Biryani eating in Hyderabad and Delhi is like no other place with some of the finest plates and the most delectable flavours. Awadhi community has their own unique take on biryani too. More than anything the variety of biryanis in Indian cuisine can be mind boggling. From basic meat/ chicken to kheema, kofta biryanis and even those cooked using game. My preference has always been chicken or mutton biryani as it’s something I grew up eating. I also like it with chunks of potato tossed with the rice and meat which isn’t something I have commonly seen served at restaurants in the UK.
Like most Indian girls who grew up never learning to cook (including myself!); I hadn’t quite mastered the art of making a decent cup of Indian tea so the idea of making biryani seemed like a milestone which I would only cross in my dreams! It was all about the recipe secrets, spicing, slow cooking and layering. Far too daunting if you ask me. But learn I did and after a few attempts on various Indian recipes I can proudly say I cook this dish to rave reviews from clients & friends. The key to cooking good biryani undoubtedly has to be balance of flavour with the meat and the rice but more than anything separated, fluffy rice grains is a must. Getting your rice cooking timings perfect is crucial to make sure it doesn’t overcook which can yield broken & sticky grains. With this recipe below; it is simple to cook and one that would result in a delicious dish that’s a meal in itself.
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.
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 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 60 minutes. 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 20-25 minutes. Once done fork the rice gently, garnish with coriander and serve warm with onion rings, mint chutney and lemon wedges.