- For the marinade
- 2 cups (500 ml) plain or Greek yoghurt or buttermilk
- 2 green chillies, halved
- 1 ripe tomato, skinned and grated
- 2 tsp (10 ml) ground cumin
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric or
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) saffron
- 1 tsp (5 ml) biryani masala or roasted masala
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 3 cardamom pods, bruised
- 5 whole cloves
- 5 allspice pimentos
- For the biryani
- 1.5 kg mutton pieces
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) peeled and finely grated ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp (15 ml) salt
- 1 cup (250 ml) brown lentils, rinsed
- 2 cups (500 ml) water
- 500 g parboiled or basmati rice
- 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable, canola or sunflower oil
- 300 ml hot water
- 6 large potatoes, quartered
- 4–5 onions, thinly sliced
- 50 g butter
- 6 hard-boiled eggs
- Few strands of saffron for garnish
Step 1 – Making the marinade
Place all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix to form a cohesive and smooth marinade.
Step 2 – Marinating the meat
Rinse the meat and pat dry with paper towel. Place in a bowl or container. Massage the ginger, garlic and 1 tsp (5 ml) salt into the meat and add this to the biryani marinade. It needs to marinate for at least 3–4 hours, or overnight if possible.
Step 3 – Preparing the lentils
Cook the lentils in a pot with the 2 C (500 ml) water and boil for 20 minutes until tender. Rinse and drain in a colander and set aside.
Step 4 – Preparing the rice
- Wash the rice in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Rinse and drain in a colander.
- Heat 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the oil over a medium heat in a medium-sized pot or pan. To this, add the rice and toss until all the grains are glossy and well coated with the oil.
- Add 100 ml of the hot water to the rice and cook, covered, over a medium/low heat for 8–10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and set aside.
Step 5 – Frying the potatoes
- Heat the remaining 220 ml oil over a high heat in the same pot in which you intend cooking the biryani.
- Add the quartered potatoes to the warm oil and reduce the heat toa medium setting.
- Shallow-fry the potatoes for about 10 minutes until all the sidesare golden.
- Remove the partially fried potatoes from the warm oil and set aside.
Step 6 – Braising the onions
- In the same pot you used for frying the potatoes and still containing the warm oil, increase the heat to high and add the onion slices.
- Keep a watchful eye as the onions can burn if left unattended.
- Stir frequently and braise for 8–10 minutes until golden and crisp.
- Remove half of the onions from the hot oil and set aside for garnishing.
Step 7 – Cooking the meat
- In the same pot with the leftover onions still sizzling, add the meat and marinade and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes on a medium/high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium/low and cook, covered, for a further 30 minutes. The meat should be slow-cooked to allow all of the spices to permeate and infuse into the meat. You should have a thickish, not watery, gravy before moving on to the next step. Remove the meat and gravy from the pot and set aside in a container. Keep covered.
Step 8 – Layering the pot
- Using the same pot, place the partially fried potatoes at the bottom of the pot. Use half of the cooked rice to cover the potatoes.
- Sprinkle ½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt and half the saffron over the rice.
- Spoon the meat and gravy on top of the rice. Now cover the meat with the cooked lentils and ensure that they are evenly spread.
- Sprinkle the other half of the rice and remaining ½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt over the lentils.
- Spread the reserved onions evenly over the rice, along with a final scattering of the remaining saffron.
Step 9 – Final stage to perfection
- Cut the butter into little pieces and place these randomly over the final layer of ingredients. Use the remaining 200 ml hot water and sprinkle generously over the rice.
- Use a sheet of foil or wax paper to cover the contents in the pot, as this assists in locking in the steam, allowing all the flavours to develop further.
- Cover securely with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes over a high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Once cooked, garnish the biryani with halved boiled eggs and a few strands of saffron. Serve hot with Cape Malay Tomato and Onion Salad
Extracted from My Cape Malay Kitchen by Cariema Isaacs (Struik Lifestyle)
Photograph: © Penguin Random House / Nigel Deary