Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Food of India: A Journey for Food Lovers

The Food of India

By Priya Wickramasinghe

Published 2005

  • About

This is a rice and lamb dish in which both ingredients are cooked together in a sealed container. You can cook the lamb without browning it first and, in fact, this is the traditional method. However, browning the meat adds extra flavour.


  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 3 cm (1¼ inch) cubes
  • 8 cm (3 inch) piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 20 g ( cup) chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 15 g (¼ cup) chopped mint leaves
  • 500 g ( cups) basmati rice
  • 4 onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 125 ml (½ cup) oil
  • 125 g ( oz) unsalted butter, melted
  • 250 ml (1 cup) thick plain yoghurt
  • ½ teaspoon saffron strands, Soaked in 2 tablespoons hot milk
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice


    Mix the lamb cubes in a bowl with the ginger, garlic, garam masala, chilli powder, turmeric, chilli, coriander and mint. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.

    Wash the rice in a sieve under cold, running water until the water from the rice runs clear. Put the sliced onion in a sieve, sprinkle with the salt and leave for 10 minutes to drain off any liquid that oozes out. Rinse and pat dry.

    Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan, add the onion and fry for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Drain through a sieve, reserving the oil and butter.

    Remove the lamb from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and fry in batches in a little of the oil and butter until the lamb is well browned all over. Transfer to a ‘degchi’ (thick-based pot) or heavy casserole and add the browned onion, any remaining marinade and the yoghurt, and cook everything over low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until the lamb is tender.

    In a separate saucepan, boil enough water to cover the rice. Add the rice to the pan. Return the water to the boil, cook the rice for 5 minutes, then drain well and spread the rice evenly over the meat. Pour 2 tablespoons of the leftover oil and ghee over the rice and drizzle with the saffron and milk.

    To make the sealing dough, preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7). Make a dough by mixing the flour and salt with a little water. Roll the dough into a sausage shape and use to seal the lid onto the rim of the pot or casserole, pressing it along the rim where the lid meets the pot. Put the pot over high heat for 5 minutes to bring the contents to the boil, then transfer it to the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the pot and break the seal of dough.