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Mughlai Lamb Biryani

Mughlai Lamb Biryani

The recipe for a classic of North Indian cooking: Mughlai Lamb Biryani!

Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 14 hours
Servings 4 to 6
Author Recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking


  • 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 – 3/4 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.