April 12, 2012

Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani

    Finally I am posting a Biryani recipe even though I have prepared this dish quite a few times recently but was simply too lazy to organize my notes into the blog. Better late than never :)
    This particular recipe was handed down to from my paternal grandma who was quite the cook, very popular in our family circle for her exceptional culinary skills and variety. I still cherish those holiday get-together when the entire family would meet up to feast on the sumptuous dishes she prepared, with the Biryani being one of the highlight entrees. All the ladies in the house used to be part of this cooking extravaganza with my grandma typically leading the crew through the entire process, to get their magical dishes onto the table. I am proud and happy that I had the privilege to get my early cooking lessons under her tutelage.
    Back in those days, the Biryani was prepared in a sealed dish (Dum Biryani) and cooked over red hot coal instead of baking in an oven. That was indeed the traditional and authentic method of preparation, locking in the delectable flavor and aromas as it cooked. I guess being spoiled with such remarkable preparations of the Biryani during my childhood, explains why I just don’t enjoy a restaurant-prepared version of the dish to this very day!

    Here is a tale that I used to hear frequently from my Grandfather about his first and last cooking venture. He had a British colleague and friend who used to absolutely love Biryani and whose main dilemma while leaving India to go back to England was that he would miss the home-cooked authentic Biryani. A few years later when my Grandfather was visiting England, he decided to surprise his old friend with a good Biryani meal so he made my grandma pack the Basmati rice, the spices in labeled pouches and a detailed step-by-step recipe. Being the amateur cook that he was, unfortunately, the final dish was nothing compared to what my Grandma used to make but the gentlemen made merry of what was prepared and claim to have had a nice feast. My grandfather used to claim that it turned out edible but I still highly doubt that ;)

Serves 8


For Marinade
2 Lbs – Mutton/Goat meat , cut into 1.5 inch cubes
½ C – Yogurt
1 Tsp – Pepper
½ Tsp – Turmeric powder
2 Tbsp – Ginger-garlic paste

For Mutton
4 – Bay leaves
4 Cups – Onion
2 ½ Tbsp – Ginger-Garlic paste
2 ½ Tbsp – Coriander powder
1 Tsp – Jeera powder (Cumin powder)
1 Tsp – Garam Masala
2 ½ Tsp –Chilly powder
½ Tsp – Pepper
3 Tbsp – Tomato Paste
20 – Almonds or Cashew nuts
1 Tsp – Poppy seed
1 ½ Cup – water
½ Cup – Cilantro, chopped
¼ Cup – Mint, chopped
Oil or Ghee

For Rice
3 Cup – Basmati Rice
4 ½ Cup - Water
2 – Bay leaves
2 – Mace
8 – Green Cardamom
5 – 1 inch pieces of Cinnamon
10 – Cloves
3 Tbsp - Lemon juice
¼ Tsp - Saffron
Ghee or Oil

For Garnish
4 Boiled eggs
Fried Onions
Fried Raisins
Fried Cashew nuts
Chopped Cilantro
Chopped Mint

To cook Mutton
  • Wash and clean the meat and trim off excess fat. Dry with a paper towel.
  • Marinate the mutton in yogurt, turmeric powder, pepper, ginger-garlic paste and salt. Keep it aside and let it marinate for at least an hour.
  • Cover the pressure cooker and cook until 6 whistles on medium low.
  • While the mutton is cooking, heat ghee/oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add Bay leaves. Sauté for a minute.
  • Add onions and ginger-garlic paste
  • Sauté until the mixture is golden-brown.It will take some time but your patience will pay off later!
  • In a bowl, take chilly powder, pepper,coriander powder, jeera powder, turmeric, tomato paste and garam masala and mix with ¼ Cup water. Add this to the sautéed onions and cook until all the water evaporates.
  • Stir in the cooked mutton.
  • Sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt
  • Take a microwave safe bowl and add the Almonds with just enough water to soak them. Microwave for 1- 1 ½ minutes.Take it out of the microwave and let it cool. You should be able to peel the skin off the almonds easily now.
  • Add the almonds and poppy seeds in a blender and grind into a fine paste. Add this paste to the curry and cook until the meat is tender. The curry should not be watery but should have a thick gravy.
To cook Rice
  • Take a non-stick pan. Heat ghee/oil and add Bay leaves, Mace, Green Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cloves. Sauté fora minute.
  • Add rice and sauté for another 3-5 minutes
  • Mix in boiling water, lemon juice, salt and Saffron and cover-cook for 7 minutes on medium low heat or until rice absorbs all the water. Take off the heat. Keep the lid closed to cook the rice in the steam. Do not attempt to open the lid while the dish is still hot as you will lose the steam and the rice may not be cooked properly.
  • Preheat the oven to 325F
  • Take a big oven-safe dish. Spoon in 1/3of the mutton curry on the bottom of the dish.
  • Spread 1/3 of the cooked rice on top. Do not use your hands to do this, use a spoon! Sprinkle some chopped Cilantro and Mint. Drizzle some ghee on top(optional)
  • Follow steps 2 and 3 until you are done with the rice and curry.
  • Cover and seal the dish. I usually seal my Biryani dish with chappati dough so that it is air-tight and the aroma of the spices are not lost. (This is optional; if you find this step tedious, just cover it as air-tight as possible and bake)
  • Bake for 35 -45 minutes
  • Garnish the Biryani with fried onions,wedged boiled eggs, chopped cilantro, fried raisins and cashew nuts
Tips to make a good Biryani
  1. Good quality Basmati rice translates into a good Biryani.
  2. The rice should be cooked al dente (just right) – neither undercooked nor overcooked. Overcooked rice in Biryani is a very common problem
  3. Use fresh Ginger and Garlic. Never use the ready made ginger-garlic paste.
  4. Fresh herbs – The aroma and flavor of fresh mint and cilantro cannot be replaced by dry herbs.
  5. Make your own Garam Masala if possible and use whole spices for Rice as mentioned in the recipe above
  6. Use good quality ghee instead of oil. It improves the taste.
  7. Use Tomato paste instead of tomatoes, which contributes a concentrated tomatoey flavor without excess water. This also helps the biryani to stay fresh longer!
  • If you don’t have tomato paste, use three fresh medium sized tomatoes instead but make sure you sauté them well until all the water evaporates.
  • Make the rice in a non-stick pan to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Be gentle when you sauté the rice and also while spreading the rice while assembling the Biryani.
  • The mutton curry should not be watery but should have thick gravy. If the curry is watery, cook uncovered on medium high to get the desired consistency.
  • Serve with Raita and Mirchi Ka Salan


  1. shema your Biriyani looks really good. I wish I was there to eat it.

  2. Shema's comments about her paternal grand mother and her expertise in cooking is absolutely true. I ,being her grandma's sister in law, having tasted many of her dishes can vouch for it

  3. The biriyani was excellent, even though I did not add ghee or the fried onions. It tasted even better the next day. I used lamb instead of mutton. Thanks, Shema, for sharing a family recipe.

  4. Can it be microwaved instead of baked? I only have a microwave

  5. I am not sure about microwaving. It might over cook the Biryani.
    You can try this - After you seal the Biryani in the dish, place it on a Tawa(flat pan) and let it cook indirectly.
    Let me know if this worked :)

  6. Ohh what a foodie grandpa you have :) I love the fact the food bring out soo many memories associate with it. Thanks for sharing!


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