A proper Hyderabad lamb biryani

A proper Hyderabad lamb biryani

By
From
I Love India
Serves
4
Photographer
Martin Poole

A Hyderabad biryani differs from most others across India. It is called “raw”, as the meat is marinated overnight, then cooked with the rice from raw. It is delicate, fragrant, subtle but flavourful. The tastiest biryani I have ever tried was at the home of Nawab Mehboob Alam Khan, a Hyderabadi of regal bearing, with an interest in food that matched my own. The table was weighed down with the best Mughlai Hyderabad dishes: proper kormas, a whole kid goat surrounded by rice, haleem, stuffed roasted chicken, knuckle soup, kebabs, their own square naans and of course the biryani, which was so big it had to be carried by two men. A sword-like knife broke the seal on the lid… and dinner was served. This biryani is special for a reason: it takes time to prepare and has several stages, but is worth it! The green papaya helps to tenderize the meat, so I like to buy one for this and often grate and freeze the rest.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the biryani

Quantity Ingredient
vegetable oil, as needed
2 onions, thinly sliced
500g lamb, (ideally bone-in), lean pieces of leg are ideal
handful chopped coriander leaves and stalks
handful chopped mint leaves
200g chapati flour, or strong bread flour
500g good basmati rice
3 cloves
5cm cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
2 teaspoons lemon juice
large pinch saffron threads
4 tablespoons whole milk

For the marinade

Quantity Ingredient
1/2 tablespoon green papaya paste, (remove the skin and grate the flesh only)
11/4-11/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
1 rounded teaspoon see method for ingredients, (fresh if possible)
3/4 teaspoon black cumin seeds, lightly pounded
21/2 tablespoons lemon juice
10g finely grated root ginger
4 large garlic cloves, finely grated
110g plain yogurt
6 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
5cm cinnamon stick

Method

  1. Heat 5cm of oil in a saucepan and deep-fry the onions slowly until just brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper. Reserve the oil.
  2. Wash the lamb well and prick it all over with the point of a knife. Place it in a bowl and add the papaya paste, salt, black pepper, chilli, garam masala, black cumin, lemon juice, ginger and garlic pastes, yogurt, 3 tbsp of the onion oil and two-thirds of the onions, crushed in your hands (if the onions are still soft in places, don’t worry about it).
  3. Now add the cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon and half the coriander and mint taken from the amount for the biryani. Mix with your hands to help combine the flavours. At this stage you can leave it to marinate, covered, overnight in the fridge, or for a few hours, depending on how much time you have.
  4. When you are ready to cook, place the meat in a heavy-based pan and allow to return to room temperature. Make a firm dough with the flour and around 150ml water: you should be able to stretch it, but it should be firm. Roll into a sausage as long as the circumference of the mouth of the pan.
  5. Wash the rice really well in several changes of water and soak for 18–20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, place a large pot of water (the water should be 15cm deep) to boil with the remaining whole spices, herbs and 2 tsp of the lemon juice. Season well, it should taste salty.
  7. Heat the saffron in a dry pan until crisp and add the milk, bring to a simmer and cook for 1–2 minutes. Take off the heat.
  8. Add the soaked rice to the spiced and seasoned water. Return it to the boil and then start timing. The rice needs to come off in 2½–3 minutes. Meanwhile, place a sieve over a bowl in the sink. When done, drain the rice through the sieve into the bowl. Spoon the rice over the meat in the pan.
  9. Add 100ml of the hot rice water to the saffron with 4 tbsp more of the onion oil and pour evenly over the rice. Scatter over the remaining onions. Place the lid on top and seal with the dough. (It looks like a snake of dough sealing the lid with the pan.)
  10. Place over a medium-high heat and, after about 7 minutes, you might be able to hear the steam build up in the pan. Reduce the heat to its lowest, using a heat diffuser if you have one, and cook for 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  11. Pull off the dough and serve, slightly mixed through.
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