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IMG_7041Breyani is a dish of Indian origin adapted by the Cape Malays and usually served on special occasions such as weddings or celebrations. As a traditional Cape Malay recipe, there are dozens of variations, and even the name can be spelled in various ways: biryani, biriani, breyani, etc. It’s a lightly spiced rice-based dish. It is not quick to make, but infinitely  worth the time. Make this dish in winter when you feel like creating something warm and comforting with accents from another country.

It can also be made with fish or prawns. The traditional recipe calls for whole hard boiled eggs. I like using quail eggs as they are daintier although as you can see, I have used regular eggs today.
A typical side dish eaten with chicken breyani is green bean “smoor”. The word “smoor” means braised and this would basically be sautéed leeks in a bit of butter with cooked green beans, salt, cumin, chillis and sugar. Or, just a bit of fruit chutney will do very nicely, indeed.

IMG_7043Serves 6 to 8


1 kg / 2 lbs chicken portions
6 small drumsticks
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon oil
500 g / 2 1/2 cups brown lentils
500 g / 2 1/2 cups uncooked long grain or basmati rice
2 tablespoons butter
3 green chillis, chopped
2 teaspoons garam masala or cumin
4 cardamon seeds, split open
6 eggs, hard boiled for garnish
250 ml / 1 cup buttermilk or natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cardamon seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons red masala
1/2 teaspoon peri-peri powder
A few strands of saffron
5 whole cloves
Salt & pepper


Combine the marinade ingredients
Add the chicken and marinade at least 2 hours
Sauté the onion and garlic until light brown, set aside
Cook the lentils in rapidly boiling water for about 20 minutes, drain and set aside
Cook the rice, drain and set aside
Heat butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan
Add green chillis, garam masal and cardamon
Remove chicken from marinade but do not dry off
Add the chicken and brown on medium heat
Buttermilk and yoghurt can burn easily so add small amounts of cold water as it browns
Cook uncovered for about 45 minutes
In a large dish, mix the rice, lentils, onions and chicken
Heat through
Make holes in the breyani with a spoon handle and insert the whole eggs
Sprinkle with water and gharam masala
Cover and place on a very low simmer until ready to serve
Serve with green bean smoor and cinnamon pumpkin