This is the “grand dish” to close out my little Indian food recipe series before we welcome the New Year. This is Lamb and Rice Casserole or also known as Mughlai Lamb Biryani. Admittedly, the cooking process for this mouth watering dish is a little bit lengthy compared to cooking other dishes. However, with some advance planning, you can make this a pretty easy process. The longest timeline item of this recipe is the Biryani rice. It needs to be soaked in water for at least 12 hours before being cooked. Realizing that was the case, I just extended the process of cooking this dish to 2 days. On the first day I soaked the rice and cooked the lamb. The following day, all I had to do was cook the rice briefly as per the instructions in the recipe, assembled the dish, and baked it all in the oven for an hour. End result is just yummy, worth every effort in my opinion. Hope you will try it.
Recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking
Lamb And Rice Casserole-Mughlai Lamb Biryani
425 ml (15 fl oz) Long Grain Rice
3.6 Liters (6 ¼ pints) Water
3 Tbsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Saffron Threads
2 Tbsp Warm Milk
3 Medium Yellow Onion, peeled
4 Cloves Garlic, peeled
2 cm (3/4 inch) Fresh Ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 Tbsp Almond Slivered
13 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 Tbsp Sultanas
750 g (1 ½ lb) Bone Lamb from the shoulder, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes
250 ml (8 fl oz) Natural Yoghurt
½ tsp Black Peppercorns
½ tsp Cardamom Seeds
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
2.5 cm (1 inch) Cinnamon Stick
1/6 of Nutmeg
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
25 g (1 oz) Unsalted Butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 Hard-Boiled Eggs, peeled
Wash the rice in several changes of water. Drain it and put in a large bowl. Add 2 liters (3 ½ pints) water and 1 Tbsp of the salt. Mix and soak for 12 hours.
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 soak for 3 hours.
Cut 2 of the onions in half; lengthwise, and then cut the halves into fine half rings. Set these aside. Chop the remaining onion very coarsely. Put the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, 2 Tbsp of the almonds and 3 Tbsp water into the container of an electric blender. Blend until you have a paste.
Add 6 Tbsp of the oil in a frying pan and set 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.
Add the sultanas into the same oil. Remove them as soon as they turn plump – which happens immediately. Put the sultanas in another plate lined with kitchen paper.
Add the remaining 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. Set aside for use as the garnish.
Brown the meat in the same oil and brown them on all sides. (Fry in several batches)
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 put in 1 ¼ Tbsp of the salt and 150 ml (5 fl oz) water. Mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
While the meat is cooking, put the cloves, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg into the container of a spice grinder. Grind finely.
When the meat has cooked for 30 minutes, add all the spices and cayenne pepper and mix well. Cover again and continue to cook on low heat for another 30 minutes.
Remove the cover; raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring all the time, until you have about 200 ml (7 fl 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 by now.
Spread out the meat and sauce in the bottom of a heavy casserole. Cover and keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 150˚C or 300˚F.
Bring 3.6 liters (6 pints) 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 rapidly for EXACTLY 6 minutes. Then drain the rice.
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 2.5cm (1 inch) hole going down like a well from the peak of the rice hill to its bottom.
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 2 Tbsp of the browned onions over it as well. Cover first with aluminum foil, sealing the edges well. And then close with a lid. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven.
Just before serving, quarter the eggs. Mix the contents of the rice gently. Serve the rice on a warmed platter, garnished with the eggs, remaining browned onions, sultanas and almonds.