Zamarud Pilau (Rice with Spinach)

Zamarud Pilau (Rice with Spinach)

I love biryani dishes, ever since I was introduced to them at University in a friend’s food parcels lovingly sent every month by his Indian mother. So good in fact I organised a visit to the family home with the express intention of getting a hold of the recipe which I am pleased to say I managed.

There are similarities between the biriyanis of Bangladesh and India with many Afghani rice dishes and this is no exception. Something to remember with rice dishes is to prepare the rice properly and allow to soak for at least 2 hours but preferably 3 hours.

Serves 6 comfortably.


300g basmati brown rice
sunflower oil
2 medium white onions
4 chicken breasts
100ml white wine
150ml water
2 tsps char masala
500g spinach
3 leeks
2 tsps ground coriander
1.5 Litres cold water
1 lemon
300 ml hot water
4 fresh green chillies
1 fresh red chilli



Weigh out the rice, wash well in at least 5 changes of cold water and leave to soak for 3 hours.

Finely chop the onions. Trim the leeks, removing any very green parts, wash thoroughly before slicing into 1 cm rounds.

Dice the chicken into cubes of approx. 2,5 cm

Trim the chillies and chop as fine as possible, keeping the seeds


Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170c

In an ovenproof pan heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over a medium heat before adding a teaspoon of char masala and frying for a further 2 minutes. Now add the onions and stir well until golden browned, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and fry until golden on all sides and the meat is sealed.

1Season with salt and ground black pepper. Add the white wine and 150ml of water, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat as low as possible and simmer for 25 minutes until the meat is cooked through.

Whilst the chicken is cooking, put the 1.5 litres of water in a large saucepan and start it heating through to a boil.

In a separate saucepan heat another tablespoon of oil and saute the leeks until they are softened, between 5 – 7 minutes.  Add the spinach and place a lid on top to quickly wilt it – about 3 minutes. Give everything a good stir and then add the ground coriander and stir well again. Pop the lid back on and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the leeks and spinach are well cooked.

Whilst the spinach is cooking and when the water is up to the boil, drain the rice and place it in the boiling water. Bring back to the boil, and parboil for 3 minutes. Drain the rice and mix with the spinach and leeks, together with the lemon juice and another teaspoon of char masala.

Add the rice mix to the cooked chicken and add a further 250 ml of boiling water. Gently turn the mixture to even out the components. Cover, and bake in the pre-heated oven at Gas Mark 3 for (minimum 30 minutes) up to 45 minutes. When ready sir through the fresh chillies before turning out onto a warm serving platter.


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