Friday, 26 April 2013

Summertime Indulgence: South Indian Chicken Biriyani

Ah! Finally after several failed attempts at making the ever popular Biriyani, here is an excellent recipe for a delicious Chicken Biriyani. As I have mentioned earlier, Biriyani has been my all-time favorite dish; serve it to me any time of the day and I'm ever-ready to gobble it all up.

Biriyani is typically a special occasion dish, for many reasons. This dish is particularly known for its many layers of flavors that slowly develop and meld together. So, it’s a multi-step process that requires much love in many installments over a long cooking time. Also, those flavors and the aromas from the dish come from a blend of spices that are typically not used in everyday cooking and are pricier, hence adding to the special feel…

The concept of the Biriyani came from Persians. Originated in Persia it was brought to India by travelling Iranian merchants. It is a flavored rice dish made with alternating layers of rice and meat. The meat is cooked separately in a thick sauce/curry/gravy and then arranged between layers of rice and the whole assembly is then cooked very slowly to infuse flavors throughout the dish. When the Mughals conquered Northern India, they introduced much of their cuisine to the populace. As their rule spread further South, most Indians were exposed to the delicacy and it took a firm place in every Indian’s heart. And, then, every region of the country adopted the dish as its own and lent a distinctive flavor and taste to it by modifying the ingredients as also the method based on the indigenous cuisine.

Over time, a distinctive difference developed between the Biriyani as it is served in North India (that is only a slightly modified version of the Persian original) and that in the South, especially, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which, has been significantly modified to suit the Southern Palate.

The good thing about the Biriyani is that the components can be made ahead and it tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to develop.

Spices have always been precious and festivals are occasions to indulge and splurge. Accordingly, food on these special days is enhanced in flavor, aroma and richness by various spices and ingredients indigenous to the country like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and Basmati rice and those introduced through the ancient spice routes such as saffron, dried fruits and nuts.

Although, every family makes its own version, and I'm sure they are all yum, I share with you today my Amma's (my lovely mum-in-law) awesome recipe for the flavorful Chicken Biriyani. Amma's Biriyani always tastes lovely and she prepares it with all kinds of meat like Mutton, Beef etc... and all of them taste delicious. My search for a good Biriyani came to an end when I first had Amma's tasty Biriyani but it took me a lot of attempts to get it right! Thanks a ton Amma for so patiently teaching me this yummy dish.

Biriyani is an informal meal, typically eaten family style with the whole family gathered around a giant plate piled high with flavored rice and flavorful meat. That's a fantastic way to eat it, everyone digging in, laughing and enjoying the meal.

I served up my Biriyani with a chilled Raita - Crunchy Corn and Raisin Delight, Date and Lime Pickle and Pappads. This dish is quick and easy but at the same time elegant and bursts with flavors. I dedicate today's post to Amma, my loving mum-in-law. "Amma, I can't wait to make it for you when you come and stay with us in Bangalore" :)

Ingredients for Chicken

1 to 1 & 1/4 Kg Chicken or 14 to 15 pieces of Chicken; cut into pieces
6 to 7 medium size Big Onions; finely sliced
6 & 1/2 inch piece Ginger; ground to paste
17 to 18 cloves Garlic; ground to paste
8 to 10 Green Chillies; crushed (adjust as per spice tolerance)
4 to 5 medium size Tomatoes, finely sliced (refer notes)
4 to 5 tbsp Curd
10 to 12 Cashew nuts; ground to a fine paste with a little milk (optional)
1/2 cup Coriander leaves; finely chopped
1/4 cup Mint leaves; finely chopped or juice extracted
8 to 10 Cloves
4 to 5 Cinnamon sticks
6 pods Cardamom
2 to 3 petals of Star Anise
1 tsp Turmeric
Salt; to taste
Ghee/Oil (refer notes)

Ingredients for Rice

2 & 1/2 cups Basmati Rice; washed, cleaned and soaked in water for 1/2 an hour
5 cups Water
1 clove
1 inch piece of Cinnamon stick
3 pods of Cardamom
1 Bay leaf; coarsely crushed
1 petal of Star Anise
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
A pinch of Turmeric
Salt; to taste
Ghee/Oil (refer notes)

Ingredients for Garnish

15 to 18 Cashew nuts
15 to 18 Golden Raisins
1 medium size Big Onion, finely sliced
Ghee; for frying

Method for the Chicken Curry

Grind all the spices - cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom and star anise to a coarse or fine powder. Keep aside. This is the spice mix for the chicken curry/sauce/gravy.

Make light incisions on the chicken and keep aside.

Heat oil in a pressure cooker or a wok and add the finely sliced onions into it. Sauté till onions reduce in quantity. (do not let the onions turn brown) Remove the onions from the pressure cooker or wok and keep aside.

Into the same cooker, add ginger & garlic paste along with crushed green chillies and sauté till raw smell disappears. Throw in the ground spice mix and stir till raw smell goes away. At this time add the sliced tomatoes, enough salt and turmeric powder and sauté for a few minutes. (do not wait for the oil to float, just a few minutes of sautéing will do) Now toss in the sautéed big onions and combine well. Switch off the fire and add the curd, chicken pieces and finely chopped leaves into it. Cover and cook till chicken is cooked through. Reduce the gravy till it is a thick gravy consistency; residual gravy will be used later in the dish. Once done, add the cashew paste into it and (if you are using it) let the chicken rest for a while; about 1 hour should be perfect. (refer notes)

Method for the Rice

Drain the soaked rice and keep aside.

Heat ghee/oil in a pressure cooker and fry the spices - cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, star anise and fennel seeds) for a few minutes till the aroma comes through. Add the basmati rice and stir constantly on a medium flame for 5 minutes till rice turns glossy and starts crackling. (this helps to avoid the rice stick to each other) Now pour water, turmeric powder and enough salt and combine till everything is mixed well. (make sure you add enough salt but do not overdo it as the chicken has salt in it too) Close the pressure cooker (do not put weight) and wait for high steam to come. Once high steam appears, after a minute reduce the flame to low or sim and cook for exactly 5 minutes. Once done, switch off flame and open lid after 1/2 an hour. (Timing of cooking is crucial in this procedure of cooking rice, so make sure you follow the above mentioned timings to the to get the perfect consistency and texture of the Biriyani)

Separate the rice with a fork without pressing it too much. (refer notes) Keep aside.

Now take a large rice pot or any vessel and grease it with ghee/oil. Layer the rice and chicken mixture; begin with a layer of rice followed by chicken and repeat layers with rice as the final and top-most layer. (refer notes) Add drops of ghee between each layer. (on each layer of rice before arranging the chicken pieces) Place the rice pot or vessel on the fire and keep on gentle sim for a few minutes till the Biriyani is set well and gravy is incorporated well into the rice.

Method for Garnish

Heat ghee in a pan and fry onion, cashew and raisin and keep aside.

Garnish the Chicken Biriyani with fried onion, cashew and raisin. Cover the Biriyani pot after adding the garnish for a few minutes before serving.

Serve hot with fried pappads, dates chutney and a cool raita. And there you have it, awesome Chicken Biriyani…..


1. In case you do not have tomatoes in your pantry you can add 1 ¼ cups curd instead.

2. You can either add ghee or oil to your Biriyani; of course, ghee brings out the authentic flavor of Biriyani. I use a mixture of ghee and oil so I don’t overdo both!

3. If you do not have the time to let the chicken rest, that’s fine, you can add it immediately into the basmati rice and continue cooking your Biriyani. But letting the chicken rest enhances the overall flavor of the dish.

4. I have cooked the rice in my own style of cooking basmati rice since I find this an extremely easy method. But you can choose your most convenient method of cooking the same.

Recipe Courtesy: My lovely mum-in-law, Amma

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Treats: Home-made Chicken Nuggets

This Home-made Chicken Nuggets recipe was featured in Kids directory’s On-line publication:

If someone gave you a handbook to life and told you that everything you need to lead a happy, fulfilling life is in there and all you have to do is "apply" the printed wisdom; Would you take it? I would and I think you would too. Life is short, if you have the code, why not help yourself?! Food Lovers Chicken with delicious chicken recipes selected by Jonnie Leg´er; this is not just any cookbook but one that I would definitely appreciate as a cooking enthusiast. Almost all recipes in the book are for fine cooking and dining! As soon as the book arrived, I dived right into it and honestly, could not put it down. And, I have read it twice already! Their idea was to put together a book with nuggets of wisdom for the perfect execution from kitchen to table; from getting the right ingredients to prepping and cooking right to styling and plating with beautifully photographed food pictures. Food Lover's Chicken is aimed at the everyday cook wanting to improve, the seasoned expert looking to review the highest culinary standards and the food lover seeking a fascinating glimpse into the pursuit of epicurean excellence.

I love the way the book is written; the style and language concise and succinct.  And, the best part; it is perfectly sized!! In just about 394 pages, it packs in quite a bit of tasty dishes and know-how and it is small and light enough to be carried around in a handbag.

Now, that is my kind of reference text. This is one book that is going to be dog-eared much! And a big big Thank you to my beautiful and loving sis-in-law, Sumu (who lives in Adelaide, Australia with her lovely husband, Jacob and handsome little boys, Tarun and Tushar) for this precious gift. Sumuchech, this book came to me at a time when I was wondering when I will ever be able to blog again, yearning for some "me-time". Oh how thrilled I was to get this book Sumuchech and that day I was sure I was going to cook again, not just for family but for friends and loved ones and definitely sharing my recipes and stories in the kitchen on this blog. And so Sumuchech, this one's for you.....Thank you so much for encouraging me with this excellent book and helping me to move on and never give up.

Over to today's dish.... How many of us like yummy deep-fried goodies once in a while?! Atleast I do!

Over weekends, you will agree we all like to have some special food to enjoy family time.  Last weekend, when we called our cousins over for dinner, I decided to prepare home-made Chicken Nuggets (for the first time ever!) rather than buying frozen nuggets. I like experimenting with chicken because it beautifully absorbs a variety of flavors.

Chicken marinated with pepper-salt and crumb fried with a rich coating of bread crumbs is quite the snack to devour on a lazy Sunday. All those mommies with little kids who suddenly turn into cute brats when they see food and demand for fried foods like nuggets from the nearest McDonalds or KFC, here is a perfect dish for you to try at home. And don't have any regrets because they are definitely healthier than the ones you get from any hotel or cold-store.

This works extremely well as a starter or just simply something that you can munch on. I encourage everyone trying out this recipe to use their imagination and be a little creative. You really can't do anything wrong here. Reju ate one or two and said they were scrumptious. For the next time he said we should try them with some Indian/Oriental spices. No problem there!

So, if you are looking for something old but pepped up, something traditional with new flavors, then this is the perfect dish for you.

Hope you enjoy it. There are some recipes that at first sight seem just a bit ordinary or so you think when you look at the list of ingredients. It takes a second look to change that first impression. Because you realize the simplicity of the recipe has big taste attached to it.

For those of you who give this recipe a try will straight away realize that it is quick and easy to make and you will presumably replace those frozen nuggets you buy from the cold store. Nothing against store-bought nuggets, but why settle for frozen processed sticks, when you can enjoy a healthier and tastier chicken big on taste.

So here is how I cooked Chicken Nuggets.  Go ahead and feel free to try different ingredients to personalize it.


600 gms of Boneless Chicken breast; cut into bite-size pieces
Salt & freshly milled pepper
3 to 4 tbsp All-purpose flour
2 Eggs
2 cups Breadcrumbs; to coat
Any Refined Oil; for deep frying (refer notes)
Chili Sauce or Tomato Ketchup; to serve


Season the chicken with salt and pepper and lightly coat them with flour. Keep aside.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Place the breadcrumbs on a flat plate. Coat the chicken pieces with egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs and press down well.

Heat oil (enough for deep frying) in a wok and fry the chicken pieces for about 3 to 4 minutes or till the chicken is cooked through and turns a lovely golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.

Serve hot with chili sauce or tomato ketchup.


1. The original recipe uses fat for frying the nuggets. But I really don't think that is necessary simply because it's not healthy. Any refined oil is perfect. (do not use pungent oils like mustard or sesame oils)

2. I also will try using the same recipe and baking these nuggets in the oven to make it a healthy snack. Will let you the verdict soon. And those of you who try it at home, try baking them in the oven for a few minutes, basting enough oil on both sides of the chicken pieces, flipping them in between till they turn a lovely golden brown. Do let me know how they turn out.

Lots of love :)

Recipe Edited on 4th February 2014:

I promised you all the baked version of the above recipe and here it is. I kept my word, guys. Here you go:


600 gms of boneless chicken breast; cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and freshly milled pepper
3 to 4 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 cups breadcrumbs OR 1 cup breadcrumbs + 1 cup oats, to coat
1 teaspoon olive oil
Tomato Ketchup; to serve


Begin by seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper and lightly coat them with flour. Keep them aside when done.

Next, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Place the breadcrumbs on a flat plate. Coat the chicken pieces with egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs and press down well.

Arrange the chicken pieces on a greased baking tray, spacing them a little apart. Drizzle with a little olive oil on each piece of chicken, and bake at 190 C for 8 minutes on either side or till the chicken is cooked through and turns a lovely golden brown. (Halfway through the cooking, drizzle a little more oil on the pieces of chicken. This keeps the chicken moist)

Serve hot with tomato ketchup, a dip of your choice or just as it is.

Recipe Courtesy: Food Lovers Chicken

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Spice it up: Tangy Chicken

And I'm Back!! :) Yes, after a good long break back home, I'm back to cooking and blogging. Oh how I missed this! In these past few months I realized how much I enjoy doing this.

But I have been doing well and happy to share the good news of the birth of our little bundle of joy, our new addition to our small family, our precious baby girl, Michelle. Life has changed so much after she has arrived, new schedules, altered sleep patterns, a whole new routine altogether; stressful, but definitely worth it I have to say especially when you see that innocent little smile :) I was at home all these months enjoying all the pampering and little Michelle had so many people around her all the time; she misses everyone tons.

But it feels great to be back in Bangalore, starting a new life with our little bubble. The last 2 weekends were hectic with all the unpacking and general settling down. Reju was awesome, worked from home for 2 weeks and just started going to work this morning. He was so helpful, did so much, poor thing. Thanks Reju, we love you too much. What would I have done without you?!

When all the settling down madness was over, I thought it's high time I got back to the world of blogging. Though it’s going to be a challenge with Michelle around, I sure am going to try posting recipes whenever I find time.

Gosh it's HOT in Bangalore and the frequent power cuts have been really really painful. Will surely try posting some refreshing cool recipes that will ease out the summer heat, soon.

We had a good time on Saturday with our cousins Asha, Santosh and their little munchkin, Nia. Dinner was simple and Asha brought in some lovely beef cooked with carrots and potatoes. Since I was craving to get in the kitchen and cook up something, I decided to go with this easy chicken recipe which was given to me by my Mommy, world's awesomest cook!!!! I love this dish for it's simplicity and it can be cooked in a jiffy. With a baby on board, we need to get things done really fast. And this dish definitely works well.

Today's recipe is a tasty chicken dish which is a convenient quick-fix when you have unexpected guests. The combination of the chicken, aromatics and ketchup makes this dish so soothing to the soul. On the weekends I enjoy taking time and preparing a good hearty meal. And very often I let my imagination take control and start playing with ingredients. And of course it had been sometime since I last made a full meal for guests and I was craving it. I had bought some fresh chicken and checked out what else my pantry would give (I have to really start getting through the stuff in there ... I can feed a small country with the contents!). Well I found a few things that I could use.

Today's post is very special to me. I dedicate it to my dearest Mom, (that explains the picture above) who has always been wonderful, sacrificing so much for her family. We love you mama, and we know that there is nothing that we can do to make up for all that you have done for us all these years. These past few months you were wonderful, you took care of Michelle and me so beautifully. And Dada, no we haven't forgotten you either, you were great too. Thanks cartloads for everything. And as I write this, I am emotional yet happy that we are blessed with such loving parents who are always there for us, come what may.

Can't wait to meet Dada and you this weekend. Love you loads. And Ma, thanks once again for yet another yummy recipe. We absolutely loved it.

And so hoping that the weather gets better soon, I leave you with this great recipe of shallow fried hot, spicy, gingery and garlicy chicken glazed in a yummy ketchup mix. Honestly, you will really find the flavors of these ingredients bursting into your mouth. The combination works well and that addition of ketchup rounds the entire dish up very well. I would recommend a simple rice dish like a Pulav/Jeera Rice or hot phulkas with this as anything else will take away the aroma and fragrance of the main dish. And we do not want to do this, do we?

So here we go….


10 to 12 pieces of Chicken; cut into medium or small pieces (refer notes)
1 Big Onion (small one) or 7 to 8 shallots/pearl onions; finely chopped (optional)
1 or 2 Green Chillies; slit lengthwise (adjust as per spice tolerance)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of Tomato Sauce & Hot & Sweet Sauce (all put together in equal quantities)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp of Paprika (you can use Kashmiri Mirch)
2 sprigs of Curry Leaves
Refined Oil

Ingredients for Marination

1/2 to 3/4 tbsp Ginger & Garlic paste
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp of Tandoori Masala (refer notes)
Salt - to taste


Wash and clean the chicken pieces and pat dry with towel. Make small gashes on the pieces and marinate it with the ingredients listed under "Ingredients for Marination". Let it rest for atleast 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

Pressure cook the chicken pieces and keep aside.

Heat oil in a wok; throw in the slit green chillies and curry leaves. Saut'e for a few minutes. Throw in the chopped onions along with enough salt (add more paprika or Kashmiri mirch at this time if you like it spicy) and saut'e till light brown. (if using onions) Now add the cooked chicken pieces and toss for a few minutes. (2 to 3 minutes approx.) To this mixture, add the sauces, turn the flame to high and stir continuously till masala coats the chicken completely and the sauces dry up. Check for salt and adjust as desired.

Ta da ....your dish is ready. Wow! Ever heard of so many different flavors harmonizing so well together? My hubby, Reju was quite pleasantly surprised and almost literally licked his plate clean. I hope our cousins enjoyed the lovely combination of chicken, tandoori masala and ketchup! I was worried that it might have been too exotic for them. (I mean the combination of ingredients)


1. Make sure the chicken is cut into small or medium sized pieces with light gashes or pricks on them so that the chicken is coated well with the gravy enhancing the flavor of the whole dish. My pieces were big, but small or medium is always better.

2. You can use any Tandoori Masala available in your local grocery store. I made my own. Here is how I prepared my very own (first attempt) Tandoori Masala:


2 tbsp Garam Masala
2 tbsp ground Cumin (since my ground cumin seemed very strong, I reduced it to 1 & 1/2 tbsp)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2tbsp coriander powder (if your powder is strong, add only 1 tbsp)
4 tsp Paprika (you can use Kashmiri Mirch)
2 tsp Kasuri Methi /Dried Fenugreek Leaves
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Red Chilli powder ( I used a heaped 1 tsp because we like spice)


Combine all the ingredients listed above using a spoon or blender and store it in an airtight container.

Notes: It stays fresh for 4 to 6 weeks.

Recipe Courtesy: My lovely mother.

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