Lamb Biryani | DonalSkehan.com, Arun's take on an Indian classic.
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Lamb Biryani

November 22

This is my version of an Indian classic; ‘ka kesar’ means ‘with saffron’. From the glorious Nizam Hyderabadi palaces to the Moghul territories of Lucknow, Delhi and Agra across to Kashmir, Lahore and Karachi and back to Persia, biryani has many regional variations. Lamb, hogget, mutton – even goat – are all traditional. The key is undoubtedly the beauty of the basmati rice and a slow, ‘dum’ cooking method. ‘Dum’ refers to cooking in a sealed pot; traditionally the pot is sealed with dough but here we use a tight-fitting lid.

This recipe is taken from Fresh Spice by Arun Kapil, published by Pavilion Books. Recipe photography by Yuki Sugiura.

  • serves Serves 6
  • time 60 mins +4h marinading time


  1. 1. Combine all the marinade ingredient in a non-metallic bowl and mix well. Add the meat, cover and set aside for at least 4 hours (or preferably overnight) in the fridge.
  2. 2. Put the ghee in a large heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Put over a medium heat, add the meat and all its marinade and cook for 25 minutes. Set aside.
  3. 3. Wash the rice thoroughly and drain it. Finely grind the whole spices, except the saffron, using a mortar and pestle. Put 1.2 litres (2 pints) water into a large saucepan, add all the spices, the rice, saffron and salt, and bring to the boil. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  4. 4. To assemble the dish, strain the remaining water from the rice into the meat mixture, stir thoroughly and then level the meat out evenly.
  5. 5. Spread the rice in an even layer over the meat. Cover the pan and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes.
  6. 6. Turn down the heat to its lowest setting and cook gently for 30 minutes, keeping the lid on and not stirring at all. (Alternatively, pop the casserole into the oven, preheated to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  7. 7. Remove the dish from the heat and leave it to rest for 5 minutes before taking it to the table, lifting off the lid with a flourish, and allowing
    everyone to get the full, fragrant Eastern aroma. Biryani made simple!


1kg stewing lamb, diced

1 tbsp ghee, sunflower oil or unsalted butter

For the marinade:

5 large garlic cloves, crushed

60g fresh ginger, grated

125ml natural yogurt

1 green bird’s eye chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

2 onions, diced

2 tbsp golden caster sugar

1 tbsp sea salt

2 tsp powdered turmeric

2 tsp black peppercorns, finely ground

1 tsp chilli flakes

2 tsp garam masala

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

1 handful mint leaves, chopped

For the rice:

330g aged basmati rice

3 tsp cumin seeds

3 cloves

Seeds from 3 green cardamom pods

Seeds from 1 black cardamom pod

½ tsp finely ground mace

10 saffron threads

2 tsp sea salt

You'll Need

large heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole