Inspired living

Lee Holmes shares her take on the perfect marinades plus her favourite Biryani recipe

Lee Holmes shares her take on marinades plus her favourite recipe

Credit: Lee Holmes

Is your current curry dish not cutting it? It’s time to say goodbye to tasteless meals with my delicious Chicken Biryani and Turmeric Cauliflower Rice.

There’s something about digging into a big bowl of Indian food that I find so comforting: the warmth of the spices; the way the coconut milk cuts through the heat of the flavours; the extra dose of vegetables.

This issue I’d love to share with you a true Indian delicacy: my delectable Chicken Biryani from my new book, Supercharge Your Life. Biryani is a traditional dish that’s extremely popular throughout the Indian subcontinent and playfully combines Indian spices (including turmeric, my favourite anti-inflammatory spice), protein, vegetables and rice.

Marinating magic

To recreate the dish, we need to delve into the art of marinating. If you’re new to marinating think of it this way: instead of using pre-made flavour mixes and seasonings, impart flavour to your meals by stocking up on the single ingredients that can make dishes delicious and unparalleled to anything you’ve tried before.

For me, the act of marinating embodies one of the many things I love about cooking: it’s dual-benefit. While it nourishes and fills our bodies with supercharged ingredients, it also works wonders for our tastebuds. Once you understand how to combine and balance flavours, as well as strengthen flavours through marinating, you’ll be able to nail your foodie creations and impress all of friends.

If you’ve never marinated before, don’t worry — it’s as easy as one, two, three. Marinating is an age-old process to intensify the flavour of food before cooking it with a few basic ingredients. Sounds pretty simple, right? Marinades can be in the form of pastes, liquids or dry rubs. They’re typically used for meats but don’t underestimate a delicious marinade for vegies.

If you’re marinating a tougher cut of meat, I recommend doing so overnight in the fridge. If you’re cooking up fish, lamb fillets, tender cuts of beef or chicken as in this recipe, it only requires a few hours of marinating time.

The three elements

There are usually three parts to creating a marinade:

Oils. Oil helps to prevent meat from drying out and will bind and lock in flavours. My preferred oils for marinating include olive oil and sesame oil. If you’re a regular coconut-oil user, just remember that it solidifies in the fridge, which inhibits the flavours from moving freely and permeating the meat.

Acids. Acids help to unravel the protein in meat, creating a tender texture and softening the surface to allow flavours to permeate. My favourite acids are apple-cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, brown-rice vinegar, pomegranate juice, preservative-free organic wine, citrus juice and yoghurt. I also love coconut milk combined with lemon or lime juice as it offers a great dairy-free buttermilk substitute.

Seasonings. Seasonings include dried and fresh herbs and spices, sea salt, pepper, coconut sugar, citrus zest, tamari, honey, rice-malt syrup, tamarind and other flavours. They help balance out ingredients and achieve the flavour that you’re after. Sugars are used to intensify the browning and caramelising of meat while salty components will enhance natural glutamates and bring out savoury flavours.

To make a basic and delicious marinade, use one part acid, one part oil and one-to-two parts seasoning, balancing sweet and salty seasonings with your chosen flavours. Make sure to create enough to coat the quantity of meat or vegetables. When it’s all covered, leave your marinated goods in the fridge until cooking.

If you’re after a dry rub, choose flavours in the ratio of four parts sea salt to three parts sugar and three parts spices. My preferred sugar here is coconut sugar. If you’re not sure if you want a rub or marinade, remember that rubs are best used for meats that are being grilled or oven roasted, rather than fish. Once you’ve created your rub, rub it over your meat, wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it for up to 72 hours.

For this recipe, I’ve used a marinade made up of some of my favourite flavours and acids: cumin, coriander, curry powder, ground turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilli and lemon juice.

If you’re reading this and trying to spot the oil component, 10 points to you! While there are various rules to marinating when you first start off, the best part about cooking is abandoning the rules altogether and having a play. This marinade doesn’t require oil as it’s used in the latter stages of cooking.

Chicken Biryani with Cauliflower Rice



  • 700g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut in half
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 250mL coconut milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • Small handful coriander leaves, to serve
  • Minted raita, to serve (recipe below)

  • Marinade
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp curry powder
    1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2.5cm piece ginger, peeled & grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
    1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • Cauliflower Rice
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
    1 head cauliflower, riced (you can do this in a food processor or blender)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
    ¼ tsp ground turmeric
    Handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
    Handful mint leaves, roughly chopped
    Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Minted Raita
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
    1 cup plain yoghurt
  • Mint leaves, chopped, to taste
  1. To make marinade, mix all ingredients in large bowl.
  2. Add chicken pieces to marinade, coat well then cover and marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour.
  3. Heat coconut oil in large frying pan over medium heat and fry onion for 4–5 mins, until translucent.
  4. Add chicken and brown on both sides. Add coconut milk, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods and simmer for 15 mins or until chicken is tender.
  5. Meanwhile, make cauliflower rice. Melt oil in another large frying pan over medium heat. Add cauliflower, mix in spices, stir through coriander and mint and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 8–10 mins, until soft.
  6. Make minted raita by mixing all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.
  7. Spoon cauliflower rice into bowls and serve with chicken in its sauce. Top with coriander leaves and serve with minted raita.


Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes is a nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, blogger and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut, Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids.

Lee’s food philosophy is all about S.O.L.E. food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Her main goal is to alter the perception that cooking fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich meals is difficult, complicated and time-consuming. From posting recipes, her passion to share her autoimmune disease story and help others has snowballed and the blog has recently taken home the overall prize at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating category. She also runs a four-week online Heal Your Gut program.