Floyd’s imperial biryani


Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Floyd's India

Floyd's India

By Keith Floyd

Published 2001

  • About

This is a sumptuous dish of tender, spicy mutton cooked gently in fragrant rice. A celebration dish, it should be served for a very special occasion. It is best to have small pieces of good quality mutton and, if possible, on the bone. Lamb or goat can be used instead of mutton, if preferred.


  • 1 kg/ lb basmati rice, washed under running water for at least 15 minutes and strained
  • 350 g/12 oz ghee
  • salt
  • 150 g/5 oz coarsely chopped red onions
  • 100 g/4 oz flaked almonds
  • 2 kg/ lb mutton morsels (or lamb or goat)
  • 250 g/9 oz natural yoghurt
  • 100 g/4 oz cream
  • 100 g/4 oz cashew nuts
  • 100 g/4 oz raisins
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 8 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • a pinch of saffron threads soaked in 2 tablespoons water
  • a few drops of rosewater
  • plain flour
  • vegetable oil
  • 150 g/5 oz finely sliced red onions
  • small packet of silver leaf, to garnish


    1. Soak the washed rice in fresh water for 1 hour. Meanwhile, dry roast all the spices for the masala in a frying pan over a low heat, then grind them to a powder in a food processor or blender. Mix together all the ingredients for the purée.
    2. Drain the soaked rice thoroughly. Heat some of the ghee in a large wok or shallow frying pan and sauté the rice for 2 or 3 minutes until each grain is coated with ghee. Add enough water to just cover the rice (I emphasise you must only just cover the rice with the water). Season to taste with a little salt and then cook the rice gently until the water has evaporated. At this point the rice will still be slightly undercooked. This is correct. Remove from the heat and keep to one side while you prepare the mutton.
    3. In a large heavy-based flameproof casserole with a lid, heat some ghee and fry the chopped onions. Stir in the masala powder and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, mixing well. Stir in the purée and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.
    4. Stir in half the almonds, then add the mutton and season with salt. Stir in the yoghurt and a little water if the mixture seems dry. Cook gently until the mutton is tender and slightly dry. Stir in the cream and continue cooking gently.
    5. Sprinkle half the cashew nuts, half the raisins and half the mint and coriander leaves over the mutton. Tip the rice on top, add the remaining raisins, mint and coriander leaves and mix them into the rice, and then level the top of the rice.
    6. Sprinkle the lemon juice, saffron water and rosewater over the rice, then drizzle a little melted ghee over the top.
    7. Make a stiff paste with plain flour, a little oil and water and knead it until it is like putty. Put a ring of paste around the edge of the casserole lid, making sure that there are no gaps. This will seal the casserole so that no vapour, steam or, more importantly, wonderful aromas can escape. Place the lid with its seal on the casserole and cook gently for 15-20 minutes.
    8. Meanwhile, fry the sliced red onions in a little oil until they are crisp and golden. Put to one side. Fry the remaining cashew nuts and almonds in a little ghee until they are lightly toasted.
    9. Just before serving the biryani, lay some pieces of silver leaf over the top and sprinkle on the toasted nuts and the crispy onions.