How to Make Assyrian Biryani

How to Make Assyrian Biryani

The subcontinent boasts an unbelievably diverse array of biryani, and with so many phenomenal variations, it’s no surprise that the dish has become almost exclusively associated with South Asia. But in fact, it most likely has its roots in the Persian empire, and continues to be an important part of the cuisines of Iraq and Iran.

The biryani I’m most used to, which will sound familiar to most Iraqis and Iranians, is a layered rice dish topped with some combination of chicken or lamb, peas, pine nuts, almonds, vermicelli noodles, hard boiled eggs, black raisins, fried potatoes, and golden caramelised onions. Read more.

Biryani for a delicious Assyrian biryani by blogger Kathryn Pauline of Cardamom and Tea

1 teaspoon allspice
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Combine all spices, then set aside 1.5 teaspoons for the rice.

2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ teaspoons spice mix (above)
1 ½ cups rinsed Basmati rice
2 cups water
¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

Start the rice right before roasting the chicken and veggies (or as soon as they go in the oven). Melt the butter in a small stockpot or large saucepan. Once melted, add the 1 1/2 teaspoons of spice mix (the smaller share), and stir over medium heat for 1 minute.
Add the rice, water, and salt, and stir. Bring to a simmer over high heat. As soon as it begins to rapidly simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.
Do not stir the rice or open the lid at any point once it has started to cook.
Once 15 minutes have passed, remove from heat and do not remove the lid. Rest the rice this way for at least 15 more minutes (up to 30). Once the rice is ready to serve, fluff it with a fork.

1 tablespoon softened or melted butter
¼ cup raisins (either black raisins or sultanas)
¼ cup almonds
Pinch salt 1 tablespoon + ¾ teaspoons spice mix (above)
¾ teaspoon salt + more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound potatoes, cut into wedges (from about 2 medium potatoes)
½ onion, sliced
350 g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks (from about 450 g bone-in, skin-on) *
¾ cup frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 475° F convection (if using convention, it might just take a few minutes longer).
Combine the butter, raisins, almonds, and pinch of salt, and set aside for later.
Combine the lion share of the spice mix with the 3/4 teaspoon (or more) salt and olive oil.
Optional: sprinkle more salt on the chicken, to your own preference (up to ¼ teaspoon).
Place the potatoes, onion, chicken, and peas on a sheet pan. Drizzle them with the spice oil and use your hands to evenly coat everything.
Roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes, until everything starts to turn light golden brown (about 5 minutes away from done).
Once the veggies and chicken are light golden brown (about 5 minutes away from done), top them with the raisin/almond mixture, and continue to roast for about 5 more minutes. Keep a close eye on them to make sure nothing burns.
Serve alongside the rice (don't forget to fluff it before serving).

*Substitute chickpeas to make this vegetarian. They get all crispy and roasted—it's a delicious substitution. If you prefer chicken breast instead of chicken thighs, feel free to use that here. I've tested it both ways, and the chicken breast gets a little dry by the time everything else cooks through, but it's so well-seasoned, it doesn't make much of a difference.