Biryani was originally a family of aubergine dishes cooked for Princess Burans wedding to the powerful Caliph alMamoun son of Harun alRashid in ninth century Baghdad. Her real name was Khadijah but she was better known under the pet name of Buran after a Persian princess of the seventh century. There are still dishes called braniya in both Algeria and Morocco which centre round aubergines and meat. How could this lead to present day burani or borani or in fact the indian biryani which are all glorified pilaffs? Such are the mysteries of culinary evolution! I suspect that the dish was transformed with the addition of grain in Turkey.

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
3 bell peppers red, yellow and green, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped and optionally peeled
2 1/4 cups water or chicken stock
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. cardamon
1 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 small cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ tsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup basmati rice
4 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken pieces, cut into bite sized chunks

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

COURSE: Casseroles and One Pots

CUISINE: Turkish


  1. Sauté the onion in the hot oil until light golden. Add the red pepper, and 2 minutes later the garlic. Sauté everything together for a minute, without allowing it to brown.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the rice and the herbs, and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is thicker.
  3. Mix in the rice and the parsley. Season to taste, cover, and cook gently until the water has been absorbed, approx. 15-20 minutes. Test the rice after 15 minutes and, if needed, add a little hot water.
  4. When the rice is just tender, mix in the dill and remove from the heat. The dish should be quite moist and the rice not overcooked. Garnish with parsley.
  5. Serve with a green salad, plain yoghurt, and a plate of feta or fresh goat cheese.