Biryani – a spicy rice dish with meat, chicken, fish or vegetables marinated in aromatic flavours - is what many would call the king (or queen) of Indian cuisine. Here’s how to make your own lamb biryani:
Time: 2hrs 50 minutes
• 1 ½ teaspoon strands saffron
• 1 ¾ teaspoon cardamom seeds
• 2 blades mace
• 4 onions
• 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 8cm ginger, peeled
• 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon chilli powder
• 1 lime, juice only
• 750g lamb shoulder cut into 4cm cubes
• Green cardamom pods
• 6 black cardamom pods
• 5cm cinnamon sticks
• 1 ½ teaspoon cloves
• 2 dried bay leaves
• 1 tablespoon garam masala
• 3 green chillies, deseeded and sliced
• 200ml Greek yogurt or full fat maas
• 450g basmati rice
• 1 handful mint leaves
• 2 tablespoons butter
1. Soak the saffron in 2 tablespoons of hot water and set aside.
2. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the cardamom seeds and mace to a powder and place to one side; you'll need this later when layering the rice and meat.
3. Slice 2 of the onions and sprinkle with salt and set aside for 20 minutes. Squeeze any excess water from the onions and pat them dry with paper towels. Deep-fry the sliced onions in hot oil until golden and drain on paper towels. Set half aside for garnishing the biryani.
4. Transfer the remaining fried onions to a food processor, pour in 3 tablespoons of hot water then purée; you should have about 2 tablespoons of onion paste.
5. Finely grate half of the ginger and combine with the garlic, chilli powder, and lime juice in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the onion paste. Add the lamb. Mix together and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
6. Dice the 2 remaining onions. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a large casserole pan set on a medium heat and soften the diced onions for 5 minutes, without colouring.
7. Slice the remaining ginger into fine strips and set aside. Add the green and brown cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves to the pan. Fry for about 30 seconds, until you smell a warm, spicy aroma.
8. Tip in the meat and its marinade and add the garam masala, green chillies, and ginger strips. Bring to a simmer and gradually add the yogurt/maas a tablespoon at a time. Cover and let simmer for about 45 minutes, until the lamb is tender and the masala thickened; the sauce should be well reduced and almost clinging to the meat.
9. Cover the rice with cold water and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Ten minutes before the meat is ready, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Drain the rice and add to the pan then cook for 5 minutes - it should be half-cooked and still have bite to it. Drain the rice in a colander.
10. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Put half of the hot meat in the bottom of a clean casserole pan. Cover with half of the freshly boiled rice and sprinkle with half of the ground cardamom and mace spice mixture and half of the mint.
11. Top with the remaining meat and rice. Scatter over the rest of the spice mix, mint leaves, and the sliced browned onions that you fried in step 3. Dot the surface with butter and drizzle over the saffron and its soaking liquid. Cover the biryani with wet greaseproof (waxed) paper and a well-fitting lid.
12. Bake for 40 minutes, until the rice is perfumed and cooked. Gently fluff up the grains with a fork and serve straight from the pan
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