In India, you’re just as likely to have biryani as a lunchtime delivery at the office as you are to see it as a stunning centerpiece at a wedding feast. The dish is pervasive, with many modern interpretations and regional permutations rooted in Muslim communities of the subcontinent. Hyderabad is famous for its style of biryani, which traditionally involves a layer of raw meat and gravy that cooks the rice as it steams in a tightly sealed pot. This Sindhi-style biryani is the one I make for special Sunday lunches and parties. With multiple layers of parcooked rice, fresh herbs, caramelized onion, saffron-infused milk and braised lamb, it’s a project, but a rewarding one. Two tips: Meat on the bone isn’t a rule, but it’s consistently better than meat off the bone. Potatoes are welcome; add a pound of small boiled potatoes to the cooked meat if you want to stretch the pot and feed a few extra people.
- Serves: 8 persons
- 4green finger chiles (or serrano chiles), stems removed
- 8garlic cloves, peeled
- 1(4-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
- 2medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
- 2Roma tomatoes, quartered
- 1cup full-fat yogurt
- 1cup fresh mint leaves
- 1cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1tablespoon ground coriander
- 1tablespoon ground cumin
- 1teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder, plus more as needed
- ½teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 2 ½to 3 pounds lamb chops (or boneless or bone-in lamb shoulder pieces)
- 3(1/2-inch) Indian cinnamon sticks, or 1 large cinnamon stick
- 12whole black peppercorns
- 6green cardamom pods
- 1tablespoon garam masala
- 1cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
- 2yellow onions, thinly sliced
- ½teaspoon kosher salt
- Kosher salt
- 3cups basmati rice
- 6tablespoons whole milk
- ½teaspoon saffron threads
- 2cups mixed fresh cilantro and mint leaves
- 6tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced
Step 1Prepare the lamb marinade: Add the finger chiles, garlic and ginger to a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the onions and tomatoes, process until smooth, and scrape into a bowl that will hold all the lamb and fit in your fridge. Add the yogurt, mint, cilantro, coriander, cumin, chile powder, turmeric and salt, and stir to combine. Add the lamb to the bowl and toss to coat in the marinade, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Step 2Prepare the fried onions: In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the oil over medium. Add the onions, season with salt, and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fried onions to a paper towel-lined plate. Using your hands, pull apart the fried onions to separate to prevent them from sticking together, and set aside.
Step 3Add the cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves and cardamom to the remaining hot oil, and fry over medium until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the meat, its marinade and 1 cup water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the sauce is very thick and dark, about 2 1/2 hours, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a low simmer. Stir in the garam masala and taste, adjusting with salt and chile powder as needed. Set aside.
Step 4Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the rice: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the rice. Stir well and cook for 3 minutes, transfer to a colander in the sink to drain. Run some cool water on top to cool the rice; set aside.
Step 5Prepare the saffron milk for assembly: Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it steams. Remove from heat and add the saffron, crumbling it with your fingertips as you drop it into the milk. Set aside.
Step 6In a large, heavy, lidded pot, add about a third of the meat mixture in an even layer covering the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle the meat with a third of the herbs and a third of the rice, assembling lightly without packing the layers. Drizzle 2 tablespoons saffron milk over the rice and add about a third of the fried onions. Build two more layers of meat, herbs, rice, saffron milk and onions. Top with pats of butter and cover the pot with foil.
Step 7Put the lid on the pot of rice, transfer to the oven and bake until piping hot, about 1 hour. Let rest for about 10 minutes, then serve hot, digging all the way to the bottom of the pot with the serving spoon. To reheat, warm the biryani covered in the oven, or microwave.