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Cavolo Nero and Split Pea Biryani

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

by Chantelle Nicholson from Planted (Kyle Books)

Photography by Nassima Rothacker

I am a big fan of biryani; it is the perfect comfort food with a delicious spice

infusion. I have taken inspiration for this recipe from a wonderful cook, and

friend, Sabrina Ghayour. I enjoyed the crispy base of her version so much, which

is called a tahdig in Persian cuisine. When I was making her recipe for the first

time she advised to make loads of the crispy onions; it was sound advice!

Preparation Time: 30 mins

Cooking Time: 1hr 40 mins

Serves: 4


150ml vegetable oil, plus an extra 25ml

4 onions, peeled and finely sliced

180g yellow split peas, rinsed well

400ml coconut milk

400g basmati rice, washed until the water runs clear

pinch of saffron threads

25g non-dairy butter (Nigel says use butter if you aren’t making a vegan version)

250g cavolo nero

sea salt


3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated

4cm knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated

4cm knob of turmeric, peeled and

finely grated, or 2 tsp ground turmeric

1 green chilli, finely diced

2 bay leaves

12 cardamom pods

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon cumin seeds


coconut yogurt

1 bunch of coriander, leaves finely chopped


Heat 150ml of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a moderately high

heat. When almost smoking, add the onions and salt and cook for 20–25

minutes, until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen

paper to drain. Retain the oil.

Pour half the retained oil into a large saucepan and set over a medium heat.

When hot, add all the ingredients from the spice base. Season with a little

salt and cook for 5 minutes until fragrant. Add 300ml of warm water and the

split peas, stirring well. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 25 minutes,

stirring regularly. Add the coconut milk and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

While the spice base is cooking, bring a large saucepan of salted water to

the boil. Add the rice and part-cook for 6 minutes. Drain well.

Put the saffron in a small bowl and pour over 50ml of boiling water.

Line the base of a medium to large saucepan with a circle of parchment

paper. Put 25ml vegetable oil, plus the butter, on top of the paper and set

over a moderately high heat. When hot, layer a third of the rice on the base.

Spoon over a little of the saffron water. Layer half the split pea mix on top,

followed by half the cavolo nero leaves and a third of the crispy onions.

Repeat the layers. Top with the remaining third of rice, the saffron water and

onions. Cover with a firmly fitting lid and cook over a low–medium heat for

40 minutes. Don’t be tempted to lift the lid and check while cooking, as the

steam will escape, which is needed to cook the rice.

Check the biryani after 40 minutes to see if the rice is al dente. If so, it is

ready. If not, leave for a further 10 minutes.

When ready serve with coconut yogurt and coriander alongside.

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