Recipe: Arun Kapil’s Lamb Biryani Ka Kesar

Published: 14 January 2015

In the wake of the launch of his new cookbook Fresh Spice, master of seasoning Arun Kapil shares his extravagant take on the lamb biryani. A classic rice dish, biryani comes in many different forms, usually changing by region, but for Kapil the perfect lamb biryani should be spiked with with ‘red gold’ (saffron).


Serves 4–6

1kg (2lb 4oz) stewing lamb, diced
1 tbsp ghee, sunflower oil or unsalted butter
5 large garlic cloves, crushed
60g (2¼oz) fresh ginger, grated
125ml (4fl oz) natural yogurt
1 green bird’s eye chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 onions, diced
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tsp powdered turmeric
2 tsp black peppercorns, finely ground
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp Garam Masala blend
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
1 handful mint leaves, chopped

For the rice

330g (11½oz) aged basmati rice
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves
Seeds from 3 green cardamom pods
Seeds from 1 black cardamom pod
½ tsp finely ground mace
10 saffron threads
2 tsp sea salt


Combine all the marinade ingredients in a non-metallic bowl and mix well. Add the meat, cover and set aside for at least 4 hours (or preferably overnight) in the fridge. Afterwards, put the ghee in a large heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Put over a medium heat, add the meat and all its marinade and cook for 25 minutes. Set aside. Wash the rice thoroughly and drain it. Finely grind the whole spices, except the saffron, using a mortar and pestle. Put 1.2 litres (2 pints) water into a large saucepan, add all the spices, the rice, saffron and salt, and bring to the boil. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. 

To assemble the dish, strain the remaining water from the rice into the meat mixture, stir thoroughly and then level the meat out evenly. Spread the rice in an even layer over the meat. Cover the pan and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to its lowest setting and cook gently for 30 minutes, keeping the lid on and not stirring at all. Alternatively, pop the casserole into the oven, preheated to 180°C (gas mark 4). Remove the dish from the heat and leave it to rest for 5 minutes before taking it to the table, lifting off the lid with a flourish, and allowing everyone to get the full, fragrant Eastern aroma. Biryani made simple!


Review: Gunpowder

London is full of great Indian restaurants, so when Gunpowder joined the ever growing ranks, we were keen to see what, if anything, set it apart from the rest. Turns out, quite a lot....

Recipe: Messy Thokku

Messy Thokku is essentially egg pickle, but don't let that put you off. Seasoned with Andhra spices and served with a puff roti, this is a winning alternative Indian dish.

Review: Homeslice

In preparation for our pizza poll later this year, we have embarked on the biggest pizza tasting mission this city has seen. One contender is most definitely Homeslice.

Review: Taberna do Mercado

Forget celebrity behemoth Chiltern Firehouse, Nuno Mendes is proving his culinary worth, with the help Antonio Galapito, in the form of modest Portuguese restaurant Taberna do Mercado in Shoreditch.