Lamb Biryani

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.

2. In a large heavy bottomed pan, pour ¼ cup of cooking oil and start heating it on medium heat and when the oil is hot, pour the diced onion into it and start to slowly caramelize 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).

6. Add the thinly sliced shallot slices to the small pot of cooking oil and fry the shallots until they get brown and crispy.

7. Take fried shallots out of the hot oil and place them on a dry paper towel to drain the excess oil out.

8. Continue cooking the onions and garlic in the larger pot on low/medium heat and stir frequently so the onions or garlic do not get burnt.

9. When the onions look translucent, chop the tomatoes and add then to the large pot and stir. Cook the tomatoes for 7-8 minutes while stirring frequently.

10. Add the chopped pieces of lamb to the pot and stir. Cook for 5-6 minutes.

11. Add the Shaan Biryani powder and the green chilies to the pot and stir.
12. Also add a stick of cinnamon.

13. Lightly crush the pods of green cardamom pods with the back of a spoon (just to open the pods up a bit and to let the flavor come out of the seeds and then add the cardamom pods to the pot!

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).


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  1. Permalink Submitted by Deepthi on Fri, 03/05/2013 - 16:45

    Wow love is biryani recipe. I too use Shaan masala for my biryani. Mine is very similar except for the ginger step where I add it initially to the cooking meat and use a bit more garam masala. I also tend to sprinkle a bit of the Shaan amidst the layers and a bit of Keira essence. And the rice I split into too one coloured with saffron milk other part white………loved your recipe Shabnam please do post more biryani and pulao recipes plpl

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Fri, 03/05/2013 - 19:13

      except for what….? Deepthi, what is your secret here???

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Fri, 03/05/2013 - 23:35

      AHHHHH, I get it now Deepthi 🙂 Will try the essence for sure! Also, I’ll try and post some more Biryani recipe – I had learned one from a friend some years ago and haven’t made that one in years – it uses no onions or tomatoes but lots and lots of ginger and garlic and yogurt! Stay tuned!!!

  2. Permalink Submitted by Surbhi on Fri, 03/05/2013 - 23:05

    Woo Hooo I Looooove Biryani! My fam is equally gaga over any lamb/chicken biryani I make.
    I use National brand masala that has great flavor. WIll try Shaan. Also I tend to mix my meat with the dahi masala fried onions garlic greel chillies tomato paste etc and marinate it over night. I also add a few raisins, and a few chunks of pineapple. The slight sweetness I think enhances the spicy curry of the Biryani.

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Fri, 03/05/2013 - 23:33

      WOW!!! Pineapple and raisins in Biryani are new to me – will definitely try that out. It would be like a mix of Indian Biryani and Thai fried Rice!

  3. Permalink Submitted by Rupali Khanna on Sat, 04/05/2013 - 07:50

    OOOH, can almost get the aroma all the way to ozland 🙂 Shabnam. Yes, this is a labour of love and I too do it only for special occasions. I guess slight variations are there in every family recipe. I don’t use tomatoes, but do use the homemade garam masla generously to marinate the meat in. Usually end up making biryani if I can get hold of goat meat, for which I have to trek to a specialist butcher. I usually end up making the Yakhni pullao, which is an all time favourite comfort food for this family, especially my son.

    I sprinkle cashews too in between layers, gives a nice crunch. This is going to be on the menu, much sooner than the next special dinner 🙂 You have motivated me now!!

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Sat, 04/05/2013 - 13:28

      Hi Rupali 🙂 Yes, it is a lot of work to make Biryani but then there is nothing else that can replace this comfort food for me! So once I start craving it, I just have to make it. I do make it with Goat meat too but this time Daniel asked for lamb (especially since its boneless), I made it with lamb – it came out really good and completely without the gamey/fatty smell that often comes with lamb (I guess the acidic yogurt gets rid of the smell…so I was happy with it!!!

  4. Permalink Submitted by Poonam Arora on Tue, 07/05/2013 - 13:43

    Tried the biryani according to my sister’s recipe and was transported to a Mughal court!

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Sun, 12/05/2013 - 03:10

      ooooh!!!! That is a great compliment! so glad this worked out well for your party 🙂

  5. Permalink Submitted by Deepthi on Thu, 09/05/2013 - 15:57

    Thanks Shabnam…..going over your recipe and remembering mine made me make the biryani today…….I also alternate half the rice with the saffron milk and the other just white with a little bit of lemon juice……kewra essence not Keira my iPad is so vague and sprinkles of Shaan masala….in between the rice meat layers :))))))))))) it’s been a hit thanks so much …….and a reminder to post some more pulao biryani recipes pl 🙂

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