Cooking Classes


Lamb Biryani

It was in the Victorian era, during the British Raj, that Britain first started borrowing Indian dishes, creating Anglo-Indian cuisine. Queen Victoria made it fashionable by having her Indian cook make this food everyday. To this day it is still one of England’s most popular ethnic cuisines.
The word curry is not used in India. It is a general word for the sauces from the subcontinent and refers to light, coloured, spiced sauces on food.
According to the Times of India, biryani is made with the heart and not the mind. The ratio of meat to rice should be half and half. One essential component is that the person who cooks eats last after serving everybody else and that best biryani is at least 5 kg (11 lb.) of ingredients. That is a lot of biryani and the idea is that whatever is left goes to charity. 
The manager of our real estate office where I worked for many years was ethnic Indian. It was always a treat when he made a special biryani for our office potlucks. I am so delighted to have discovered a recipe that I enjoy.

This is also the challenge with The Daring Cooks this month. Grace, one of our talented non-blogging Daring Kitchen members, was our Daring Cooks’ August hostess who shared with us some of her family’s tried and true Bengali Biryani recipes – all of them delicious and all of them prepared fresh from our own kitchens!
Lamb Biryani           
pinch of saffron threads
1/4 c. boiling water 60 mL
2 c. basmati or long grain rice 500 mL           
1 c. ghee or unsalted butter, approximately 250 mL
2 medium sized onions, peeled, cut lengthwise and then sliced paper thin
1/4 c. each unsalted cashews, slivered almonds, pistachios and raisins 60 mL
2 tsp. salt 10 mL
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger root 15 mL
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic 5 mL
1 tsp. cumin seeds 5 mL
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper, as cayenne 1 mL
2 lb. lean boneless lamb, beef or chicken cut into 1 inch cubes 1 kg/5 cm
4 inch piece of cinnamon stick 20 cm
8 whole cloves
6 whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. cardamom seeds 1 mL
1/4 tsp. ground mace 1 mL
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg 1 mL
1 c. chicken stock 250 mL
1/2 c. plain yogurt combined with 1/2 c. light cream 125 mL/125 mL
Place saffron threads in small bowl with 1/4 c. (60 mL) boiling water and soak until needed.
Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and slowly add rice. After 10 minutes test rice as you would pasta. When rice is al dente, strain and let rest. When well drained it will be light and fluffy.
Heat 1/4 c. (60 mL) butter or ghee in heavy bottomed large pot, saute onions until soft golden brown. Set aside. In same pan, sauté nuts and raisins until lightly browned. Add more butter if necessary. Set aside.
Add ginger, garlic, cumin and cayenne stirring constantly for a minute. Add meat and brown on all sides.  Then add cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, mace, nutmeg. stock and yogurt cream mixture. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until meat is tender.
In oven proof serving dish, layer half the rice. Spoon over 2 tbsp. (30 mL) of the saffron water with some of the threads. Then add meat and another layer of rice. Add remainder of saffron and water over the rice. Add layer of sautéed onions. Spoon some of the liquid from meat, pouring slowly down inside of dish. Cover securely, with aluminum foil if necessary.
Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until fully heated.
To serve, remove from oven and top with toasted nuts and raisins. In India this dish would be further garnished with small sheets of edible silver leaf. Serves 12-14.


  1. I have never made one..your photo is so precisely clear on my little android makes me very interested in trying:-)
    I worked as a realtor for almost 30 years..were you one also Sarah?

    1. I was also a realtor for almost 30 years - licensed for 30 and worked about 28 years. It was a research project to find a good recipe. I like this one.

  2. This recipe looks and sounds delicious. I am not familiar with Indian cuisine and have never tried any dishes. This is something that sounds like it would be quite tasty!

  3. My Realtor husband enjoyed our Biryani. Another over 30 years in Real Estate. Your lamb version looks so good, very well photographed.

  4. Hi Sarah, I wish I had managed to make biryani photogenic as you did! Yours is gorgeous! I bet delicious too!

  5. It looks like a daunting ingredient list, until you realize that most of them are spices which are right around the house! Love your historical tidbits there.


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