Whenever I visit my aunt, I always look forward to her delicious Nasi Biryani and Beef Rendang, and secretly hoping that I could "dapao" or pack some home for dinner. The secret lies in using basmati rice, a variety of long-grained rice that is fragrant and keeps its grains separated when cooked. It's so good I could eat it on its own. I have always wanted to cook with basmati rice, but never got the inspiration to do so. Also, browsing through various Biryani recipes, the list of ingredients seem so long and foreign sounding that I decided to just forget about it and get takeaway from the Indian restaurant.
It was not until last week when I was watching Better Homes and Gardens where they cooked a pilaf that I decided to attempt cooking with basmati rice. So I bought my rice and made a simple chicken and mushroom pilaf, just yesterday. It was pretty easy, and so tonight I decided to attempt a biryani. Nothing too complicated, but just a few basic spices and ingredients like cumin, cardamom, garam masala, yoghurt, cloves and cinnamon, and ghee of course, for the undeniable aroma of biryani. Fortunately, I had all of these in my pantry/fridge. I added mushrooms to balance out the "meatiness" of the dish. I used large flat mushrooms and cut them into chunks as they tend to shrink considerably after cooking. G was impressed at how well the dish turned out and joked that I could probably "open shop and sell"!
Here is the recipe:
Easy Lamb and Mushroom Biryani (serves 3-4)
400g lamb forequarter chops, diced into cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
3 green cardamoms, crushed lightly
1 bay leaf (or a sprig of curry leaves)
1 cup water
Ghee (or substitute with butter)
Salt and pepper
1 cup basmati rice
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 flat mushrooms, cut into chunks (optional)
Peas and raisins
1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric mixed with 1 tbsp water (optional)
Toasted pine nuts, cashews or almonds (optional)
Chopped coriander / mint (optional)
Marinade (blend into a paste):
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp chilli powder (or to taste)
1/4 cup yoghurt
- Combine lamb with marinade for 2-4 hours.
- Wash the rice thoroughly to get rid of the starch, and soak in water for 20-30 minutes. Drain well.
- Heat up 2 tbsp ghee in a pan and fry the onions, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Then add the lamb and brown all over. Add 1 cup water and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Simmer for 40 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Heat up 1-2 tbsp ghee in a large pan, and add cumin seeds, and then the rice. Fry for about 3-5 minutes, then push the rice aside and sauté the mushrooms briefly. Add the lamb together with the sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer (while stirring occasionally) for about 3-5 minutes until craters (or little holes) appear on the surface of the rice and the liquid is starting to dry up. Season with more salt if necessary.
- Scatter peas and raisins over the rice. Drizzle lemon juice and turmeric mixture all over the rice (if used). Cover with a tight-fitting lid and set the heat to very low. Cook for 25 minutes, then turn off heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes, covered. Fluff up the rice with a fork and garnish with fresh mint, coriander, toasted pine nuts or almonds. Enjoy with some raita (combine yoghurt with chopped mint and diced cucumber).