There’s something about digging my way into a big bowl of Indian food that I find just so comforting: the warmth of the spices; the way the coconut milk cuts perfectly through the heat of the flavours; and our shared love of vegetables. I believe there’s something just so special about Indian food (perhaps being half Indian helps ;).
But I'm not talking about your regular butter chicken with extra naan bread here. They're a dahl breaker for me!
Ok let me curry on...
Today I'm celebrating a true Indian delicacy: my delectable Chicken Biryani from the new book, Supercharge Your Life, filled with over a hundred recipes inspired by my overseas travels and desire to help everyone supercharge their own lives and kitchens!
Biryani is a traditional dish that’s extremely popular throughout the Indian subcontinent and playfully combines Indian spices (including my favourite anti-inflammatory turmeric), protein, vegetables and rice. The origins of this dish have been linked to Shah Jahan’s queen, who inspired the Taj Mahal. It’s said that she once visited army barracks and found the personnel undernourished. She asked the chef to prepare a special dish that provided balanced nutrition, and then biryani was created!
By recreating this dish, we’re not only celebrating Shah Jahan’s queen, we’re also paying tribute to her generosity and love of food. Today I'm hoping to supercharge your kitchen and feed hungry children, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, significant others, friends, families, neighbours, yourself or your dog (on second thoughts, dogs and Indian spices may not go well together and I want to avoid any online pilau fights, so perhaps not for furry friends).
To recreate this dish, we need to delve into the art of marinating. If you’re new to marinating, think of it like this: instead of using pre-made flavour mixes and seasonings, impart flavour to your meals by stocking up on the single ingredients that can make dishes delicious and unparalleled to anything you’ve tried before.
For me, the act of marinating embodies one of the many things I love about cooking; it’s dual benefit. While it allows us to nourish and fill our bodies through the choice of supercharged ingredients, it can also work wonders on our taste buds with crazy and cosy flavour combinations. Once you understand how to combine and balance flavours, as well as strengthen flavours through marinating, you’ll be able to nail your foodie creations and impress all of your instagram followers’ friends.
If you’ve never marinated before, it’s as easy as one, two, three. Marinating is an age-old process that’s identified by its ability to intensify the flavour of food before cooking it with a few basic ingredients. Sounds pretty simple, right? Marinades can be in the form of pastes, liquids or dry rubs. They’re typically used for meats but don’t underestimate a delicious marinade for vegetables!
If you’re marinating a tougher cut of meat, I recommend doing so overnight in the fridge. If you’re cooking up fish, lamb fillets, tender cuts of beef or chicken like in this recipe, it only requires a few hours of marinating time.
There are usually three parts to creating a marinade. This includes:
Oils – oil helps prevent meat from drying out, helping to bind and lock in flavours. My preferred oils for marinating include olive oil and sesame oil. If you’re a regular coconut-oil user, just remember that it solidifies in the fridge, which inhibits the flavours from moving freely and permeating the meat; not a good time for any party involved.
Acids – acids help to unravel the protein in meat, creating a tender texture and softening the surface to allow flavours to permeate. My favourite acids are apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, brown rice vinegar, pomegranate juice, preservative-free organic wine, citrus juice, yoghurt, and coconut milk combined with lemon or lime juice as it’s a great dairy-free buttermilk substitute.
Seasonings – seasonings include dried and fresh herbs and spices, sea salt, pepper, coconut sugar, citrus zest, tamari, honey, rice malt syrup, tamarind and other flavours. They help balance out ingredients and achieve the vibe that you’re after. Sugars are used to intensify the browning and caramelising of meat, while salty components will enhance natural glutamates and bring out savoury flavours.
To make a basic and delicious marinade, use one-part acid, one-part oil and one to two parts seasoning, balancing sweet and salty seasonings with your chosen flavours. Make sure to create enough to coat the quantity of meat or vegetables. When it’s all covered, leave your marinated goods in the fridge for the appropriate time until cooking.
If you’re after a dry rub, choose flavours in the ratio of four parts sea salt to three parts sugar and three parts spices. My preferred sugar here is coconut sugar. If you’re not sure if you want a rub or marinade, remember that rubs are best used for meats that are being grilled or oven-roasted, rather than fish. Once you’ve created your rub, rub it all over the nooks and crannies of your meat, wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it for up to 72 hours if need be.
For this recipe, we’ll be using a marinade made up of some of my favourite flavours and acids: cumin, coriander, curry powder, ground turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilli and lemon juice.
If you’re reading this and trying to spot the oil component, ten points to you! While there are various rules to marinating when you first start off, the best part about cooking is abandoning the rules altogether and having a play. This marinade doesn’t require oil as it’s used in the latter stages of cooking.
This dish is usually accompanied by a hefty amount of rice but for a lighter twist, I'm opting for cauliflower rice instead. Now, I know, cauliflower may not make up for regular rice, but it makes a brilliant vegetable based replacement. Don’t think of cauliflower rice as a boring substitute teacher for regular white rice, think of it as a hearty addition. Of course, you’re welcome to make this dish with normal rice if you choose too. No judgement. You do you.
Once your biryani is cooked, cauliflower rice is ready and delicious mint raita is all set for topping, you’re in for one heck of a meal. I hope you love this dish as much as I do - tastebuds here we come!
Chicken Biryani with cauliflower rice
- 700 g (1 lb 9 oz) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut in half
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 brown onion, sliced
- 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) coconut milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cardamom pods
- small handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve
- minted raita, to serve (see tip)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 × 2.5 cm (1 inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 green chilli, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 55 g (2 oz/1/4 cup) coconut oil
- 1 head cauliflower, riced (you can do this in a food processor or strong blender)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, roughly chopped
- Handful mint, roughly chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To make the marinade, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, coat well then cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and fry the onion for 4–5 minutes, until translucent.
Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Add the coconut milk, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.
Meanwhile, make the cauliflower rice. Melt the oil in another large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cauliflower, mix in the spices, stir through the coriander and mint, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 8–10 minutes, until soft.
Spoon the cauliflower rice into bowls and serve with the chicken in its sauce. Top with coriander and serve with minted raita.
You can make a quick raita by mixing 1 chopped cucumber with 260 g (1 cup) plain yoghurt and chopped mint to taste.
I would love to know what you think about this dish, please let me know in the comments section below.