It has been a while since I have posted a new recipe to the blog. I usually post two or three recipes per week but somehow the past few days have been very busy and I just did not get a chance to take any pictures while cooking (the process of taking photographs at every stage of cooking a dish adds up to a lot of extra time and effort). I knew I had been neglecting my poor blog (and I had been suffering a low level of guilt over it) but then yesterday I received a message from another blogger to ask if I was doing okay because she had not seen me post anything for quite some time and that got my guilt-gland overactive in a jiffy and it made me realize that I need to get back to it and soon! I know other bloggers are very active on their facebook pages and even when they don’t post any new recipes, they post questions or updates about their lives on a daily basis. I just don’t feel comfortable doing that – I post when some new recipe is in the pipeline or if the blog hits some major milestone!
Regular readers of my blog might already know that I constantly try to make healthy, fresh and flavorful dishes but also that every now and then I have broken the rule because either a guest requested me to make something for him/her or because my husband and I were craving something Indian and unhealthy. Biryanis usually fall under the latter category and I try to make them as infrequently as possible. They sure taste great but it takes so much time to make any kind of Biryani that I get lazy about it. But last night I made this Lamb Biryani at the request of my daughter’s boyfriend. My daughter had told me that he loves Biryani and even though he is not Indian, he makes it on a regular basis. This week he was visiting from Norway and so I had to make it for him. It came out really good and as it always happens with Biryani – I over-ate 🙂
1. 2.5 lbs of boneless lamb chunks (with the fat trimmed off)
2. 4 cups of Basmati Rice (use a standard measuring cup)
3. ½ cup of low fat plain yogurt
4. 6-7 cloves of garlic
5. ½ inch nub of fresh ginger root
6. 20-25 small ripe grape/cherry tomatoes
7. 6-8 sprigs of fresh mint
8. 4-5 sprigs of fresh cilantro
9. 2-3 mild green chilies
10. 2 large onions
11. 8-10 small shallots
12. One packet of Shaan Biryani powder
13. A pinch of saffron
14. 2 tablespoons of dried Fenugreek leaves
15. 6-7 pods of green Cardamom
16. One large stick of cinnamon
17. 1.5 tablespoons of freshly ground coriander powder
18. 2 cups of cooking oil (for frying and cooking)
19. ¼ cup of milk
1. Peel and finely dice the onions.
3. While the onions are getting cooked, peel and slice the garlic cloves and also the small tomatoes. I prefer grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes because they taste a lot better than plum or beef steak tomatoes but you can use any kind you have.
4. Add the sliced garlic to the onions and stir. Continue cooking on low heat.
5. In another small pot, add 3-4 inches of cooking oil and start to heat it and while the oil is coming up to temperature (for frying) peel and slice the shallots (in thin slices).
14. Add the yogurt to the pot and stir. Cover the pot with a well-fitted lid and let the lamb cook on low heat for 45-50 minutes. Check on it every 10-12 minutes just to make sure that the bottom is not getting burnt (which is why a heavy-bottomed pot is essential). If the sauce looks too thick, add a little bit of water and stir everything in the pot. Cover and let it cook till the lamb is fork tender.
15. After 30 minutes or so of cooking, grate the fresh ginger into the pot and stir again (if you add the ginger too early in the cooking process, the dish gets a slightly bitter flavor to it).
16. The thickened sauce gets a dark brown color and it looks like the picture below –
17. Add the dried Fenugreek leaves and dried coriander powder and stir. Let these cook for another 4-5 minutes on low heat. If the sauce looks like it is getting stuck to the bottom of the pan, add a little bit of water at a time and stir everything using a wooden spatula. Scrap the bottom of the pan with the spatula or metal spoon so that the caramelized bit at the bottom does not get burnt. When the lamb is tender, switch the heat off.
18. While the lamb is cooking (or later) heat a large pot filled with water and when the water comes to a boil, add the uncooked Basmati rice to it and let them cook in it till they are 3/4th of the way cooked. We don’t need to cook them all the way through because the rice will then be added to the lamb curry and the two will cook together to get all the flavors melded together.
19. Place a large colander in the sink and drain the rice (and hot water) through it. This step is a little tricky. You will need to drain all the water out of the slightly uncooked rice and then run fresh cold water through them to stop the cooking process (because they still retain heat from the boiling process and we don’t want them to continue cooking without the lamb added to them). Let all the cold water drain out of the rice (let them sit in the colander for 5-6 minutes).
20. Now we need to start layering the biryani. At the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot, lay down some fresh mint and cilantro leaves (this infuses their flavors through the rice).
21. Add some semi-cooked rice to the bottom of the pan (enough to have about ½ -1 inch thick layer).
22. Add a layer of cooked lamb curry on top of the rice and gently stir some of it. Do not stir everything thoroughly because the hallmark of a good biryani is that some of the rice take-on the color of the lamb curry but others stay pure white. So do not stir everything completely. Also the rice is delicate and we don’t want to break the long grains of the Basmati rice…the dish looks beautiful when rice is still long and is not sticking together. Unlike East Asians, South Asians prefer their rice to be un-sticky and each grain should stand separately from the ones next to it.
23. Continue with this layering process. Also add a layer of the fried/caramelized shallots that we had made and set aside earlier. Keep a little of these fried shallots for garnishing when you are ready to serve the dish.
24. When the layering process is complete and you have added all the rice and the lamb to the pot (in layers), pour the milk and the saffron into a little dish and stick it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds (just to warm the milk up a little bit).
25. Pour this milk and saffron mixture over the rice. Spread it out as evenly as possible over the top of the layered Biryani.
26. Cover the pot and let the Biryani cook for another 15 minutes on low heat. You can also place the pot in an oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
27. Let the pot rest for 5-6 minutes on the kitchen counter (after you have switched off the heat source (stove or oven). Do not open the lid. The steam from the pot completes the cooking process.
28. Open the pot and using a fork, fluff up the rice.
29. Sprinkle the remaining bits of fried shallots (as garnish) on top of the Biryani and serve with a cool mint or cucumber Raita (yogurt sauce).