Mrs Balbir Singh's | Biryani

Mrs Balbir Singh's Biryani Recipe


An absolutely irresistible medley of fluffy and fragrant Basmati rice, tender marinated chicken (or lamb, prawns, fish, or vegetables), aromatic and freshly ground spices bursting with flavour... accentuated by caramelised onions... and all enhanced by the slightly roasted and nutty background note of ghee. This is food-heaven. 

We have simplified what can otherwise be quite an ambitious affair, without sacrificing any of the complexity of its wonderfully sumptuous flavours. Once you experience it, we're sure it will become a weekly favourite and one of your go-tos for dinner parties.

Category: Rice

Recipe: 243

Prep Time: 30 mins | Marination 2hrs | Cooking Time: 1hr

Serves 4 - 6 depending on whether serving with other sharing dishes.



  • 50g Natural or Greek Yoghurt
  • 1½ tsp Salt
  • 500g Chicken (or lamb, beef, prawns or vegetables)
  • 15g Ginger Paste (or peeled ginger, finely chopped)
  • 22g (12 level measuring tspMrs Balbir Singh’s Biryani Blend



  • 1200 ml Water
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 340g Basmati Rice (or aged Basmati Rice)
  • 4 tbsp Milk, with a pinch of turmeric or saffron
  • 4-6 tbsp Ghee (or preferred oil)

FOR Garnishing:

  • Fresh Coriander & Mint Leaves, roughly chopped
  • Optional: Edible Silver Leaf or Edible Rose Petals, Pomegranate Seeds or Dried Cranberries

 *Measurements refer to level measuring spoons


Marinate the Chicken

  • Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, and stir to coat well. Leave covered in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

    Wash the Rice  

    • After the above-mentioned 2 hours. Wash the rice 4-5 times until the water runs clear. Each time, use your fingers to gently move the rice around in the water to remove the starch, being careful not to break the grains. Initially it will be cloudy, but keep draining the cloudy water out and refilling and repeat until the water runs clear. Drain and keep aside.

    Cook the Onions & Chicken

    • In a pan, heat the 60g of ghee. Add the sliced onions and fry them until they are golden brown / caramelised. Then remove half of the onions and keep them aside.
    • In the pan with the remaining onions, add the marinated chicken along with the ginger and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Then add 150ml of water and cook with the lid on for 12 minutes on a low heat (or 20-25 minutes if using lamb or beef). Then uncover and cook on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes so that the sauce thickens. Add ¼ teaspoon of garam masala, stir in and then switch off heat.

    Parboil the Rice 

    • In a separate pan, bring 1200 ml of water to a rolling boil with ½ teaspoon of salt. Add the previously washed and drained rice to the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Then drain, and set aside.

    Make the Milk Infusion: 

    • Heat the milk for 10-15 seconds in a microwave, remove and stir in the pinch of turmeric, or saffron, and set aside. If using saffron, rub or crush it between your fingers before adding to the milk.

      Layer the Biryani

      • In a casserole dish, spread 1 tablespoon of ghee and 1 tablespoon of water on the bottom. Then spoon a layer of rice across the bottom. Take 2-3 teaspoons of the warm milk mixture and sprinkle it across the rice. Then drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of ghee over that layer.
      • Next, take some of the fried onions put aside from earlier, and spread on top. Add an even layer of the cooked chicken (or other protein) mixture over this.
      • Repeat above layering steps. You will end up with 2-3 layers depending on the depth of your dish. The topmost one should be of rice with the caramelised onions on top along with the 2-3 teaspoons of milk infusion, and some ghee.

      Place in Oven

      • Cover the dish with thick foil to create an extra seal, and place the lid on top. Heat oven to 160° C and place the casserole dish in for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand with lid on for 10 minutes.

      Garnish & Serve

      • Uncover, then mix the biryani layers. Then sprinkle the mint and coriander leaves across the dish and serve with a raita on the side. You may additionally use pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries, and edible silver paper or edible rose petals to elevate your presentation further.


      Award-winning godmother of Indian home cooking, and author of Mrs Balbir Singh's Indian Cookery, as featured in "The Best Indian Cookbooks Ever, as Judged by the Experts" - The Telegraph (UK)