Layered Masala Lamb Biryani **Not Paleo**


Biryani’s were created by the Royal Chefs of the Indian and Persian Kings during the Moghul Empire.  It is a rich, opulent dished, served mainly on auspicious occasions.

There is nothing more intoxicating -according to many, me included – than the aroma of a Biryani cooking!  The infusion of chicken, lamb or mutton with rich spices, saffron and yogurt, left to marinate overnight in the refrigerator, adds to the richness of this all-in-one rice and meat dish.  Boiled eggs and vegetable like fresh carrots or green peas may be added, however, growing up with a family history steeped in Biryani making, in my personal opinion,  the best version is a chicken or lamb, masoor / biryani lentils and potato combination, which does not detract from the biryani masala that adds to the taste appeal of this dish. There are many versions of cooking biyani’s, and we live in an age where speed is of paramount importance – this however, does not interest me, as I see biryani making as a labour of love, seeking perfection each time I make it, following a tried and countless-times-tested version from watching my mum and her mum before her, perfect this timeless traditional meal.

Traditionally, a raita is served with biryani.  Raita is a yogurt / sour milk accompaniement which uses  yogurt as a base with grated cucumber, fresh crushed garlic, spring onion or finely chopped onion, freshly ground mint, fresh coriander, freshly squeezed lemon juice, roasted and roughly ground cumin seeds, a touch of garam masala and salt to taste, all mixed together well to blend the ingredients, forming a sauce like mixture.

For the  purposes of this recipe and my personal preference,  I am using a spice store-bought biryani masala, where the ingredients are all roasted and roughly blended for a strong release of spices (this masala is available in dry and wet forms, I prefer the dry version)  however, the basic biryani masala is a combination of the ingredients as pictured below which are dry roasted in the oven or frying pan, and removed just as an aromatic aroma develops, allowed to cool and ground to a rough-powder in a coffee grinder, chilli powder and turmeric powder are added to give the biryani masala a rich colour and spicy pungency.

The preparation of biryani is in stages, first the overnight meat marinating, thereafter the rice, lentil and potato preparation which is just before cooking the next morning. 

Note that chicken, cut up may be used, following the same recipe.  Reduce the amount of garlic and ginger paste, and cook for 60 minutes only.

Meat Preparation
1.5-2kg of lamb/mutton leg cut, washed, cut into slightly larger than bite size pieces
1-2 large onions, finely sliced and shallow fried in an oil and butter combination or in ghee (clarified butter), removed and set aside.  The oil and butter must be reserved in the refrigerator for the next day.
2 tblsp garlic and ginger paste
If not using spice store bought biryani masala, then the use the following:
3 sticks cinnamon
1 bay leaf
3 cardamom pods, peeled
3 cloves
2-4 green chillies, slivered
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
3 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tsp coriander powder
4 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp fennel powder
1 tsp saffron strands, heated until aromatic, crushed and added to a tablespoon of water
2 tsp coarse salt
handful of chopped fresh mint
150-200ml plain yogurt or maas (sour milk / plain Inkomasi)

Place meat, spices, salt, fried onions, mint, yogurt /mass into a deep glass or metal bowl and mix well

Cover in cling wrap and leave overnight in refrigerator to marinate.

Rice and Lentil Preparation

2-2.5 cups uncooked parboiled long grain rice (Tastic) or Basmati rice
1 tsp course salt
1 stick cinnamon
2 cardamom pods
1 bayleaf
2 cloves

Combine ingredients in a pot – boil for about 15 minutes in excess water.  Drain off water and set aside

1/2 cup brown lentils (Masoor dhal)

Cook in excess salted until tender but not mushy, drain and set aside

Potato Preparation

Peel 4-6 potatoes, wash, cut lengthwise in half and deep fry until half cooked.  Remove from oil and set aside.

To Assemble Biryani

Using a large flat-bottomed pot, on medium heat on the stove top, add the reserved butter oil or ghee that was used to fry the onions. To this add 2-3 cinnamon sticks, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1 bayleaf cut up, and 2-4 cardamom pods and allow to sizzle.

After 2-3 minutes, add a handful of the lentils and rice (to prevent biryani from sticking to the pot during the cooking process)

Add the marinated meat mixture to the pot and spread out well

Add the cooked lentils and potatoes and ensure that the meat mixture is well covered.


Thereafter add the all the rice, which will cover at least 2/3 of the pot.  At this stage add fried onions distributing evenly across the rice, a combination of saffron and water for colouring sprinkled evenly over the rice and onions, and 1 cup of water around the sides of the pot to assist in the cooking process. the layering  of the biryani is now complete

Saffron, heated, crushed with two tablespoons of water


Seal the pot with aluminium foil and cover with a lid to initiate steaming process.  Cook on the stove top on medium heat setting for 15 minutes, then transfer to the oven, cooking at 200 degrees celcius (if using a convection oven, cook on heat setting 6 or 7) and cook for 90-120 minutes. 

Cooked Biryani, removed from the oven

Remove from oven, carefully remove the aluminium foil and plate.  The masala is at the bottom of the pot, so dish up equal amounts of rice and masala.  This quantity of biryani will serve at least 8-10 people.  Serve with a salad of your choice (generally lettuce, grated carrot, sliced onion, chilli, sprinkled with salt and vinegar or lemon juice) or Raita.


Print Friendly

Prava Singh

A Mom, daughter, wife, sister, aunt and friend experiencing life through an evolutionary body with a revolutionary mind... A recent past former Type 2 insulin dependent and hypertensive walking time-bomb for 13.5 years, I have made positive lifestyle changes that has aided and abetted my health status for my overall betterment. Passionate about all things food, with a proud Indian heritage, I regularly blog my culinary attempts that have worked for me in my endeavours to break the shackles of food addictions and food slavery. Passionate about people too, my decision to share these endeavours is driven by informing others that a lifestyle change through food is indeed possible. I have indeed survived high school and survived life too in the most interesting and thought-provoking ways. Having lost over 50kgs of excess weight in just under a year, I have reclaimed my life and am thoroughly enjoying the journey.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *