Hyderabad Chickpea Biryani

This looks like a really long recipe and a biryani is definitely involved which is what makes it special. Having said that, I had some leftover pilaf rice and whipped up the chickpea filling in just 20m (I did cook only half the quantity). I then layered it within 5 minutes (I didn’t use the crispy onion topping). I then came home in the evening put it on the fire for 20m and dinner was ready.

Serves 6


  • 1 tbs. vegetable oil and 2 tbs. ghee
  • 400g Basmati rice, washed really well several times until the water runs clear
  • 750ml water
  • 5 cloves
  • 5 green cardamom
  • 1”cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 small onions, finely sliced

    For the chickpeas

  • 3 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 x 400g can boiled chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 fat cloves garlic, grated into a fine paste (around 2 good tsp.)
  • 1 good tsp. ginger paste (fresh is best)
  • ¼-½ tsp. red chili powder or to taste
  • 2 tsp. coriander powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin powder
  • ½ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp. garam masala powder
  • 4 tbs. yoghurt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, roughly cut up
  • 3 tbs. each chopped mint and coriander


  • Large pinch of saffron
  • 4 tbs. Milk
  • Handfuls of raisins and roasted cashew nuts, crispy browned onions and fresh chopped coriander for garnish (use as many or as few of these, the more the better). Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 20g butter.

    Make the rice.

    Wash the rice really well in several changes of water or until the water runs clear. Leave to soak.

    Heat the oil and ghee in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan which has a lid. Add the whole spices and cook for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Add the onions and ½ tsp. salt and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, then turn the heat up and cook until golden. Meanwhile, drain the rice and add it into the golden onions. Stir well over a high heat to dry off any excess water and coat the rice in the oil for about 2-3 minutes. Add your water to the pan, taste and season well. The water should taste a little salty or the rice will be a bit flavourless. Bring to a boil then cover and turn the heat right down. Cook undisturbed for 7-8 minutes then test a grain, if it is done, take off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes, if not, leave to cook another minute or so. Once steamed, spoon onto some open plates to prevent overcooking. You can use this pot for the final assembly.

    For the chickpeas

    Blend together the tomatoes and yoghurt.

    Heat the oil in a medium-large sized saucepan. Add the onion with a good pinch of salt and cook until really soft then turn the heat up and cook until properly golden.

    Add the ginger and garlic and cook gently for 30-40 seconds or until the garlic is now golden and smells cooked. Add the powdered spices and more seasoning with a splash of water and cook until the water has evaporated.

    Add the blended tomato mix and cook over a highish flame, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and then reduces to a thick paste (this stops the yoghurt splitting). Now turn the heat down a little and cook until the paste darkens. Add the chickpeas and a good splash of water and bring back to the boil, taste, and adjust seasoning. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add the mint and coriander and take off the heat. There should be some liquid in bottom of the pan.

    To finish

    Heat the milk and add the saffron, soak for 15 minutes.

    Break up the butter into cubes and place half on the bottom of your pan. If your pan is quite wide, make this in in three layers if it is narrow, then add an extra layer of each. Cover with half the rice, drizzle with half the saffron. Pour over the chickpea masala and top with the rice and then remaining saffron and butter. Top with the raisins and cashews. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place on a low heat for 20 minutes or until it is steaming. You can leave this, off the heat, for 20 minutes now and it will stay hot.

    Spoon onto a platter and scatter crispy onions and coriander for garnish. Serve with a raita.


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