Recipe For Lamb Biryani (Based On Madhur Jaffrey Recipe)

It has been snowing since last Thursday and the long range forecast indicates that the weather will not get any better for the rest of the week; a gritter has just gone past our house in the snow.  Everywhere looks pretty and white, with that eery muffled peace from the snow and the fact that fewer cars and lorries are out braving the conditions.  Yorkshire had its coldest weekend since records began hitting -14C / 7 F just down the road on Saturday night (lucky I was in Northumberland where it was a balmy -9C / 16F near Corbridge).  It is not really what we need at this time of year as we have lots of orders to complete at work and the transport system goes to pot.  So my mind turns to food and meat biryani.

Biryanis are a delicate, lightly spiced dish that originated from Persia via the Moghul era in India, perhaps in this case (according to Madhur Jaffrey) from the 18th century courts.  I have based my biryani on the amazing recipe Kucchey Gosht Ki Biryani or Moghlai “Raw” Meat Biryani from Madhur Jaffrey’s bible of real curries “Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible” with a little help from Digvijaya Singh’s “Cooking Delights Of The Maharajas“.

Homemade Lamb Biryani

Homemade Lamb Biryani

This biryani is light, delicate and rich.  It reminds me of warm days travelling around India, with fountains playing merry music in the background and peacocks walking and squawking around decadent, decaying gardens.  It is perfectly accompanied by some chutneys and pickles and a light green salad.

For the meat:

600g / generous 1¼ lb lamb steaks
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
6 green cardamom pods
3 organic Fairtrade cloves
3cm / 1 inch cinnamon quill (roughly half a normal stick with the other half used later; also do not use cassia as that gives wrong flavour profile)
¼ tsp sea salt
1cm /½ inch fresh ginger, finely grated
500g / 1½ cup natural yoghurt (use Greek style as that seems to work the best)

For the biryani:

1tsp saffron threads, soaked in 4tbsp cold water
400 ml / 1¾ cups basmati rice
½ medium onion, finely chopped
3tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
8 dried apricots, chopped into quarters
3cm / 1 inch cinnamon quill
whole green cardamom pods, opened by crushing or with fingers
2 cloves
250ml / ½ pint / 1 cup full fat milk

Slice the meat into thin pasanda strips, i.e. 1cm x 3cm squares (½ inch x 1½ inch).  Grind the cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon in a pestle and mortar or a clean coffee grinder to as fine a powder as possible.  Put the yoghurt into a large bowl, to which you should add the dry spices and salt.  Next add the freshly grated ginger and garlic and mix well.  To this marinade, add the lamb pasandas and leave to marinade in a fridge for at least 3 hours, or ideally overnight.  It is a good thing to do on a Friday or Saturday night so you can enjoy a really delicate biryani on the next day.

Lamb Cut Into Pasandas

Lamb Cut Into Pasandas

Marinade The Lamb Pasandas

Marinade The Lamb Pasandas

Crush the saffron in a price of foil – fold foil over some saffron and then crush it with a rolling pin.  Place the crushed saffron in a cup and steep in cold water for about 4 hours.  Strain out the saffron threads with a tea strainer before using.

Let The Saffron Steep In Cold Water

Let The Saffron Steep In Cold Water

Wash the rice in several changes of water, drain and then leave to soak in water that covers it for 2 – 3 hours.  Drain before cooking.

In a frying pan, heat the ghee and fry the onions until golden brown.  When complete, lift out with slotted spoon and set aside on a plate to cool; leave ghee to cool for a few minutes before using in next step.  In a separate pan, add onion flavoured ghee and line the base of the pan with the meat and its marinade and sprinkle the fried onions and chopped apricots over this.

Fry The Onions In Ghee

Fry The Onions In Ghee

Put The Marinaded Lamb In A Casserole Pot And Sprinkle Over With Fried Onions And Chopped Apricot

Put The Marinaded Lamb In A Casserole Pot And Sprinkle Over With Fried Onions And Chopped Apricots

Put the oven on to 160C / 320F.

Cinnamon And Spice For Rice

Cinnamon And Spice For Rice

Pour 3 litres / 5¼ pints of water into a large pan.  Add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, then bring to the boil.  Add the drained rice and bring back to the boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, then drain.  Quickly spread half the rice over the meat, then sprinkle the saffron water over the rice.  Spread the remaining rice over the rice already in the dish.  Pour over the milk.

Now the key is to seal the casserole dish completely as all the liquid is now in the pot.  Cover the pan with a layer of foil and gently bring to the boil over a medium heat.  Immediately steam comes out the sides of the foil, take the pot off the heat, fold the foil over the edges and then put the pan lid on top of that.

Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 2 hours.  Just before serving, stir the rice and meat together but gently as it is all very soft by now.

Moghlai Lamb Biryani

Moghlai Lamb Biryani

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “Recipe For Lamb Biryani (Based On Madhur Jaffrey Recipe)”

  1. Shaila says:

    I don’t really understand what you are supposed to do with the foil and the steam and the cover? can you please explain? Also were the dried fruits and milk in the original recipe? Just curious as I find they are often an addition which is not authentic and Indians don’t usually cook with milk . Thanks,


  2. Axel says:

    Hi Shaila

    The foil is there as an extra protective layer to help keep the steam in when the biryani is cooking. I kept the foil open slightly while cooking on the hob, so when the steam started coming out I knew it was then hot enough to transfer to the oven. I then fold the edges down. You could simply put the biryani straight away into the oven, but cook a bit longer to ensure the temperature is at 160C for long enough – perhaps another 15 minutes.

    As for nuts, fruit and milk, they were all in the traditional recipe from Maddhur Jaffrey and similarly in those in Digvijaya Singh’s book. I agree that much of Indian food does not use these ingredients, but biryanis have their origin in Persia and the Moghul courts, so many (but not all) versions I found use fruits & nuts like almonds, bokhara, charoli, coconut, raisins and pistachios; I did change bokhara for apricots as a subsitute. Once again most of the traditional recipes for biryani I saw do use milk and if not use a mixture of curd and water or vinegar, i.e. a dairy based liquid, and one even used rabree (evapourated milk). Others also use variously kewada water, lime juice and rose water.



  3. best fridge says:

    best fridge…

    […]Recipe For Lamb Biryani (Based On Madhur Jaffrey Recipe) | Axel and Sophie Steenbergs Blog: News, Views and Chat about Spices, Tea, Recipes and the Environment[…]…

  4. fennel recipes…

    […]Recipe For Lamb Biryani (Based On Madhur Jaffrey Recipe) | Axel and Sophie Steenbergs Blog: News, Views and Chat about Spices, Tea, Recipes and the Environment[…]…

  5. Janie says:

    How many will this recipe feed…??

  6. Axel says:

    Hi Janie

    This recipe is for 5-6 people. I hope that helps.

    With best wishes

    Axel Steenberg

  7. Familia says:

    So glad you found us at Feast on the Cheap! I actually had the prelsuae of catering a party for Pierre Franey’s daughter last January. It was wholly intimidating as I sauteed and braised on HIS stove, all the while his portrait on the wall, “watching” my every move! It was so much fun and I was honored to have the opportunity to cook for this legendary chef’s daughter. (Who by the way, is an extraordinary home chef, herself!)Love your posts – the pictures are beautiful and the recipes fresh and inspiring. I’ll be back! Cheers! Mary Anne

Leave a Reply