Lamb Biryani with Saffron Butter and Whole Spices



Photography Andy Arnfield – The Gourmet Grocer

Recipe Maunika Gowardhan

I just love the flavours of Indian food and one of my favourites it the good old Biryani.  There are a multitude of recipes out there and is made differently depending on where you are in India or Pakistan, but this is one I love and use all the time. There are various communities in India that make finger licking biryanis with recipes handed down through generations and are renowned for melt in your mouth slow cooked pots of meat & rice ensuring the juices are soaked in by the rice grains. Sealed pots ensure the moisture is intact and opening dish at your dinner table serving out the biryani with the steam and aromas wafting through make for a delightful meal. You could always use chicken in this recipe instead of the lamb and reduce to cooking time to suit.  I also like to top mine off with fried red onions and fresh green chilli. Enjoy !


Serves 6

600gms shoulder of lamb on the bone cut into cubes
1 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Pinch of salt

To cook the lamb;

4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
5 green cardamom pods
4 cloves
3cm cinnamon stick broken
2 medium onions finely sliced
6 cloves of garlic pounded to a paste
2” peeled ginger pounded to a paste
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp fennel powder
2 tbsp tomato puree
80mls water
2 tbsp melted butter
Generous pinch of saffron infused in 2tbsp of warm water
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
Red onion, lemon wedges and mint chutney to serve

For the rice;

500gms basmati rice washed & drained
2 bay leaves
3 green cardamom pods
1lt water or vegetable stock
Salt to taste


In a mixing bowl add the lamb, turmeric powder, Greek yoghurt and salt. Mix well making sure all the pieces are well coated. Set aside and leave to marinate for 2 hours or overnight.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy based pan and add all the whole spices. As they start to crackle add the chopped onions. Sauté the onions on a medium heat for 10-12 minute until they soften and turn light brown. Add the garlic and ginger paste and fry stirring well for a couple of minutes. Add the powdered spices and cook for a further two minutes. At this stage add the marinated meat stir well making sure to mix the spices with the lamb pieces. Tip in the tomato puree and fry sealing the lamb cubes for a 3-4 minutes. At this stage add the water. bring to a simmer and cover the sauce pan cooking the lamb for 45minutes. Give it a stir half way through making sure the lamb is tender and the masala thickens. The masala should reduce and coat the lamb pieces.

Preheat the oven to 180c (Gas mark 4). Ten minutes before the lamb is ready bring a large sauce pan with a litre of water to boil. Add the rice, bay leaf, cardamom pods and salt. Bring to a boil and cook the rice for 7-10 mins until three quarters done (the rice grain if broken should have a slight bite to it) Drain the rice and set aside.

Brush the base of a deep casserole with melted butter. Cover the base with a layer of rice about a third followed by a third of the lamb along with its sauce followed by another layer of rice and a teaspoon of the saffron water. Repeat each layer finishing off with a layer of rice and a drizzle of saffron water, chopped mint and leftover melted butter. Cover the dish with grease proof paper and a tight fitting lid. Place the dish in the oven for a final cooking time of 25minutes. Once done fork the rice gently, garnish with coriander and serve warm with onion rings, mint chutney and lemon wedges.

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