Cape Biryani/Breyani


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2hrs 15mins

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 12 lbs chicken thighs, on the bone (750 g, or use drumsticks and thighs, but don't remove the skin)
  • salt and pepper, to taste, for the dish
  • 34 cup buttermilk (180 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, fresh, chopped (30 ml chopped coriander leaves)
  • 12 tablespoon cinnamon, ground (7 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (5 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin, ground (15 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground (15 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon masala (15 ml)
  • 1 hot pepper, chopped (1 chilli)
  • 34 cup basmati rice (180 ml)
  • 4 ounces lentils, brown, rinsed (125 g)
  • oil (for frying)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 -3 large potatoes, peeled, chopped into chunks
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (or use 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground (extra to amount mentioned above)
  • 3 cardamom pods, slit and seeds removed to use
  • 1 tablespoon cumin, ground (extra to amount already mentioned)
  • 1 pinch saffron, soaked in a little water (sub with a good pinch turmeric)
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled
  • chopped cilantro, to garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 325 deg F/160 deg Celsius.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Mix together the buttermilk, cilantro, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, masala and hot pepper. Pour over chicken pieces and marinate 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Parboil rice in 2 cups water for 20 minutes, and drain well.
  4. Simmer lentils in 2 cups water water for 20 minutes, and drain well.
  5. Heat a fair amount of oil in a saucepan, and fry onion and potatoes until softened. Add the cinnamon, ground coriander, cardamom seeds, cumin and saffron (or sub with a good pinch turmeric) and cook, stirring, for a minute. Set aside.
  6. Layer half the rice, followed by half each of of the lentils, and the spiced potatoes and onion in an ovenproof dish. Top with the chicken.
  7. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients, top with saffron/turmeric water, and cover it all with tinfoil and a tight-fitting lid.
  8. Bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until chicken and rice are cooked through.
  9. Garnish with quarters of hardboiled eggs and sprinkle with cilantro/coriander leaves.

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