the course of 2 days (like on a weekend) it is much easier to execute.

For Fried Onions
2 medium onions, sliced into rings
Half a cup of Butter
3 tbps Sunflower oil

Meat base
6 Deboned Chicken thighs, bone-in thighs or drumsticks
Salt to taste
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 tsp Ginger and garlic paste

Spices (split into two)
1 tbsp Crushed chillies
1 tbsp Turmeric
Half a tsp Coriander
1 tsp Cumin
1 tbsp Garam masala
2 tbsp Red Curry powder (I use mother-in-law)
1 cup of Tomato purée

2 cups Basmati rice
1 tsp Salt

Whole spices (split into two)
8 Cardamom pods
2 Cinnamon sticks
4 Star aniseed
1 tbsp Fennel seeds
1 tbsp Cumin seeds

For layering of the Rice
1 tbsp Olive oil
5 Saffron threads
Handful of Fresh mint, chopped finely
Handful of Fresh coriander, chopped finely

Optional – boiled egg

On the day before you want to serve your breyani, slice the onions thinly and fry them in batches in a little of butter and oil, over low heat, stirring constantly until browned and crispy. Set aside for the next step.

Marinade the chicken in the garlic & ginger paste, yoghurt and one half of the spices, and a tablespoon of the crispy fried onions. Leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

On the day you want to serve your breyani, soak the rice, rinse and keep replacing the soaking water until it runs clear. This will ensure you get beautiful, separate and fluffy grains of rice. Boil water, add half of the whole spices and add two-thirds of rice, boiling for only 5 minutes. Strain the rice and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, fry the chicken in some butter and oil. Remove the chicken, add a bit of oil and fry the rest of the whole spices for 5 minutes on low heat. Add tomato purée and the rest of the powder spices. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Remove a third of the chicken. Add the retained raw rice, a layer of crispy onions, some mint and coriander, and a splash of olive oil. Repeat two more layers, with the cooked rice. Crush the saffron and add the water to it, leaving it to steep for 5 minutes. Finish off the last layer with more herbs, swirl the saffron water on top, and put little blobs of butter all over the last layer. Add a cup of water all along the sides of the Dutch oven. Put foil on the top and the lid over the foil. This seal will get the rice to steam inside. Bake in the oven for around 35-40 minutes. Switch off the oven and let the breyani sit for a few minutes.

Serve with a cucumber raita and boiled eggs and enjoy!


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