• Chicken, Rice
  • Main Dish

Bodged-Together Biryani:
Quick and Dirty Kinda Indian Food

  • by the Old White Hippie
  • 835 words
  • 1 Actual Cook

Biryani has thousands of recipes, an idea that spread across a considerable chunk of the world before the Internet. At its most fundamental, it's a one-pot rice casserole, mildly seasoned. I've had biryani that had the veg all through the rice like a pulao, and that left the veg on the bottom of the pot for the steam to carry the flavor up through the rice. In Singapore, by the Sultan Masjid, I had honey chicken biryani where the honey-roasted chicken was served beside the rice, itself a deep yellow with chicken broth and traces of honey, that I've never been able to even approach in my own work. I've had Hyderabadi biryani, albeit in Bengaluru, and Algerian lamb biryani in Chicago. The ease with which biryani can be bodged together, and the few utensils required, readily explain its popularity, and the variations that can be wrought upon the basic recipe seem endless. It's become a staple of my family's diet, as a mildly seasoned Indian food that everyone, regardless of heat tolerance, can eat (not everyone can handle Punjabi), and that the pickiest eaters will consume. It's served as an an entry point to Indian food for a number of friends and family members - after all, it's just rice and onions with whatever else, in my case usually chicken, mushrooms, and green peas.

Enough rambling. I'm an Old White Hippie. This is my kitchen. Let's make biryani.

    6 or more
    30 minutes
  • Cook TIME
    30 minutes


The quantities on this are a little loose. This is a bodge-up, not a proper recipe.

  • Butter Ghee, a couple large spoonfuls
  • Sweet onion, chopped
  • Chicken (in this case precooked, about 2 pounds)
  • 1 regular-size can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can green peas
  • 2 cups basmati
  • Biryani paste (I use Patak's)
  • Big spoonful Better Than Bouillon veg base
  • Water as required

Here's the ingredients laid out - basmati, ghee, a sweet onion, can of tomatoes, biryani paste, bouillon, a bag of chicken.

First, chop the onion.

Set up a stew pot with a couple generous spoonfuls of ghee. I set it out to come up to room temperature earlier, to make this easier. Start your oven preheating to 425F.

Onion goes in with the ghee, medium heat or a little lower.

I'm making a generous batch here, so I'm throwing in all the leftover rotisserie chicken my wife got at Costco. It's not going to last much longer, and this will get it into a dish and the freezer before it goes bad.

Don't forget to stir your onion. You want it translucent, not caramalised.

When I first started doing Indian food, I was griping to a co-worker about the labor involved in roasting and grinding the spices, and he stopped me and said, dude, we use Patak's. My mother who was born in Delhi and only moved here two years ago uses Patak's. Get a jar of Patak's.

I now keep a couple of jars of Patak's spice pastes and a couple of their simmer sauces in the pantry for just such an emergency.

In goes a bit less than half the jar, lower the heat a little, and give the spices a chance to awaken.

In goes the chicken and a can of diced tomatoes. Fill the tomato can with warm water, stir in a spoonful of Better Than Bouillon veg base, and add. I'm using the regular veg base, not the lower sodium, partly so I don't need to add salt to the pot.

Normally, I'd leave the heat low for the chicken to simmer for about a half hour, but this chicken is precooked, so I'm going to bring the heat on up and start getting it ready for the rice. At this point, for proper biryani, I'd fry the uncooked rice in ghee with a bit more biryani paste, then add the curry, but I'm doing this as a one pot bodge, so I'm just going to bring the curry to a low boil, adding another two cups of water in the process. The oven is now preheated to 425F.

Almost forgot to throw in a can of peas. Normally I'd use frozen peas but this is what we have. Don't bother draining them, you want the liquid.

Added two cups of rice and another cup of water, and bringing it back to a boil. Once it's at a boil, I'll shove it in the oven for a half hour and it's done. I'm baking this uncovered to let some of the liquid cook off. I'm usually a bit more careful about measuring the rice and liquid, and bake it covered to steam the rice.

Finished pot of biryani, after being stirred up to turn the crispy bits on top (mostly peas) back into the body of the dish. Enough for dinner for three people and leftovers for three prepackaged lunches.

Comfort food achieved.