Gloriously fragrant in deep dark whole spices, this pulao makes the most of spring lamb with no oven in sight. An easy centrepiece for Easter feasting, it makes a change from lamb roast with just as much holiday appeal.
Despite the aromatic whole spices, this is a pulao rather than a biryani. The quickest way to tell the difference is the relatively small number of spices and absence of layering in the recipe. This recipe is from my family home – where it was a weekday lunch special on bank holidays and when political parties called strikes.
We would use little pieces of goat on the bone, but I find that lamb chops wade in with the bone flavour without the needs for ages of cooking. Don’t be frightened by the long list of ingredients – most of them are just whole spices and there are so many leaving the odd one out won’t make too much of a difference.
Ingredients (feeds 4)
4 fat garlic cloves
1.5 inches ginger
2 tbsp Greek Yoghurt
4 thick cut lamb chops
1 large red onion
1.5 tbsp ghee
1 black cardamom
4 green cardamoms
1 inch cinnamon
1 star anise
1 large bay leaf
1 tbsp oil
Half a mace flower
1.5 tsp salt + a pinch
1.5 cups long grain Basmati rice
Finely chopped mint leaf and coriander leaves to garnish
Finely mince or grate the ginger and garlic. Add it along with the yoghurt to the lamb chops, mixing it all over well. Leave the lamb chops to sit in this marinade.
Now, slice the onion finely and bring the ghee to heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan or casserole pan on a medium high heat. When it’s hot, toss in the black cardamom, green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and bay leaf.
As they sizzle up, mix in the sliced onions and cook with a pinch of salt for 10 minutes until golden. Meanwhile, wash the rice and leave it in the sieve. Now remove two-thirds of the onions along with the whole spices into a bowl and keep cooking the rest until golden crisp.
Now remove these crispy onions, which are for your garnish, into a small bowl. Add the tablespoon of oil and then fry the lamb chops for five minutes on each side until they take on colour. Add the first bowl of sauteed onions and whole spices back in and mix the lot together. Finely grind the mace flower and nutmeg in a pestle and mortar.
Tip in the rice, stirring quickly to incorporate it with the lamb and spices, and add one and half teaspoons of salt and the freshly ground mace and nutmeg. Then pour in two and three quarter cups of hot water. Bring the rice quickly back to a boil, then lower the heat to a high simmer and cook covered for 12 minutes.
When the time is up, move the covered pan to a cold hob and leave it for another five minutes to cool down. Rice is brittle when hot and you want it to absorb all those glorious aromas rather than let them escape straightaway.
Take the lid off and arrange the pulao on a platter or serving dish. Scatter the remaining crispy onions on top along with the chopped mint and coriander. Serve this with a raita.