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Lamb Biryani



This celebration dish is packed with tender lamb and saffron-speckled rice and topped with flaky paratha.


    • 2 1/2 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes
    • 2 cups Spiced Yogurt Marinade
    • 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
    • 1/4 cup ghee
    • 4 yellow onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
    • 3 tablespoons garlic-ginger paste (such as Rani)
    • 1 1/2 cups Masala Paste
    • 1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt, plus more for serving
    • 3 cups lamb stock, chicken stock, or beef stock (or a combination)
    • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder, plus more to taste
    • 17 1/2 cups water, divided
    • 3 cups uncooked aged white basmati rice (such as Zafarani), rinsed
    • 2 black peppercorns
    • 1 large fresh or dried bay leaf
    • 1 black cardamom pod, smashed
    • 1/2 teaspoon green cardamom seeds
    • 1/3 cup torn fresh mint, plus fresh mint leaves, for serving
    • 1/3 cup raisins, chopped dried apricots, or chopped dried dates (or a combination)
    • 1/2 cup slivered natural almonds, toasted chopped pistachios, or toasted chopped cashews
    • 1 cup crispy fried onions
    • 1/2 cup Saffron-Rosewater Milk
    • 5 (7-inch) frozen parathas (such as Kawan), thawed
    • All-purpose flour, for dusting
    • 1 large large egg
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons nigella seeds, ajwain seeds, or other whole-seed spices 
    • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
    • Lemon wedges and pickled red onion, for serving


Make the Spiced Yogurt Marinade

Pour hot mustard oil over freshly ground spices in a heatproof bowl, then stir in tangy yogurt until it’s well combined.

Make the Masala Paste

Blend together creamy soaked cashews with toasted whole spices to create a thick spice paste.

Make the Saffron-Rosewater Milk

Toast saffron, and cover with milk. Heat to scald, and add rosewater. (This fragrant, floral milk provides moisture to the lamb and rice.)

Marinate the Lamb

Place lamb in a large ziplock plastic bag; add spiced yogurt marinade, and gently massage marinade into lamb. Seal bag, squeezing to remove any air. Place bag in refrigerator; let marinate at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Brown Marinated Lamb

Preheat oven to 300°F. Transfer lamb to a rimmed baking sheet, scraping off excess marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle lamb evenly with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Blot lamb dry using paper towels. Melt ghee in an ovenproof, deep 14-inch skillet or large Dutch oven over medium-high. Working in 2 batches, cook lamb, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on 2 to 3 sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch, reducing heat if needed to prevent scorching. Transfer browned lamb to a large plate; set aside. Do not remove skillet from heat.

Cook the Aromatics, Masala Paste, and Yogurt

Add yellow onions to skillet, and sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon to release any browned bits, until browned and very soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Add garlic-ginger paste; cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in masala paste; cook, stirring often, until masala paste turns a shade darker, about 3 minutes. Add yogurt, and stir until well combined.

Braise the Lamb

Stir in stock and reserved lamb with any accumulated juices on plate; bring to a gentle simmer over medium. Remove skillet from heat. Cover tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil or an ovenproof lid, and transfer to oven. Bake in preheated oven until lamb is tender enough to pull apart using a spoon but still holds its shape, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours. Remove from oven, and let stand, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover lamb, and transfer to a clean cutting board using tongs. Using a knife, cut up any large pieces of lamb; discard fat and tendons. Transfer lamb to an airtight container, and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days. Transfer braising mixture in skillet to a separate airtight container, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.

Process the Braising Mixture

Remove braising mixture from refrigerator, and scrape off top layer of fat; discard fat. Transfer 5 cups braising mixture to a blender; discard remaining braising mixture. Process until a smooth gravy forms, about 15 seconds. Stir in Kashmiri chile powder plus additional chile powder to taste and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. If making ahead, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate until ready to use. Gravy can be stored in refrigerator up to 1 day.

Soak the Rice

Stir together 10 cups water and 1 tablespoon kosher salt in a large bowl until salt dissolves. Add rice; let soak at room temperature 30 minutes. Combine peppercorns, bay leaf, black cardamom pod, and green cardamom seeds in cheesecloth; secure with kitchen twine. While rice is soaking, combine cheesecloth bundle and remaining 7 1/2 cups water in a medium pot; bring just to a boil over high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and gently simmer 10 minutes.

Cook the Soaked Rice

Return water with cheesecloth bundle to a boil over medium-high. Stir in rice and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high, stirring once; reduce heat to low. Gently simmer, uncovered, until rice is parboiled, about 5 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain a simmer. Meanwhile, line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cool the Cooked Rice

Drain cooked rice, and spread in an even layer on prepared baking sheets. Remove cheesecloth; discard spices. Let rice cool completely, about 30 minutes. If making ahead, lightly pack rice into an airtight container, and chill until ready to use, up to 1 day.

Layer the Lamb And Rice

Assemble the biryani: Spread about 3/4 cup reserved gravy in an even layer in a 13-inch-wide, 2 1/2-inch-deep round casserole dish (such as a Staub Double Handle Fry Pan) or a 5-quart enameled or cast-iron Dutch oven. Spread half of chilled rice evenly over gravy. Top evenly with reserved lamb. Pour remaining gravy evenly over lamb. Sprinkle evenly with mint, half of dried fruit, and half of nuts. Spread remaining rice evenly over nuts, ensuring lamb is completely covered.

Top With Nuts, Fruits, And Milk

Sprinkle evenly with crispy fried onions and remaining dried fruit and nuts. Pour saffron-rosewater milk evenly over top.

Top With Paratha

Stack parathas on a lightly floured work surface, pressing lightly to form a single thick paratha. Roll out into a 15-inch round. Brush off excess flour from dough. Lightly brush beaten egg in a 1- to 2-inch ring around perimeter of dough. Place dough over casserole dish, egg side down, allowing dough to drape over sides. (Dough should act like a lid, completely sealing pan.) Press dough against sides and edges of casserole dish to seal. Lightly brush dough surface with remaining beaten egg. Sprinkle evenly with nigella seeds and flaky sea salt. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

Bake the Biryani

Preheat oven to 350°F. If lamb biryani has chilled for more than 2 hours, remove from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature while oven preheats. Bake at 350°F until dough is deep golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes.

Serve the Biryani

Using a spoon, crack open crust, revealing the biryani. Serve lamb biryani with lemon wedges, pickled red onion, and additional yogurt and mint.

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