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My Dad's biryani


I grew up with my Dad making this fantastic biryani. He said it wasn't something that could readily translate to a list with a bunch of instructions and measurements but this is the recipe he gave me and it gave good results.

I imagine I'll tweak this as I make it more myself -- I consider this Mark I.


  • Cumin powder (1 tsp, heaped)
  • Cardamom seeds (2, gently crushed)
  • Small stick of cinnamon (2)
  • Garlic (6/7 cloves, crushed)
  • Ginger (1/2 inch, grated)
  • Coriander (small handful)
  • Plain yoghurt (3 tbsp)
  • Olive oil or similar (5 tbsp)
  • Any boneless lamb eg. Lamb neck (500g, cubed into 1 inch pieces)
  • Potato (500g, cubed into 1 inch pieces)
  • Basmati rice (450g)
  • Saffron (2 threads)
  • Small onion (1)
  • Peas (small handful, mine were frozen)

Step 1: The Marinade

This is a marinade that is best suited to being left overnight for maximum flavour although if you're cooking in the evening you can probably get away with doing it in the morning.

  1. Add the cumin powder, 2 cardamom seeds, 1 stick of cinnamon, garlic, ginger, coriander, yoghurt and olive oil to a decent sized pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Give it a very good mix.
  3. Add the lamb and the potatoes and give it another very good mix until everything is coated nicely.
  4. Add enough cold water to be about 1/2-1 centimetre below the top of the meat and potatoes. Too much water? Soggy biryani. Too little water? Burnt biryani. Again, give it a very good mix!
  5. Leave the mixture aside to marinate.

Step 2: The Rice (and onion)

The idea here is that you want to rice to absorb a bunch of water. The rice should still be uncooked and kinda hard once you're done.

  1. Wash the rice.
  2. Add to a pan with enough water to just cover the rice, maybe a touch more.
  3. Add the cardamom seed, cinnamon stick and saffron.
  4. Bring to boil and then lower the heat immediately and allow to simmer.
  5. As soon as the water has been absorbed remove the rice from the heat. You need to keep an eye on it.
  6. Whilst the rice is cooking slice the onion thinly and fry until brown.

Step 3: Layer

  1. Spoon the rice on top of the marinade. Do not mix, the rice is supposed to sit on top of the marinated lamb and potatoes.
  2. Level out the rice on top and add the fried onion and peas.
  3. Line the pan with foil by taking strips of foil and folding them over the rim of the pan. When you put the lid on it will seal nicely.

Step 4: Cook

  1. Put the pan on a hot ring for 10 minutes.
  2. Lower the heat so you can hear it simmering for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes.


Below is the original email I received from my Dad (thanks, Dad!)

In a pan mix the following
2 cardamon seeds crushed
1 stick small cinnamon
6 to 7 gloves garlic crushed
1/2 inch ginger grated
Chopped  a small handful of fresh corriander
3 tablespoonful of plain yogurt
5 tablespoon full of olive oil or similar

Mix all the above ingredients

Then add the cubed meat 500 gm and roughly same amount of cubed potatoes. Make sure the potates is 
not too big otherwise it will not cook.
This is important. Add just enough water to the whole mixture until it just  the top of the meat and 
Do not put too much water otherwise it will be soggy when cooked.
Leave the mixture aside to marinate.

wash rice (about 450 gm)
 Just put enough water in pan to cover rice (with a crushed cardamon and one cinnamond stick, also 
add few threads of saffron)
Bring to boil, lower heat immediately then allow to simmer. WATCH the rice as soon as the water is 
absorbed remove from heat. The rice will till be uncooked and hard.

Pour the rice on top of the above mixture and cover with silver foil to seal the pan
Put on hot ring for about 10 minutes then lower the heat so the the mixture simmer slowly for 
another 20 minutes.
Then take off and rest for 10 minutes.
Will you ring if anything is not clear.
Do not forget salt in the mixture and also  salt in the rice.