Whole Chicken Tikka Biryani

A biryani is a beautiful thing, a sensual aromatic ballad to the best of all the rices, basmati. This one breaks with tradition and uses a whole chicken. Fancy!

Done in 4 hours



For the chicken and it's marinade:

1 small chicken

400mlGreek yoghurt

5garlic cloves, crushed to a paste

40gginger, grated to a paste

½ tspturmeric

1 tspkashmiri chilli powder

1 tsppaprika

2 tsp coriander

1lemon, juiced

1 tbsp flaked sea salt

For the sauce:

2 tbspneutral oil

1cinnamon stick

2 tsp cumin seeds


6cardamon pods

1brown onion, sliced

3 clovesgarlic, grated

30gginger, grated

2Indian bay leaves

1brown onion, diced

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder

2 tbsptomato puree

200mldouble cream

For the rice

2 tbspneutral oil

3brown onions, finely sliced

400gbasmati rice

1 tbspsalt

50gunsalted butter

a pinch ofSaffron threads

5 tbspwarmed milk

50g more butter


to serveSliced toasted almonds

to servecoriander

The sauce is a little more elaborate than a normal biryani, channeling the tangy deliciousness of chicken tikka masala. In fact, this whole dish is an ode to that point in the consumption of your takeaway when everything has combined to a hot delicious mess: fluffy rice, blackened tender pieces of tandoori chicken and delicious curry.


Start off by cutting the spine out of the small chicken - feed it to a dog, wild creature or use it to make stock.

Whisk together the marinade ingredients for the chicken and rub it all over the bird. Leave to marinate for at least 3 hours in the fridge, or half that time at room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the whole spices. When they start to crackle, add the sliced onion. Fry for another 10 minutes, then add garlic + ginger paste and cook out over a medium low heat. Add the ground spices and cook for another three or so minutes, then add the tomato paste. Cook this until it starts to separate from the red oil, then add the double cream. Cook down until the sauce has thickened, roughly 5 minutes.

Grill the chicken under an oven grill or, even better, on a BBQ. Or even a tandoor oven if you have one lying around! Super casual! You are aiming for it to be just cooked through with lots of charred spots.

I hope you've got a lot of pans, because while this is going on you need to prepare the rice. Over a low heat, caramelise the sliced onions in the neutral oil. Wash the rice until the water is clear, then soak it in cold water for an hour. Heat a large saucepan full of water to a rolling boil and add the tbsp of salt.

Pour the soaked rice into the boiling water and set a timer for 3 minutes. When the 3 minutes is up, drain the rice and stir through the butter. Heat the milk and pour it over the saffron threads.

Time to arrange the biryani! Get a wide heavy bottomed pan with a lid and heat the remaining butter and water until foaming over a low heat. Spoon over half the rice and drizzle with the nice yellow saffron milk.

Get the chicken and place him on the rice then spoon the delicious curry sauce over the top. Now, add the other half of the rice until he is just buried. Top with caramelised onions and more drizzles of the saffron milk. At this point, place the lid on and whack up the heat to get some steam going, then reduce to your lowest possible setting cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.

During those 20 minutes, prepare the garnishes - fry the sliced almonds in butter and pick the leaves off the coriander. Whip off the lid theatrically and artfully scatter these on top, then serve it with pride.

What do you think of the recipe?

Hugh Woodward

Hugh Woodward

Hugh's culinary life began aged 14 when he cooked spaghetti hoop burritos to impress girls. Since then his colourful career has taken him to performing in Skegness, making cheese in Peckham, running a wine bar on Columbia Road and reluctantly working in a (briefly) Michelin Starred restaurant. He likes fish, things cooked on charcoal, cheap dinners and London's rich cultural tapestry of food shops. When he's not cooking or eating he can be found mudlarking by the river Thames, buying bits in flea markets and hanging out with his cat Keith.

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