Friday, July 12, 2013

Bunchie's Kitchen: Lamb and Chicken Biryani

I've been madly in love with Indian Cuisine most of my adult life and Biryani ranks up there with my favorite dishes. The cooking however tends to be quite time consuming and labor intensive. Over the years, I've developed an approach designed for efficiency without sacrificing flavor. My recipe, which is derived from the classic book Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking (buy it HERE), will save you a few steps, a bit of fat and at least 30 minutes off the process described in the book. It's still a fair amount of effort, but the results are more than worth it.

  • You will need a heavy covered pot of at least 4.5 quart capacity that is oven safe. I use a Le Creuset "E" dutch oven. 
  • A food processor, blender or - my recommendation - a mini-chopper like THIS
  • A clean coffee grinder 


2 cups long-grain rice

About 3 tbsp salt

1 tsp saffron threads (you can substitute safflower threads from the Mexican spice aisle, much cheaper with similar flavor)

2 tbsp warm milk

3 medium-sized onions, peeled

4 cloves garlic, peeled

3/4 inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 cup roasted peanuts (any kind of nut will work)

Cooking oil of your choice

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 lb boned lamb meat from the shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup sour cream (The original calls for yogurt, but I prefer the flavor of sour cream)

2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces


6 whole cloves

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1/2 tsp whole cardamom seeds

2 tsp whole cumin seeds

2 tsp whole coriander seeds

1 1-inch stick of cinnamon

About 1/6 of a nutmeg

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper flakes

RAITA (for garnish)

8 oz sour cream

1/2 cup finely grated cucumber

1 teaspoon ground cumin.


1. Wash the rice in several changes of water. Drain it and put it in a large bowl. Add 2 quarts water and 1 tbsp salt. Mix and soak for 3 hours.

2. Put the saffron threads in a nonstick frying pan and set over a medium flame. Toss the threads about until they turn a few shades darker. Put the warm milk in a small cup. Crumble the saffron into the warm milk and let it soak for 3 hours.

3. Put 1/2 cup nuts into mini chopper and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Set aside on a plate.

4. Put a few swirls of oil into the dutch oven and turn heat to medium high.

5. Chop the lamb into 1 inch cubes

6. Add the lamb cubes to the dutch oven and brown on each side. You may have to do this in a couple batches.

7. While lamb is browning, chop one of onions coarsely, then combine with garlic, ginger, remaining 1/4 cup peanuts, and 3 tbsp water into the container of the chopper. Blend until you have a paste.

8. Remove lamb to a bowl when browned, and add another couple swirls of oil. Reduce heat to medium.

9. Add paste from mini-chopper. Stir and cook until paste turns a little darker, about 5 minutes.

10. Return lamb to the pot with the paste and add the sour cream one heaping tablespoon at a time, stirring well between each addition. Now put in 1 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water. Mix and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

11. While meat is simmering, put a nonstick frypan on medium high heat.

12. If chicken breasts are frozen, put in microwave for a couple of minutes (or time recommended by manufacturer) to thaw.

13. Add spice mixture to hot non-stick pan, toss for few minutes until it becomes fragrant and turns slightly darker. Be careful not to burn.

14. Add toasted mixture to coffee grinder and grind fine.

15. Add spice mixture to lamb and stir well. Replace cover and continue simmering.

16. Return non stick pan to medium high heat.

17. Slice remaining onion into thin rings (a mandoline makes short work of this) and add the onions to the hot pan. Fry and stir until the rings turn brown and crispy along the edges. Remove the onions to a plate.

Onions should be nice and dark around the edges

18. Put the golden raisins in the pan and toast until they turn plump and slightly blacken (this only takes a few seconds).

19. Remove the raisins and put the ground peanuts in the hot pan and toss until they toast a bit. Again only a few seconds. Remove to a plate and cut off heat to frying pan.

20. By now, the lamb should be done with its 30 minute simmer. Chop up the chicken into 1 inch cubes, and add to the pot with the lamb. Stir well, cover and continue simmering.

Add chicken after lamb has simmered for 30 min.

21. Drain the rice of its soaking water and add enough fresh water to cover by 1 inch.

22. Microwave the rice on high for 9 minutes to parboil. Turn on the oven to preheat to 350

23. Drain rice, turn off heat to lamb pot and stir contents well.

24. Work fast now. Put the rice on top of the meat, piling it up in the shape of a hill. Take a chopstick or the handle of a long spoon and make a 1 inch wide hole going down like a well from the peak of the rice hill to its bottom.

Make a "volcano" in the rice hill

25. Drizzle the saffron milk in streaks along the sides of the hill. Lay the pieces of butter on the sides of the hill and scatter 2 tbsp of the browned onions over it as well. Cover first with aluminum foil, sealing the edges well, and then with the lid. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.

350 for 1 hour. And my oven needs cleaning.

26. Now make the Raita. Combine the three ingredients into a bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate.

27. The cook has a beverage of choice in a comfy chair.

28. After an hour, remove the pot from the oven. Allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes.

27. Add remaining browned onions, raisins and nuts into the pot and stir gently. Serve with raita, a salad and PAPPADUMS.



Marcheline said...

Okay, now you're just trying to seduce people. 8-)

Paul van Yperen said...

The one and only Bunchie Oliver! I am gonna try this.

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