River Cottage Biryani

This biryani from River Cottage is one we have marked for a special occasion. It takes a good few steps and some luxurious ingredients incl saffron. Many of the ingredients you can find in store here but sadly not yet saffron. So indulge and enjoy with someone special or for something special.


5 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
3 cardamom pods, bashed
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp finely grated ginger
1 large fresh red chili, finely chopped (deseeded for a milder curry)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g carrots, peeled and sliced into thin discs
300g waxy potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
200g peas (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Generous squeeze of lemon juice
50g sultanas 
350g basmati rice
A large pinch of saffron strands

To serve:
60g toasted sunflower seeds
Chopped coriander or mint



Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Add the bay leaf, cardamom pods, and cumin seeds and fry for a few minutes. Add 1 sliced onion and fry over medium heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, until golden and soft. Lower the heat and add the garlic, ginger, chile, and ground spices. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.


Add the carrots, potatoes, and peas and enough water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring from time to time, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are al dente. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Sprinkle the sultanas on top. Preheat the oven to 325°F / 160°C.


Meanwhile, rinse the rice thoroughly in several changes of water. Put into a saucepan with the saffron and a large pinch of salt. Add enough water to cover the rice by 1 inch / 2.5cm. Bring to a boil, stir once, then simmer very gently until the water is nearly all absorbed (indicated by deep steam holes on the surface).


Cover the rice pan with a damp kitchen towel and a tight-fitting lid and turn the heat as low as possible. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and use a fork to separate the rice grains.


Spoon the rice in a thick layer over the curry in the casserole. Cover the pot with the damp kitchen towel and put on the lid tightly. Place over high heat for a few minutes to get the curry bubbling again, then transfer to the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and leave to stand for 10 minutes.


While the biryani is cooking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining sliced onions. Cook briskly, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, until well browned and reduced down. Season with salt.


Uncover the biryani and scatter over the browned onions, toasted sunflower seeds, and cilantro or mint. Serve with a cooling, yogurty raita, and/or a spicy chutney.