Lamb Biryani

Traditionally served for special occasions, this celebratory dish mixes a rich lamb curry with delicately spiced basmati rice.


  • 50g Shemin’s Biryani / Pilau Spice Blend
  • 2 ½ tbsp crushed garlic
  • 2 ½ tbsp crushed ginger
  • 300ml natural full fat yoghurt
  • 60g mint leaves, chopped
  • 60g coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 800g leg of lamb, cut into chunks
  • 350g basmati rice, e.g. Tilda
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • 50ml warm milk or water
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil or ghee
  • 3 white onions, finely sliced
  • 2-3 fresh green chillies, slit in half (optional)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 150ml water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cinnamon (optional)
  • 4 cardamom pods slightly crushed (optional)
  • 50g butter or ghee, melted


  1. Mix Shemin’s Biryani / Pilau Spice Blend, garlic, ginger, yoghurt,1 tbsp chopped coriander,1 tbsp chopped fresh mint and 1 tsp salt in a bowl. Add the lamb pieces and coat well. Set aside and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Rinse the rice a few times to remove the starch and leave to soak in a bowl of water for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the saffron to the warm milk or water and set aside to soak.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4.
  5. Heat a large heavy based saucepan with a lid on a medium heat and add the oil or ghee. Fry the onions for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove half the onions and set aside.
  6. Turn the heat up then add the lamb mixture and chillies to the remaining onions. Fry for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down, then stir in the tomatoes and 150ml water. Pop the lid on and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last 10 minutes, remove the lid to thicken the sauce or add a little more water if it’s too dry – the sauce should be thick and coat the lamb pieces. Check seasoning.
  7. Just before the lamb is ready, bring 1.5 litres of water to the boil. Add the salt (the water should taste salty), cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and rice, and boil steadily for 7 minutes until nearly done (the rice grains should have a slight bite to them). Drain the rice and set aside.
  8. Spoon half the lamb mixture into a deep casserole dish and top with half the rice. Spoon over half the saffron threads and milk, half the melted butter or ghee, half the remaining chopped mint and coriander, and half the onions you set aside earlier. Repeat the layer again, finishing off with a layer of rice and the rest of the saffron and milk, melted butter, mint, coriander and onions.
  9. Wet a piece of greaseproof paper in water, large enough to cover the rice completely, and lay loosely on top of the rice. Soak a clean tea towel in water and wring out, then lay loosely on top of the greaseproof paper. Cover the dish with a tight fitting lid or foil, and place in the oven for a final cooking time of 30 minutes. When ready, turn off the oven and leave the Biryani to rest for 15 minutes.
  10. Transfer the Biryani to a large plate and garnish with coriander, mint, and if you like a few thin slices of fresh cucumber and tomatoes.

TIP: you can buy ready made fried onions in most Asian shops. This will eliminate step 5, and simply add the ready made fried onions in step 6 and also whilst layering the Biryani.

Serves 6

Products used in this recipe