Growing up in India, biryani was one of my favorite family meals. The robust flavor of a variety of spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala bring warmth and heat to the biryani. The saffron and milk add color and aroma.
Technique tip: Cook the rice in water at a rolling boil.
Swap option: You can use chicken breasts instead of thighs if you prefer.
For the rice:
In a bowl, wash the rice gently in several changes of cold water until the water runs clear. Drain it and soak it in warm water for 20-30 minutes.
In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the salt and ghee when the water comes to a full boil. Add the rice and stir a few times, cooking it for 4 to 5 minutes, until it is two-thirds cooked. (The longer the rice has soaked, the less time it will take to cook.)
Drain the rice in a sieve, run cold water through it for a minute, and then spread it on a large platter or cookie sheet to cool. Set aside.
For the chicken:
In a small bowl, add saffron threads to warm water to bloom. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Add the chicken, mix well, and let marinate in mixture for 20 minutes.
Melt the ghee over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy-bottomed ovenproof Dutch oven. Sauté onions till golden brown, add the chicken mixture, stirring well to coat, cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add vegetables and cook another 5 minutes.
Gently sprinkle rice over chicken mixture. Pour saffron water over rice. Cover with foil and close the lid to cook for a further 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and rice is tender.
For the garnish:
Top the cooked biryani with cilantro, mint and fried onions and serve.