Cookbook Challenge, Fortnight 3: Rice/Noodles

Theme: Rice/Noodles
Recipe: Lamb Biryani
From: Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking

The theme for this fortnight’s Cookbook Challenge is “rice/noodles”. I choose to do something with rice dish and something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time – biryani. Biryani is a layered rice dish made with spices and meat or vegetables. The rice is cooked separately from the curry sauce of meat or vegetables and is then layered together after the separate components have been cooked.

To tell you the truth: this dish tastes great but it’s a pain in the arse to make! (It’s also hard to make it look pretty!) There’s three separate components: the lamb curry, the rice, and a chutney. Oh, and there were also fried cashews and raisins that are used as garnish. In the end, it felt like I had pulled out all my pots, pans and numerous plates and bowls just to make this – though it didn’t help that I was also cooking two other things at the same time…

I don’t think I was meant to, but I completely cooked the curry and the rice before baking them together. But my way turned out fine, and it also meant that a water bath when baking the biryani was unnecessary.

In hindsight, there are some easy ways of streamlining this recipe. The recipe tells you to fry the raw cashews and raisins yourself – next time I would just sprinkle pre-roasted cashews and plain raisins on top. It would also be good to make the curry and the rice on separate days, though using a rice cooker did make things much simpler for me. And um, perhaps not multi tasking in the kitchen would also be a great idea!

But don’t let the time consuming nature and the long list of ingredients put you off – it’s definitely worth making if you have the time!

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Check out what other participants made for this theme at the Cookbook Challenge forum.

Lamb Biryani / Gosht Biryani

Adapted from: Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking

Serves 6

For the Lamb Curry
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
5 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce (I used a 400g can of chopped tomatoes)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 cup water
1 pound / 500g boneless lamb, cut into bite sized cubes

For the Rice
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup raw whole cashews
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 x 6cm cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods, slightly bruised
2 medium red onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 & 1/2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

For the chutney
1 cup chopped fresh coriander
1 medium tomato (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 medium onion (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium cloves garlic
2 fresh chillies

First make the lamb curry. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, ginger, and garlic. Fry for about 5 minutes until the onion is golden.

Stir in tomato sauce or canned tomatoes, and then the ground coriander, ground cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and turmeric. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, until a thin film of oil forms on the surface.

Stir in the water and the lamb. Partially cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the lamb is tender. Stir occasionally.

Next, make the rice. Put the rice in a sieve under running water and wash it until the water runs clear.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the cashews and fry for 10-20 seconds until they are golden brown
(note: they will brown quickly!). Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Add the raisins to the hot oil and fry for about 10-20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Set the cashews and raisins aside for garnish.

Add the cumin seed, cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods to the hot oil for 15-30 seconds. Mix in the onions and fry for several minutes until they are golden. Add the rice and gently fry for 1 minute, taking care not to break the rice grains. Next you need to cook the rice – I did this in a rice cooker (add all the fried spices, onions, rice, salt and water to the cooker and turn it on to cook). If not using a rice cooker, stir in 2 & 1/2 cups cold water and salt to the rice in the pan. Heat to boiling, stirring once, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all the water has evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the turmeric.

Make the chutney by placing all the ingredients into a food processor and processing until smooth.

The last step is to assemble the casserole. Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease a large casserole dish, then spread the rice evenly into it. Arrange the lamb curry as the second layer, and then the chutney on top. If desired, place the casserole dish into a larger baking pan with hot water to prevent the rice from drying out – however, I didn’t have a problem with the rice drying out due to the amount of sauce, so it’s up to you. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with the cashews and raisins. Don’t eat the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods!