Mughlai Lamb Biryani

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!
The first thing I thought when I saw this month’s challenge was “oh, shoot!  I have already published the recipe of my favourite biryani a little while ago!  Now what??”.  I was not bothered about having to make a different one, but I was definitely worried that I might not be able to find another biryani that tasted as good as the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani I have been cooking for a while (and that is one of my most viewed post ever)!  Well, I am glad to announce that we have discovered a new family favourite: Mughlai Lamb Biryani.  Whenever I need to make a new Indian dish, I turn to my all time favourite Indian food writer: Madhur Jaffrey.  My husband had Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking book since before we even met and he introduced me to Madhur and her amazing food!  I trust her completely: I know that whatever I cook from her books, it’s going to come out restaurant quality.  And this biryani was no exception.  Madhur’s Mughlai Lamb Biryani is quite different from my Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani, both in taste and in cooking method.  I guess that’s due to the fact that Mughlai style cooking is originally from the North of India, where food is a little less spicy than in Southern India, where Hyderabad is.  In fact, the Mughlai biryani was very mild and aromatic/hearty, while the Hyderabadi biryani is more spicy and fresh because of the herbs used.  I cook my chicken biryani from raw ingredients (or kacchi as this method is called), meat and rice together, but I did not dare trying that with lamb. As lamb takes much longer to cook and become tender than chicken, I thought the rice would overcook… so I followed Madhur’s advice and pre cooked the lamb and rice, assembled the biryani and finished it off in the oven for 1 hour so that the rice would finish cooking and all the aromas could come together!  I really thought 1 hour would be too much and I was worried my rice would overcook, but it did not.  See, what I mean?  She really knows her stuff!  I also followed her advice about soaking the rice overnight in salted water.  She said it’s an ancient Persian trick to ensure that the rice grains stay separate and really white after being cooked and I must say, it did work perfectly as my rice was really white and not sticky at all.  I loved the intense yellow colour of the saffron milk and the sweetness and crunch added by the sultanas, fried onion and almonds.  That was actually my kids favourite part of the dish!  And the lamb was so tender and full of flavour!  I love the mix of spices used to cook the lamb with and it would also make a great curry on its own.  You can serve it with a simple raita or plain.  My biryani-expert-husband has already asked me to make another batch… so, need I say more?  I leave you to it: Mughlai Lamb Biryani!  Enjoy!

Mughlai Lamb Biryani

Mughlai Lamb Biryani

4.7 from 3 reviews
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 425 ml – 15 oz. Basmati Rice
  • 3.6 lt – 6 ¼ pints water
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 2 tbsp warm milk
  • 3 onions, peeled or 1 onion and ¾ cup ready made fried onions (I bought mine at my local Indian store)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled (I used 2 tsp garlic paste)
  • 2 cm – ¾ inch fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (I used ½ tbsp ginger paste)
  • 2 tbsp almond meal
  • 2 tbsp almonds, slivered
  • 3 tbsp sultanas
  • 13 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 750 gms – 1 ½ lbs. bone lamb from the shoulder, cut into 2.5cm – 1 inch cubes (I used leg chops)
  • 250 ml – 8 oz. yoghurt
  • ¼ tsp clove powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper, ground
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper / chilli powder
  • 25 gms – 1 oz. unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  1. Wash the rice in several changes of water. Drain it and put it in a large bowl. Add 2 litres (3 ½ pints) of water and 1 tbsp of the salt. Mix and leave it to soak overnight.
  2. Put the saffron threads in a small, heavy frying pan set over medium heat. 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 leave it to soak for 3 hours.
  3. Chop 1 onion very coarsely. Put the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, almond meal and 3 tbsp water into the container of an electric blender. Blend until you have a paste.
  4. Cut the remaining 2 onions in half and then cut the halves into fine half rings. Set these aside. Add 6 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in the sliced onions. Stir and fry the onion until they are brown and crisp. Remove them with a slotted spoon and spread them out on a plate lined with kitchen paper. (This step is optional – I have not done this as I have used ready made fried onions)
  5. Add the sultanas into the same oil. Remove them as soon as they turn plump. Put them in another plate lined with kitchen paper.
  6. Add the 2 tbsp of almonds into the same oil. Stir and fry them until they are golden in color. Remove them with a slotted spoon and spread out beside the sultanas. Keep aside for use as garnish.
  7. Brown the meat in the same oil on all sides. You will need to fry it in several batches, or it will braise instead of frying. Remove it from the pan and keep it aside.
  8. Then add the remaining 7 tbsp of the oil to the frying pan and turn the heat to medium. When hot, put in the onion-garlic-ginger-almond paste from the blender. Fry, stirring all the time, until the paste turns a medium-brown color. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the yoghurt, 1 tbsp at a time, stirring well between each addition. Now add 1 ¼ tbsp of the salt and 150 ml – 5 oz. of water. Mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
  9. While the meat is cooking mix together the clove, pepper, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and nutmeg powders.
  10. When the meat has cooked for 30 minutes, add all the spices and mix well. Cover again and continue to cook on low heat for another 30 minutes.
  11. Remove the cover; raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring all the time, until you have about 200 ml – 7 oz. thick sauce left at the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and spoon off as much grease as possible. The meat should be pretty well cooked and tender by now.
  12. Spread out the meat and sauce at the bottom of a heavy casserole. Cover and keep it warm.
  13. Preheat the oven to 150˚C – 300˚F.
  14. Bring 3.6 liters – 6 pints of water to a rolling boil in a large pan. Add 1 ½ tbsp salt to it. Drain the rice and rinse it off under running water. Slowly, scatter the rice into the boiling water. Bring to a boil again and boil for EXACTLY 5 minutes. Then drain the rice.
  15. 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 2.5 cm – 1 inch hole going down like a well from the peak of the rice hill to its bottom.
  16. Dribble the saffron milk in streaks along the sides of the hill. Lay the pieces of butter on the sides of the hill and scatter the browned onions over it as well.
  17. Cover first with aluminium foil, sealing the edges well. And then close with a lid. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven.
  18. Just before serving, quarter the eggs.
  19. Mix the contents of the rice gently.
  20. Serve the biryani on a warmed platter, garnished with the eggs, sultanas and almonds.

Mughlai Lamb Biryani

Mughlai Lamb Biryani

On a completely different note… I am back from my holiday… I had a fantastic time, so expect a special post with lots of pictures soon!


*In the spirit of full disclosure, this page contains affiliate links, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase anything from Amazon.

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  1. Eha says

    Interesting balance of spices I shall certainly try. The northern Deccan dishes do have an elegance and style you have well copied and I can certainly see why you have been asked to make it again. There is almost no ‘heat’ here but I am looking forwards to discovering the depth in taste . . .

  2. Jamela says

    I also have Madjur Jaffrey’s cookbook. The lamb biryani version she has in my cookbook is cooking the raw lamb, with the parboiled rice, spices etc. in a pot in the oven. Resulting in a very tender, juicy and flavorful biryani. A guaranteed success. The ingredients sound the same except for the method. Love your gourmet pics!

  3. Geri says

    Please tell me what sultanas are. This looks so good. Problem is I am on a low carb diet. Will try and make w/o rice. Thanks

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