Chicken Biryani – Classic Recipe

Picture courtesy Fatima Jajbhay (this is her pot of Biryani  – and she was my motivation for trying out her mum’s recipe)

I’ve always admired my Firoza Khala (mum’s sister) for many things, least of all is the way in which she runs her home and her kitchen in particular. Her meals are always well presented and she manages her kitchen with ease and pride.  She hosts cooking classes periodically and I wish that she would do this more often as she definitely has skills which need imparting. Always the perfectionist, her recipes are neatly typed out, each with an estimated Preparation time and Cooking time.

When I was back in South Africa last year, Jummah Lunch was set at her house. The comfort of a classic traditional dish always provided a great kickstart to the weekend.

This recipe is her  Chicken Biryani Recipe – Firoza Jajbhay

Preparation Time: 1 hour

Cooking TIme: 1 hour


1. Deep fry 5 medium potatoes cut in halves

2. Fry: 4 medium onions (thinly sliced) until golden brown

3. Boil: 1 cup masoor with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp turmeric. When cooked drain and set aside.

4. Boil : 6 eggs and remove shells

5. Boil : 3 cups Basmati rice with the following:

3 tsp salt / 1 cinnamon stick / 3 pepper corns / 3 cloves / 2 cardamom pods / 2 tsp jeeroe / 1/2 cup green peas

(drain when almost cooked)

6. Cut and wash one medium chicken and drain well

7. Soak 2 tsp saffron in a cup of boiling water and set aside


In a large dish , marinate chicken with the following:

  • 2 cups inkomasi
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated tomato
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/2 bunch chopped dhania
  • 6 whole green chillies
  • 3 tbs ground red chillies
  • 1 tbs ground green chillies
  • 2 tbs ginger
  • 2 tbs garlic
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • crushed fried onions (leave a handful for the rice)
  • 1/2 cup oil (used to fry onions)
  • 2 tbs whole cumin seeds
  • 4 pepper corns
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 of prepared saffron solution

Mix well and set aside

Use a pot with a thick and even base:

1. Line pot with foil

2. 1/2 cup ghee or oil

3. layer pot with marinated chicken (leave a little marination for the rice)

4. layer with fried potatoes

5. layer with boiled masoor (leave a little for later)

6. mix 1/2 boiled rice with marination and layer

7. then layer with the other 1/2 of rice

8. set boiled eggs

9. sprinkle remainder of masoor

10. sprinkle remainder of fried onions

11. pour remainder of saffron solution over the rice

12. 2 tbs of ghee over the rice

13. pour 1 cup of water over the rice

14. cover pot with foil

Cooking Instructions

Biryani takes 1 hour to cook

Place set Biryani on the stove on a high heat for approx. 15 minutes (until it steams), then lower to a medium heat for another 15 minutes, then to a low heat for 30 minutes using a simmer plate.


  1. *Love*! I will be using this very-well-laid-out-step-by-step recipe for my next Biryani attempt! Thanks so much for sharing this! Definitely takes away the overwhelming feeling I have when needing to prep one-of-the-big-5!

  2. This is a fantastic recipe!

  3. 1 hour prep time? hmmm…

  4. i think that it’s one hour of prepping yourself to fry the onions 🙂
    With fried onions , I can imagine the time would be MUCH less

  5. For those not in South Africa, Yoghurt can be used as a substitute for Inkomaas. I also found that I had to steam the biryani for a lot longe than the recipe stated, because there was so much liquid to boil out. Maybe stat with adding half the required water?

  6. […] by Ayesha’s take on the mother-of-all-dishes: Biryani, I simply had to attempt the khima (mince) biryani as a Monday-blues’ dinner. Her sharing of […]

  7. Shubnum · · Reply

    So I made the biriyani and it actually was very similar to my mother’s recipe (which I have not tried yet). It came out really good except a bit wet so I would suggest as Ayesha mentioned above, cutting down the liquid in the water by half and ever a little of the inkomasi. My mother had frozen cut dhania already (!) and frozen boiled masoor already (!) and fried onions so that cut down my cooking time and I think if you have time this is a good thing to make and freeze to keep for meals that require so many steps! Oh also, fresh lemon juice is better than bottle for biriyani. And I put less chillies. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  8. Asalaamu alaykum. Is it possible to use this same recipe for lamb biryani?

  9. Safiyya · · Reply

    Thanks for the recipe, jus like my mum’s. . Classic

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