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Holiday Festive Food with Nada

To celebrate the festive season, we’ve partnered with some of the very best home chefs in Australia to show you how they do family celebrations in delicious style.

Introducing Nada, a brilliant ‘Flavours of Auburn’ tour guide, a caring mother and a proud member of the Iraqi community in Australia. We stopped by Nada’s home in Sydney to chat about her family’s traditional festive recipes, and how food brings her loved ones together.

I was born in Iraq but migrated to Australia with my husband and two young children in June 1992. 

After living through the hardships of the Iraq-Iran War and the first Gulf War, we were ready for a new peaceful beginning.

We quickly made Australia our home and adapted easily to the Australian lifestyle because we were finally comfortable and happy.

Nada’s favourite festive food is Iraqi Biryani.

Iraqi Biryani is a dish full of tradition and history. It’s believed that Biryani originated in the Arab countries and migrated to India, where it was modified, and then travelled back to the Persian Gulf.

Iraqi Biryani is made up of an aromatic mosaic of flavours and spices; it contains rice, chicken, sultanas, almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, mild or hot paprika and more.

Although the dish may seem complicated, it’s easy to make and once you try it, you’ll want to make it again.

We serve Iraqi Biryani at our dinner parties and festive holidays.

Family is very important to me, and my favourite memories take me back to picnics at the park, outdoor birthday parties and weddings—all the occasions where we spent time together and enjoyed delicious food. 

I remember learning to cook Iraqi Biryani as a child with my family. Some of our best times now are when the whole family is gathered, cooking together traditional recipes like Iraqi Biryani.

There are several versions of Iraqi Biryani because recipes are passed down to us from our ancestors, our parents and grandparents. Also, people have different tastes, some like it hot and others mild. Our family’s recipe is not too spicy, and I’ve taught my daughter how to make it. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented us from spending time together this year, but I look forward to sharing more time and food with my family during the holidays. 

Nada’s Iraqi Biryani Recipe


Spice mix (all ground)

100g black pepper

100g cardamom

50g cinnamon

50g clove

50g coriander

50g mild (or hot) paprika

100g pimento

50g white pepper

Main Ingredients

½ kilo of chicken breast fillet, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 Potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes

1 cup of raw almonds, blanched and halved

1 cup of extra large sultanas

1 cup of rice (use Low GI rice or basmati for people with diabetes)  

1 cup of frozen corn, peas and carrots, defrosted and rinsed

Vegetable oil, use as required

Spice mix, add the amounts as indicated above

Salt to taste


  1. Wash the rice a few times in cold water to rid of excess starch, then keep the rice in cold water (cover by 1 cm) for at least half an hour before cooking.
  2. Brown the chicken in oil. Add 1 level tablespoon of the spice mix, and keep turning the chicken for a few minutes until it’s cooked thoroughly. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl.
  3. Brown the potatoes in oil on medium heat, add half a tablespoon of the spice mix, and keep turning until ready. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl
  4. Brown the almonds in a little oil on low heat, and add one level tablespoon of the spice mix. Keep turning carefully for a minute or two. Make sure not to burn the almonds. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl.
  5. Fry the sultanas on low heat until they soften and expand in size; their golden colour will increase gradually as you cook them. Add one level tablespoon of the spice mix and mix carefully for a minute or too, which is enough time for the spices to be absorbed. Make sure not to burn the sultanas. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl.
  6. Place a large non-stick cooking pot on high heat with 3-4 tablespoons of oil, and wait for the oil to heat. Drain the rice, place inside the pot, and add the vegetables. Cover the rice and vegetables with approximately ½ cm of boiled water. Add 1 full tablespoon of the spices and a pinch of salt. Place the lid on the pot, and leave on high heat until water is absorbed.
  7. After the water is absorbed, let the rice simmer on low heat. Stir the rice and vegetables a few times. Place a small tea towel underneath the pot’s lid and secure the lid back on. This will absorb the excess water (if any). Let simmer for about 20 minutes.
  8. Once the rice is cooked remove from heat and serve on a flat platter. Add the chicken, almonds, potatoes and sultanas on top of the rice and that’s it, the Iraqi Biryani is ready to enjoy!

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