Number 2 son turns 20

We recently celebrated my son’s 20th birthday, which conveniently coincides with a long weekend every year, which gives me extra time to make a cake that fits his current interest and of course a feast for friends and family to gather around; and this year we were lucky to have a couple of out of town family to join in…. This year’s cake paid homage to his current musical hero, and the feast? When asked, he said “Curry night”… (so I shelved the dishes I planned, lol, and Curry night was assembled). With my sister in law bringing in the main protein dish, I had a chance to play around with some side dishes, and a dessert buffet… (more about that another day)

I chose to do Chicken Biryani – a large, fragrant sharing dish; and a very simple Prawn Saagwala….. And today I share these 2 recipes with you..


Chicken Biryani

Every culture that uses rice has a one pot dish – Paella; Risotto; Pilaf; Rice and Beans.. This is an Indian variation. Although it looks like a lot of ingredients and instructions, its actually very straightforward and once you’ve made it a couple of times, you’ll realise it’s a great crowd pleaser and is easily doubled to feed the masses.  Its one of those scented spices dishes that fills the house with mouth-watering smells…

Marinade and ingredients

4 T garam masala

2 T ginger paste

2 T garlic paste

¼ t chili powder

4t ground Cumin

1 1/2 t turmeric

4 T lemon juice

1 C plain yogurt

1 t salt

8 boneless chicken thighs


1 K Basmati rice

1 l Chicken Stock

½ l water

3 T butter, divided

2 large onions, thinly sliced

1 T whole Cumin

2 bay leaves Fresh or dried

2 tsp Salt

1 t saffron mixed in 1Tboiling water


6 boiled and shelled eggs(optional)

Dry Roasted peanuts


Make Marinade by mixing garam masala, ginger paste, garlic paste, red chili powder, turmeric, and ground Cumin, lemon juice, yogurt and salt. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and coat evenly with the marinade. Keep in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Slice the onions and fry in ½ the butter, long and slow until well caramelised.  This step is really important, because it adds a depth to the final flavour. They should be very brown and almost burnt. Scoop out and set aside.

Add the second portion of butter to the pan and toss in the Cumin seeds. Fry for a minute until they start to pop. Add the chicken with all the marinade and fry until the chicken starts to brown a little. Turn the heat down and sprinkle over the rice  and stir until its coated in the marinade and pan juices. Pour in the stock and water, add the salt and bay leaves. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and gently simmer for 20 mins. Check that all the rice is cooked.. The top layer may not be quite cooked through, so gently toss and possibly add a little bit more water. Recover and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Take the lid off and cook for a further 10 mins. This dries out the rest of the dish.

Pour the boiling water over the saffron and leave to sit for 10 mins.

Gently fork through to loosen the grains. Add the reserved onions and the soaked saffron and gently toss through.

The boiled eggs are the traditional accompaniment, halve or quarter them and serve on top.  I like to also serve with diced tomato and cucumber. And the dry roasted peanuts give a nice crunch.

prawn saagwala

Prawn Saagwala

This must be the quickest curry I’ve ever made. Saagwala is that vivid green curry that combines gentle spices, with a heap of spinach and then stir in a protein. I have used prawns here – fast cooking – but it can be made with Beef, Lamb or Chicken, and if you need a vegetarian dish, using that magic Indian Cheese Paneer adds a very interesting taste and texture…


250 g king prawns fresh or frozen

350 g baby spinach

1 big onion diced

4 garlic cloves peeled and  crushed

vegetable oil

1/2 t turmeric

1/4 t chilli pepper flakes

3/4 t cumin powder

3/4 t coriander

¼ C water



Heat the oil and gently fry the onion until softened and golden brown. Add the garlic and spices and fry for one minute. Add in the spinach and the water, turn down the heat and put on the lid and cook the spinach for a couple of minutes until its well wilted. But don’t overcook – you want to keep that stunning vivid green.

Tip all the contents into a processor and whizz until smooth.

In the meantime, tip the prawns into the pan and cook gently until just beginning to tinge pink. If using frozen prawns, don’t defrost first. They will ooze out their juices, but that’s ok, that will add to the flavour of the sauce. Add back the spinach and gently heat for 1-2 mins until the prawns are cooked and the sauce warmed through. And voila! It’s done!

If using meat, follow the above instructions – but it will take longer, of course.

And if using Paneer, the method changes a little. Mix the spices into the oil and marinade the cheese for ½ and hour. Then fry in batches until it has browned and remove from the pan. Fry the onions, and garlic and continue as above. Once you’ve whizzed the spinach, add it to the pan and heat through with the cheese. Paneer cheese is a lot like the Greek Haloumi – it can be fried without melting, and “squeaks” when you eat it.  It has a very interesting texture.

This curry makes a very light and colourful addition to any Indian feast! (and of course, the leftovers make for a scrummy lunch!)




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