Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1-2 hours
Biryani, oh biryani. I cannot begin to describe the love affair I have with this food. Growing up in Malaysia – a real food heavan – we are blessed with hundreds and hundreds of versions of biryani rice; Nasi Beriani Kg. Lapan, Nasi Beriani Johor, Nasi Beriani Batu Pahat, Nasi Beriani so and so….and the list goes on and on. If someone suggests eating biryani, the next headache will be to decide which one to indulge in.
There was an old man in Muar where my grandma used to live, who cooked a stunning briyani gam ~ gam is glue. Don’t freak out. Gam is a method of cooking rather than an ingredient, where it covers the cooking pot with wet cloth, or dough around the joints to keep the moisture in. For many years, every time my parents organized a party, dad would order Nasi Beriani Gam from this man. Unfortunately, he passed away… and dad had to find another caterer to cater for his functions/parties.
I was a bit nervous cooking biryani. The last time I tried cooking biryani was about 4 years ago, and my husband hated it – he said it was very dry. And I think I kind of put him off biryani as well because every time I suggested eating out at an Indian restaurant, he will ask, what to eat…and the moment I mentioned biryani, he will frown. So in the attempt to bring back my childhood memories, and convince my other half that biryani is a great dish, and with so many fingers crossed, I braved myself to give it another go. Guess what – he loved it, thus the special appearance of biryani into this blog….
1 large onion – thinly sliced
3 fat cloves of garlic – thinly sliced
50g ginger – halved and bruised
5cm cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
400g diced lamb
1 large tomato – chopped
3 tablespoons biryani spice
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2-3 tablespoons clear honey
Small handful of mint leaves – sliced (optional)
20ml evaporated milk/semi-skimmed milk
For biryani rice:
300g uncooked basmati rice – pre-soaked for 15mins, drained
2 cloves of garlic – thinly sliced
2 cardamom pods
Ghee and/or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon saffron
Small handful of raisins
Small handful of roasted cashew/flaked almonds
- Firstly, marinate the lamb. Put meat in a bowl, add the freshly ground spices, biryani powder and the remaining ingredients from the list above. Marinate overnight or at least 1 hour before cooking.
- To prepare biryani gravy, heat a large non-stick pot on medium heat. Add a tablespoon of ghee and few tablespoons of vegetable oil.
- Caramelize the sliced onion together with garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves for 10-15 mins on a low heat.
- Once caramelized, put in the marinated lamb and stir well for few minutes. Let the marinate ‘fry’. Then add some water, enough to just cover the meat. Put the lid on and let it simmer for 30 mins to 1 hour.
- Stir the gravy every now and then to stop the bottom from burning and check the seasoning.
- Once the meat starts to tenderize, prepare the rice. Put a tablespoon of ghee and a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a non-stick pot. Lightly fry the garlic, cloves and cardamom pods. Add rice and fry for few seconds. Sprinkle some salt and saffron. Pour water to the same level of the rice. Turn the heat way down, add raisins and parboil the rice for few minutes.
- Then gently scatter the parboiled rice onto the lamb biryani gravy. If you have a tea towel as big as the cooking pot opening, wet the towel, put it on the pot and put the lid on. If you don’t have tea towel, use a cling film and put the lid on. Or if you can’t be bothered with this (like me ) just put the lid on and let the biryani cook for 15-20 mins.
The reason for covering the cooking pot with wet towel or cling film is to retain the vapour during the cooking proces, hence making the biryani very moist, fluffy and delicious. You can change the meat to chicken or beef.
Serve this deliciously moist lamb biryani with salad and/or cucumber raita. Sprinkle some flaked almonds or roasted cashew, a little bit of fried onions and some sliced chillies as garnishing and squeeze few drops of lime juice ….ahhhhh.