Lamb and Fragrant Rice Casserole (Hyderabadi Biryani)

Formally known as Shahjahani Biryani, this dish was named after Shah Jahan, the great Mughal emperor during the early 1600s. The heavy influence of Persian cuisine is reflected in the dish’s use of perfumed rice interlaced with soft braised meat, originally made with mutton or goat but never pork. Over time, this special dish that was once reserved only the grandest of feasts at the royal court, became synonymous with one of the world’s greatest love stories.

Shah Jahan fell passionately in love and married Mumtaz Mahal, a princess from Persian nobility in 1612. Although one of his three wives, she was his favorite. He even gave her the name Mumtaz Mahal, which means “The jewel of the palace”. She tragically died at 28, giving birth to her 14th child. Shah Jahan, decimated by sorrow, decided to build to his wife a mausoleum as beautiful as his everlasting love for her. It took twenty-two years and a fortune to build her mausoleum. When she was finally put to rest, the Taj Mahal was born.

You can make this dish for a special occasions and know, without a doubt, that it is bathed in love.

Hyderabadi Biryani – Layered Lamb Korma and Fragrant Rice

This Biryani is a breathtaking masterpiece worthy of being the centerpiece of any important celebration or dinner party. It takes a lot of effort to plan and make, but the results are so well worth the effort. Biryani is prepared by layering partially cooked rice with cooked meat in a casserole and adding different flavors and fragrances. The dish is then steamed in the oven. Assembly and cooking are easy and both the meat and fried onions can be made days in advance.
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Course: Brunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, South Indian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 10
Author: My Hungry Traveler

Equipment

  • Frying pan, wok, or kadhai
  • Heavy-bottomed 5 quart casserole or Dutch oven with lid

Ingredients

  • 1 RECIPE III. Fragrant Rice, made in advance
  • 1 RECIPE Royal Braised Lamb, made in advance
  • 4 TBSP Ghee
  • 8 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup Each: slivered blanched almonds, cashew nuts, and seedless raisins
  • 2 cups Onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup Mint leaves, tightly packed (or 2 tsp dried mint)
  • 2 small Green chilies, seeded and minced
  • ½ cup Whole milk
  • 2 tsp Saffron threads
  • 2 tsp Screw pine essence (optionable)

Instructions

Prep

  • Make Braised Lamb with Fragrant Spices several days ahead and refrigerate.
    Several hours in advance, make Rice with Fragrant Meat Broth recipe.
    Cut onion into thin slices. Mince green chilies.
  • In a small bowl, mix mint, green chilies with ¼ cup milk. In another small bowl, powder the saffron threads with your fingers. Scald the other ¼ cup milk in the microwave or a small saucepan. Add scalded milk to the saffron and let it soak until needed.
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan or wok over medium heat. Add almonds and fry until browned, about 2 minutes. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon. Repeat process with cashew nuts. Add raisins and fry until they puff up, about 30 seconds. Remove to join the toasted nuts to be used later as a garnish.
  • Add 6 tbsp of oil to the same pan along with the sliced onions. Increase heat to high and fry onions until they turn dark brown. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Drain onions on paper towels to be used later for garnish.

Assemble and Cook Biryani

  • Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Place the large casserole or Dutch oven on a work surface with the rice, lamb korma, and 2 bowls with milk nearby.
    Heat 4 tbsp ghee and pour half in the pot and thoroughly brush it over the bottom and sides.
  • Assemble biryani: Add ¼ of the rice evenly across the bottom with a spatula. Sprinkle ¼ of the mint-milk evenly over the rice. Add half of the lamb in one even layer. Add another ¼ of the rice evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the mint-milk mixture over the rice and then add the remaining lamb in one even layer.
    Cover lamb with remaining rice and pat rice down gently to compact it. Drizzle the saffron-milk mixture and remaining 2 tbsp of ghee over the top. If using screw pine essence, add that now.

Cooking Biryani

  • Place aluminum foil over the casserole and cover tightly with a lid.
    Bake biryani in the middle level of the oven for 30 minutes. Turn off oven and leave biryani untouched in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven to a work surface.

Finishing Biryani

  • Have a large work bowl and a large serving platter nearby. Carefully scoop out the top layer of rice to the work bowl without disturbing the lamb layer. Gently mix the lamb and rice remaining in the pot together. Mound the lamb-rice mixture from the pot in the middle of the large serving platter. Cover it with the rice from the work bowl to enclose the meat mixture completely. Garnish with the toasted nuts, raisins, and fried onion shreds. Serve hot with Hyderabad Onion with Toasted Tomato and a sweet chutney of some kind.

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