Persian Lamb Biryani

The different colours and textures

The different colours and textures

We were missing white rice and so this dish came to mind. I wanted something with flavour but without heat and at the same time giving all the comfort of rice. This hit the spot perfectly. There is a bit of faff involved in layering the rice but to be honest its hardly time consuming. This is a great dish if you have people round and want something to wow them with. We served ours pretty much as is. It was perfect.

I have to say was quite skeptical the first time I made this dish namely because of the absence of heat, as well as the total lack of garlic and ginger but I have to say with a couple of tweaks I really do love this dish. While traditonal biryanis are very firey this one is quite delicate the vast quantities of yoghurt in this make the end result very creamy in texture all the while still enabling the biryani to pass the biryani test; individual grains of rice are visible at the end. The fact that this made with black spices gives the dish an almost plau/pilau like taste but in my mind this was a lot lighter.

I was able to cook the lamb during the day and prepare the rest pretty much afterwards. If I had thought about it a bit more I would have cooked the lamb and frozen it pre Ramadan for a speedier end result. I’ll definitely do it that way round the next time I do this. We bought a ‘Wonderbag’ last year and I have to say it is perfect for doing the whole ‘dum pukt’ (steam cooked) thing. If you don’t have one I explain what to do.

Persian Lamb Biryani

For the lamb
400g lamb in small pieces/chops
3 onions
10 green cardamons
4 black cardamons
2 cinnamon sticks
5 black pepper corns
5 cloves
3 bayleaves
500g thick yoghurt/Greek yoghurt
Sea salt
Baking parchment

For the rice
A pinch of Saffron
1/2 a tin of chick peas
1 cup of Basmati rice
Rapeseed oil
Clean tea towel or wonderbag

1. Wash the rice and leave to soak.

2. Chop the onions and fry half of them in enough oil so that they are nearly covered. Add in a pinch of salt to help the onions release their water and become golden brown.

3. Take the onions out of the pan when they are golden brown and drain on kitchen paper.

4. Remove the excess oil from the pan, until you have enough just to coat the base of the pan then add in the remainder of the onions and fry until they are soft.

5. Place the meat in the pan and add all the dry spices excluding the sea salt and brown the meat allowing the spices to heat but not burn.

6. Place enough water into the pan (with the meat) to cover the meat and bring to the boil before simmering for about an hour until the meat is tender. When the meat is tender take off the heat.

7. If you want to freeze this then I would freeze this at this stage.

8. Add the yoghurt and add half a teaspoon of salt.

9. Place the saffron in a small bowl and pour on half a cup of hot water and allow to infuse.

10. An hour an half before iftari boil the rice in water until it become translucent. Then drain the water from the rice and rinse a couple of times in cold water to stop the rice from cooking.

11. In a pan, large enough to accomodate everything, line the pan with baking parchement.

12. Now begins the ‘biryani’ building. Start making layers of meat, rice, yoghurt sauce, chickpeas, the fried onions and then a drizzle of the saffron water. It should make a minimum of two layers.

13. If you are cooking this without a wonderbag, put a tea towel on top of the pan and then put the lid firmly on top, bringing the sides of the towel up on to the lid so that they do no dangle near the heat source. Then put the heat to high for 5 mins before bringing to low and leaving on a low heat for about 30 mins. Do not open the lid during this time.

14. If you are using a wonderbag put a lid on the pan then place on a medium heat for about 10 minutes before placing in the wonderbag for about an hour.

15. To serve either invert on to a serving platter or serve trying to maintain the sections.

Serves 4


29th June – 1st of Ramadan

Alhamdulilah Ramadan is here, I must admit my focus was mainly on survivng the day rather than excelling in the extras. If you found it easy, great if you managed loads of extras great. For me I survived and frankly that was quite an achievement for me. I have loads of ‘mileage’ on my Ramadan clock but the truth is I do find it hard. This isn’t a case of ‘woe is me’ but honesty.


With the long (wet and warm) days ahead I thought a lot about what types of things would be good for sehri/suhoor. In the end I opted for something that I have become quite fond of quite recently; overnight oats with chia seeds. Simply choose a jar, put in a portion of oats (I use gluten free oats) add in a table spoon of chia seeds, then add in some thing you like, dried fruit, nuts, nut butter, then fill with milk put the lid on and then leave in the fridge. Normally I would make this before. I go to bed but because our ‘nights’ are so short – about 5 hours in the UK – I try and do this first thing in the morning or you could do it when you get home from work. Once you get into the rhythm of doing this it is quite easy. It is also good if you are in a larger family as everyone has a portion sorted and there is no risk of running out of milk at 2:30am. I had mine with a simple fruit salad of watermelon and chopped apple ( a quick dunk in lemon/vinegar water to prevent the apple going brown). In true paranoid Ramadan style I put out a bread roll for myself but was so full I couldn’t bring myself to eat any more.

My husband decided to stick to simple things and had a bowl of cereal with some waffles I had made earlier in the day. We both had the mandatory date, a smoothie and lots of water.


I decided to go with an Arab inspired meal for iftari not in the least authentic but everyone loved it and it required very little effort for which it earns bonus brownie points!

For the lamb (serves 4)
1/2 a small leg of lamb chopped into to cubes
1/2 onion sliced
1 aubergine chopped into cubes
1 tablespoon of fresh garlic minced
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger minced
2 teaspoons of Rose flavoured Harissa paste
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon of a spice mix containing equal quantities of:allspice, white pepper, cinammon, ginger, nutmeg, mahlab, sumac and cardamon
2 tablespoons pomegrenate molasses
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 quarters of sunblush tomatoes chopped up finely
A handful of olives

Place all the ingredients in to an ovenproof dish and mix well.
Leave to marinade for at least 3 hours but not longer than 12 hours.
2 hours before ifari cover the dish with ovenproof foil and put in the oven at 190 degrees centigrade
Check on it from time to time to stir the ingredients.
This should be ready about 10 minutes before hand when the meat is soft and tender.

I did a similar thing with 200g of haloumi leaving out the chilli and aubergine. Bringing the quanties of all the spices/ pastes down to a teaspoon. This went into the oven 30 mins ( also covered) before iftari. Coming out the same time as the lamb.

I served this with shop bought roti, fresh hummus, an undressed salad. I had gluten free shop bought wraps by Be Free Foods.

Today was also a family birthday so dessert was a home made birthday cake.