Claypot Chicken Briyani Rice

Friday, November 28, 2014

Every cuisine has their signature rice dishes.

I like them all: Claypot Chicken Rice, Paella, Risotto, Nasi Goreng and so on. The great thing about all the dishes is that the focus, for once, is not on the meat but the rice.

But no rice dish excites my taste buds like Nasi Briyani, especially when it is cooked using Basmati Rice. I have made it from time to time. Indian in origin, there are many types of Nasi Briyani, including versions which are more popular with Malays.

I have worked at a Nasi Briyani recipe for my home dinners using the claypot, simplifying it over a few tries to the point where it can be a regular dinner feature. Tasting good is one thing, but it must be easy to make. In this recipe, the only crockery you use is the pot. You cook in it and serve it at the table. It takes a while longer and involves more steps & ingredients than the Claypot Chicken Rice recipe but it is still practical for the usual daily dinners. From start to finish, it will not take you more than 45 minutes to prepare and cook this.

This versions is more akin to the Indian version of Dum Briyani, where the meat is cooked in the rice. You can use the same method for fish. If you prefer, you can cook the rice and chicken separately and it will taste good too.

As for the spices for basmati, just be brave and ask the Indian spice stall owners. They are normally very friendly and helpful with tips. All without
SHAN Spice mixes from India
exception, pointed me to this Indian brand - "Shan". While most of the spices are ground into powder, they have some which are left whole or in halves. Biting into them releases some delicious flavours.

As for onions, use the large Bombay Onions from India. They are deep purple in colour and sweet.

To serve 4

2 cups of basmati rice
2 cups of hot water
400 gm boneless chicken breast meat
2 tablespoon chilli paste or to taste
4 large bombay onions, sliced into rings
3 tablespoon ghee
1 large tomato, sliced into wedges
1teaspoon spice mix
1 teaspoon salt

Marinade for meat:
2 tablespoon spice mix
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon Yoghurt
2 teaspoons of minced ginger and garlic sauce

For garnishing:
20-30 pieces of cashew nuts
a handful of raisins or dried cranberries
a bunch of coriander leaves
hard boiled eggs

Method and Comments
  1. Cube the chicken breast into a square inch. Marinate it for half an hour (optional).
  2. As for the claypot, while I like the smokiness from cooking in the claypot, I find too much burnt rice at the bottom does not add much to the dish. So, I prefer using the glazed claypot rather than the sand claypot for this. You will still get some yummy burnt rice. 
  3. Add a tablespoon of ghee. When heated, add the cashew nuts and toast them for about 4 minutes, moving them around to avoid them getting burned. Set aside.
  4. Increase to medium flame and add 2 tablespoons of ghee and the slice red onions. Caramelise the onions and ensure parts of the rings are burned. Move them around only occasionally to allow for the rings to caramelised and blackened in parts. This will take about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the onion rings and mix it into the chicken meat. 
  6. Now, add the basmati rice and stir it , mixing it with the ghee oil left behind from cooking the onions. Add a teaspoon more if you prefer.  Add cups of hot water. Add 1 teaspoon of spice mix into the rice. Cover the pot and cook for 12 minutes in low flame.
  7. Remove half of the rice from the top, leaving the bottom layer in it. Add all the chicken, marinade sauce and tomato wedges. Pour the rice back in and press the rice gently in.
  8. Cover the pot and cook for another 10 minutes.
  9. Just before you serve, add the raisins, toasted cashew nuts, boiled eggs and chopped coriander leaves.
As chicken breast meat cooks fast, try to get the optimal texture (affected by size and duration in the pot) as it will be chewy if overcooked.

Serve the pot hot on the table. You can choose to accompany with fresh cucumber with yoghurt (raita), pineapple-cucumber salad (see photo & recipe below) and poppadum. I will often just have a one-pot dinner. Garnish with lots of coriander leaves, which is superb in this.

This is one recipe which you can easily adapt. You should be able to improve on it and find a balance between what is practical for a daily home-cooked dinner and cooking something delicious. If you have chicken stock in hand, you can opt to use it in place of water. Depending on how old your basmati rice is and the texture you prefer, reduce or increase the amount of water slightly. Some recipes recommend you soak the rice first. I am still not sure what difference it makes.

Ghee is just clarified butter. Don't be squeamish about using it.

You can opt to use other chicken parts like whole drumsticks, wings etc but you will need to cook them halfway separately first. Slice the meat on the thighs to open gaps for easier cooking. I find smaller boneless cubes practical for eating.

Use crushed almonds instead of cashew nuts if you like. Cranberries instead of raisins. If you use fish, make sure you use the right masala mix. I follow the same steps using firm flesh fish fillets like Batang, Salmon etc, boneless of course. Fish cooks quicker and do take note of that. Tomatoes can also be caramelised and you can cook them separately first if you prefer.

What about saffron? As the strong spices sauce mask the saffron, I find using expensive saffron for this does not make much sense. But if you can get good saffron cheaply, by all means, add it. Soak it in some hot water and add to the rice just before you serve. They add an attractive yellow hue to the rice.

If you are serving guests, by all means, add steps or better ingredients if you like.

If you would like to make your own briyani spice mix, check out the link here. While I normally recommend mixing the spices yourself, it is difficult to get some spices like mace flowers here. For the moment, I am fine with the mixes from India.

Pineapple, cucumber, red onions (slice thinly) and cut chillies. 2 tablespoon of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 tea spoon of sugar. Leave it in the fridge for an hour.
Caremelising and charring the onion rings...the first thing you start with. 

This one has eggs on it

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