Lamb Biryani (with saffron rice, naan bread and raita)

Biryani, also known as biriyani or biriani, is a South Asian mixed rice dish with its origins among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. It is popular throughout the subcontinent and among the diaspora from the region. It is generally made with spices, rice and meat.

This particular Biryani is made with lamb, layered with Saffron Spiced Rice. Serve with Naan Bread and Cucumber-Mint Raita.

1kg boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed off and cut into cubes

Marinade ingredients for the lamb
5 tbsp peeled and roughly chopped fresh root ginger (12x5cm piece approx.)
6-7 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped (about 3 tbsp)
½ tsp salt
A few grinds of fresh ground black pepper

Soaking rice ingredients
390g basmati rice (2 cups)

Curry Sauce Ingredients
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium red or yellow onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
890g tomato sauce (2 cans)
¼-¾ tsp ground cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
1 tbsp paprika (sweet, not hot)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala

Ingredients for pre-cooking the rice
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
½ tsp saffron threads
1½-2 tsp salt

MARINATE THE LAMB: Put the chopped ginger and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times. Scrape down the sides. Add 3-4 tbsp water. Pulse until you achieve a paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. (If you do this in your blender, add the water right away – expect lots of scraping down the sides). In a medium sized bowl mix the lamb with the garlic-ginger paste,
salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for a half hour or so.
1. RINSE AND SOAK THE RICE: Put rice in a large bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with cold water. Swish rice around for a few seconds and pour off the cloudy water. Repeat 3 or 4 times, until the water is fairly clear. Cover rice with cold water by 2 inches and set it aside to soften for an hour. Drain.
2. START THE SAUCE: While the lamb is marinating and the rice is soaking, start the sauce. In a large heavy pot or a deep skillet with a cover, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are nicely browned and caramelized – about 15 minutes. Regulate the heat so they don’t burn. Sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Transfer them to a large plate or bowl and set aside (no need to clean the pot yet – keep it out to brown the lamb).
3. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl: tomato sauce, cayenne, paprika, salt, turmeric and garam masala. Set aside while you brown the lamb.
4. BROWN THE LAMB: In the pot you used for the onions, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add half the lamb with its garlic-ginger coating, and cook for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the pieces are browned on all sides. Transfer to the plate with the onions. Brown the rest of the lamb, adding more oil, if necessary. Once the second batch of lamb is browned, return the other lamb and the onions back to the pot. Pour in the sauce. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release the browned bits of lamb into the sauce. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the lamb is nice and tender. Remove from the heat.
5. PRECOOK THE RICE: While the lamb is simmering, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter in a medium sized saucepan. Add the spices: cumin seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Cook until they sizzle a bit and you can smell the cumin toasting – about 30 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the saffron and cook stirring, for about 30 seconds, until the saffron releases its color and aroma. Add the drained rice and toss to coat. Pour in 2 cups cold water and 1½-2 teaspoons salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 5-6 minutes, uncovered – until all the water has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
6. ASSEMBLE THE BIRYANI for baking Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Spread half the lamb curry in the bottom of a medium-sized casserole dish. Cover with half the rice. Repeat the layers. Cover the casserole with the lid or with a double layer of foil. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serve with naan bread and cucumber-mint raita.

*Note: The bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods are not meant to be eaten. Remove them or tell people to be on the lookout for them.