A buttery and aromatic biryani dish that is spicy without the heat but jam packed with complementary flavours. Cooked with tender cubes of lamb or mutton, this is a rice dish that you can partly prepare the night before to cut down on cooking stress. The biryani is flavoured with a range of whole and ground spices included cumin, black cardamom and whole black peppercorns. It’s then topped off with caramelised onions that adds some extra sweetness to the dish.
I am so excited to post another biryani recipe here! Back in the summer, I posted a recipe for tandoori chicken biyrani, which was my first biryani on the blog and also the first biryani where I felt like I had finally managed to master this notoriously challenging dish. And with this recipe I was able to refine the process a little more and create a biryani where the rice is light and separated yet not dry or lacking in flavour.
My family and I really enjoyed this biryani and I was kind of sad that there wasn’t more to go around! It is not at all dry which I sometimes find with biryani but very flavourful and aromatic. As it wasn’t very hot, it was fine for the kids. If you want to make it spicier though, you can always add some more chilli powder to the meat curry or perhaps some more whole green chillies.
I also added a little ghee (something we Bengalis love in our pilaus) and that added an extra layer of aroma. Also, unlike some other biryanis, this is surprisingly light and you’re not left with that heavy feeling you can get from eating Biryanis from restaurants.
The basis of the meat masala is pretty much the same as the mutton curry I posted on the blog last year minus the potato. I cooked it a little longer to ensure the meat is fork tender and added some yoghurt near the end. I prepared the meat masala the night before to cut down on the stress and I would advise doing that if you have the time as it really makes things a lot easier especially if you’re planning on serving this to company. It meant I could leave the meat to stew gently on the stove for about 2 hours with very little effort whilst I went about other errands. Then the next day, I reheated the meat curry and stirred through the yoghurt before preparing the rice and layering which took about an hour.
You can use either lamb or mutton for the meat masala, but if you’ve read some of my other posts then you will know that I prefer to use mutton as it is much richer in flavour.
Also, I must add a note about the rice to use for biryani. Last time, I used just a regular basmati that we consume on a daily basis. This time, I used Tilda basmati rice, which is a little pricier but meant to be better quality. I definitely noticed a difference using this rice. There are many types of rice which are specifically marketed for being used in biryani. I’ve heard people say that aged basmati rice is great for biryani but I have yet to try it out myself. I soaked the rice for 20 minutes which is said to help create more separated grains.
I garnished the biryani with caramelised onions, as I did in my Mujadarra pilaf rice post which added an extra layer of sweetness and depth.
With this biryani recipe, I found that using and sticking to set measurements and timings help. I parboiled the rice for exactly 5 minutes and then cooked the biryani for 30 minutes. I use a ratio of 1.5 cups of water for every cup of rice. I used a standard coffee mug to measure the rice and water. Sticking to the same proportion is more important than the size of the mug you use.
- 1 kg of mutton/lamb diced into chunks
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- One and half medium onions, chopped into chunks
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced/grated
- 1 inch piece of ginger, minced/grated
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick/cassia bark snapped into pieces
- 4-6 whole cloves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 - 2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- Salt to season
- 2 tbs yoghurt
- 2 cups basmati rice, washed and left to soak for 20 minutes
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick snapped into pieces
- 3 green cardamoms
- 4-6 cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 tbs ghee (or butter)
- Handful corriander, chopped
- 2-3 whole green chillis, snapped in half (optional)
- 1 tbs oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 red onions, sliced finely
- 1 yellow onion, sliced finely
- In a large saucepan, add oil. Allow to heat up, then add garlic. Allow garlic to turn golden then add garlic, onion, bay lea, cloves. and cinnamon. Add salt and stir. Then add the meat and the turmeric. Cover and leave to simmer on a medium to high heat. Check every 3-5 minutes. If the meat is catching the pan, add a little bit of water.
- After about 20 minutes, once the onions have softened and the meat has shrunk in size, add the remaining ground spices. Cover again and leave to simmer on a medium heat so the spices cook out.
- Leave the meat to simmer gently on a medium heat, with the lid on, for 1 and a 1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is tender. Make sure to top the pan up with about 1/2-1 cup of water as and when the liquid dries up. The water will help the meat become more tender.
- Once the meat is tender, stir in the yoghurt. If you are preparing the meat curry the night before, do not add the yoghurt until the next day when you reheat the curry and are about layer with the rice. Season with salt to taste then remove from heat and reserve to the side.
- Prepare the onion topping next. In a frying pan or skillet, add oil and allow to heat up. Add in the onions and the salt to help onions to soften. Leave onions to slowly soften and caramelise uncovered on a very low heat. Leave onions to caramelise and turn a deep brown while you prepare the rice, stirring every now and then. Once they are cooked down, then remove from heat.
- To prepare the rice, place a large pot on a high heat. Add about 8 coffee mugs worth of boiling water from a kettle. Add all of the whole spices and 1tsp salt allow the water to come to a rolling boil. Drain the basmati rice and pour into the pot. Leave to cook for 5 minutes, so the rice is partly cooked. Test the rice to see if it is ready by taking a grain of rice and rubbing it between your finger and thumb. If ready, it should break into 3 pieces. Drain rice in a colander and reserve to the side.
- Now to layer the biryani, take a large pot (I used the same one I prepared the rice in) and then coat the bottom and sides of the pot with a tablespoon of ghee to stop the biryani from sticking. If you do this over a low heat, the ghee will easily melt. Spoon about 1/3 of the meat curry into the bottom of the pan. Then spoon a layer of rice on top so that the meat is covered. Then spoon on another layer of meat curry in the middle of the rice. Then top that with another layer of fragrant rice. Then one final layer of meat masala in the middle and then cover that with one last layer of rice. Try to even out the rice so the layer is nice and flat. Break up a knob of ghee over the top of the rice. Lightly sprinkle on 1-2 tbs of water to help the rice steam. Then add the chopped corriander and the whole green chillies.
- Cover the pot with tin foil tightly and place the lid on top, making sure there are no gaps. Place a tawa (a flat griddle pan) under the pot and leave the biryani to steam on a low heat for 30 minutes. Check the rice after 30 minutes (if rice is still hard, sprinkle with a little more water, reseal with foil and leave to steam for a further 5-10 mins). Use a large flat spoon to gently mix the biryani from top to bottom. Check salt and season to taste as necessary. If you add extra salt, make sure to mix the rice from top to bottom. When serving, top the biryani with the fried onions.