Forget the economy, make Biryani

In case you have more interesting things to do than follow the Greek economy, first of all, congratulations, and secondly you may not have heard that the latest Eurogroup ended with no deal. Greece’s creditors were quick to pile the blame on the country, and it all got a bit childish and surreal.

If things were looking bad before, they are looking even worse now. For those of us living this crisis as well as documenting it, this whole saga has become beyond exhausting, and for the first time (yes, now is the first time despite the Grexit talk that began immediately on January 26) we are staring the prospect of a messy default right in the face.

It’s very tiring and it’s very depressing and we in Athens are all feeling a bit desperate for something good, so instead of writing more about today’s deal-less Eurogroup and what scenarios have come into play now, I’m going to give you my mother’s biryani recipe. My mum  is from Hyderabad, biryani capital of India. Make this recipe, cheer yourself up, because biryani is the food of gods. 


1 chicken in pieces, no skin

2 onions, thinly slices

3 garlic pods, finely chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

3 tomatoes, chopped

4 chopped fresh plums


1tsp each of chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, tumeric

5 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

2 bay leaves

fresh coriander, chopped

2 green chillis, whole

6 saffron strands soaked in 1/4 cup of warm milk

3 cups of basmati rice washed in three changes of water

salt to taste


Put the chicken in a bowl and add the yoghurt with all the spices, mix. Fry the onions in a heavy based pan with a tight fitting lid until they are brown (but not burnt, this step is key). Add the ginger and garlic, then the chopped tomato and plums. Stir well and cook until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the chicken and yoghurt mix and cook for about 20 mintues on a medium flame, stirring well until the chicken is cooked. Add the coriander and green chillis and salt to taste. The mix should not be dry, but not too liquid either.

Boil three cups of basmati rice in salted water until partially cooked and layer over the top of the chicken mixture, drizzle over the saffron milk. Turn the heat right down, knead 3 cups of flour until you have a soft dough and seal around the edges of the lid to keep the steam in. If you are feeling lazy, just use a wet towel instead.

As the mixture on the bottom cooks, the flavours and aromas steam through the rest of the rice to impart their taste and smell throughout, sort of how contagion from the Greek economic situation affects the rest of Europe, except a lot more delicious, less expensive and less stressful.

Steam on a low heat for 35 minutes. Don’t be tempted to peek, you will break the steam seal. When the time is up, crack the seal, mix up the rice and chicken and enjoy. Taste for salt, and if you think you need more, I find sobbing into your plate of biryani because you’re living through economic annihilation does the trick.

One comment

  1. beautifully written, enormously moving piece. Interesting that so many in the land of emigrants and philoxenia find it so difficult to engage in rigorous, learning debate with “outsiders” without resorting to “But you don’t really understand. You’re not from here.” And being the son of Greek emigrants I have some idea of that!

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