Biryani is a quintessential dish of South Asian cuisine; it encompasses the complexity of flavors and cultures of the Indian subcontinent. This dish must top every foodie’s list! It has an interesting history and has as many regional variations as there are languages in South Asia. There are theories that this dish originated during the Mughal Empire in the medieval era. However, there is evidence to suggest this dish may have existed even before the Mughal rule. Other theories suggest that Biriyani was introduced to India by Arab traders in the city of Calicut in the state of Kerela in southern India.
Irrespective of it’s much debated origins, the beauty lies in it’s diversity with a local interpretation found in almost every part of the Indian subcontinent. It is essentially a rice-dish cooked with vegetables, meat, or fish with spices (of course!) in one pot. As the aromas from the spices and the meat are absorbed in the rice. In this particular style of Biryani, the Hyderabadi Biryani, the pot is sealed with a pastry. Traditionally it is cooked in a clay or copper pot; however, I will be using a cast iron pot. In this post, I will be focusing on the Hyderabadi style Lamb Biriyani adapted from Nawab Mehboob Alam Khan, a prominent food connoisseur and expert on Hyderabadi culture. He hails from the erstwhile royal family of Hyderabad and according to him, this recipe is eons old!
- 2 lbs Boneless lamb.
- 2 cups Basmati Rice.
- 4 Sprigs finely chopped Mint leaves.
- 4 Sprigs finely chopped Cilantro.
- 2 teaspoon of Turmeric.
- 2 teaspoon Kashmiri Chilli powder.
- 2 finely chopped green chillies.
- 3 tablespoon yogurt.
- 2 cinnamon sticks.
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 8 cloves
- 2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (preferably make your own than store bought)
- 1 finely julienne red onion
- 3 teaspoon Ghee
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 squeezed lemon juice
- Salt to season
- 1/4 gm saffron
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 cups all purpose flour
1. Boil the rice in 2 cups of water with bay leaves to add an aromatic touch. The rice won’t be fully cooked but rather “al dente”. Set aside the half cooked rice.
2. Fry the julienned onions in the vegetable oil till they are crispy, set aside on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
3. Season the lamb with salt and add ginger garlic paste, turmeric, Kashmiri chilly powder, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Add yogurt and gently massage the lamb creating a marinade. Crush the onions and sprinkle over the lamb. Add the remaining oil in which the onions were fried in, green chilly, mint and cilantro and further massage the lamb. Sprinkle with lemon juice (let the lamb marinade anywhere between 2 hours and 24 hours, this marinade can be prepared from before).
4. Steep saffron in 1 cup warm water for about 10-15 minutes minutes. Add water to the all purpose flour and knead it to create a pastry . Set aside the pastry and saffron.
5. Grease the cast iron pot with 1 teaspoon ghee. Add the lamb with the marinade at the bottom . Add the half cooked rice on the top of the lamb.
6. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of ghee and the steeped saffron on the rice. Seal the edges of the pot with the pastry as shown in the picture and cover with lid.
7. Set oven temperature to 260-280 F. Place the pot in the oven and cook for 1 hr 45 minutes.
8. Prior to plating stir the pot evenly so that the flavors are distributed throughout the entire biryani.