Biryani Demystified

Biryani is one of those dishes that when you first taste you never believe you could make it yourself. I have found many recipes online, but here I will try to break it down for you.

The first step is you need to make a good ”curry” which is the base flavour for the biryani. You need to have a fairly thick gravy. (Here I made 500 gms of lamb pieces with one large potato in a curry)

For the curry you will need:

500 gms lamb pieces (on the bone, fat removed)

One large potato-chopped

One large onion-sliced

2 cloves of garlic-minced

One tablespoon of minced ginger

Half a medium tomato- chopped

1/2 cup of yogurt- mixed until smooth

handful of corriander – chopped

Juice of one medium lemon

Biryani powder mix or your favourite curry powder (about 2-3 tablespoons, but be careful to check the chill content)

optional whole spices: 5 cloves, 3 cardomoms, 2 bayleaves, cinnamon stick

about 1/3-1/2 cup of oil

To make:

Fry off the onions until golden, add garlic, ginger and tomatoes. Fry off until fragrant and then add the meat. Fry well and add a couple of tablespoons of spice mix. You need to ensure everything is fragrant and well cooked (the onions etc but not the meat) when frying. This intensives the flavour. Make sure not to burn the mix though.

Add water, and allow the meat to cook slowly until soft.  Reduce the gravy mix to thick soup consistency (you dont want too much liquid). Add the potatos and yogurt and lemon juice. Season well.

Once done, add corriander and set aside.

Now cook  2-3 cups of soaked basmati rice in plenty of boiling salted water until 90% cooked. Strain and layer half of the rice in a baking dish. Add the meat/potato curry mix in the middle and then add the remaining rice on top. Make sure not to put too much gravy in the middle as you dont want it to be wet.

For a variation in colour, add some food colouring dissolved in water to the top layer of rice shown below.. but dont go crazy with it! .. a little bit goes a long way.

Cover with aluminium foil and bake in a hot oven for about 20-30 mins, until rice is completely cooked.

Allow to cool and fluff the rice to mix together. Garnish with corriander, roasted sultanas/almonds or cashews.

Serve with yogurt dip and fresh salad.


  • Biryani is usually cooked on a stove top, but I find baking in the oven much more convenient. It can be very tricky cooking the rice this way in pot as the bottom layer can easily burn.
  • For professional results, use the best quality basmati rice you can afford. If you look at the pics you will see the grains arent as long as the ones served at restaurants because I used a medium grade basmati rice. The best basmati rice is longer and is slightly thicker.. but it comes at a cost! so use it when you want to impress 🙂
  • I often find microwaving the end product intensifies the flavour and gives a more professional result.

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