Q: Looking for a reasonably “authentic” Biryani recipe. Can you help?

A: Biryani is a set of rice-based dishes made with different spices, basmati rice and meat and/or vegetables. It was brought to India by Muslim travellers and merchants.

The name is derived from the Persian word beryā which means “fried” or “roasted”. There are ±9 main types of Biryani from awedhi biryani to south east asian biryani all with major differences, from what meat is added, if any, to what spice and flovours are used. The most common of biryani’s will conset of lamb, basmati rice, ghee,  ginger, onions, and garlic. The premium varieties include saffron.

At Wickedfood Cooking School the following recipe along with some other great Indian delights are taught in our Indian cooking classBiryani Recipe


7cm piece of ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2T garam masala (see last page)

1/2t chilli powder

1/2t ground turmeric

4 chillies, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves

2T chopped mint leaves

1kg lamb (shank, leg or shoulder), cut into 3cm cubes

4 onions, thinly sliced

1/4t salt

1/2 cup oil

125g (1/4 brick) butter, melted

1 cup (250 ml) thick natural yoghurt

500 g basmati rice

1/2 cup (125ml) thick natural yoghurt

1/2t saffron strands, soaked in 2T hot milk

3T lemon juice

Sealing dough

200g flour

1t salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  2. In a bowl, mix the marinade ingredients well, and add the lamb. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
  3. Put the sliced onion in a sieve, sprinkle with the salt and leave for ±10 minutes to drain off any liquid that oozes out. Rinse and pat dry.
  4. Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based casserole, add the onion and fry for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Remove ±half the oil/butter and set aside (used in step 9 to flavour the rice).
  6. Fry the lamb in batches in the remaining oil and butter in the casserole until lightly browned all over – ±5 minutes per batch.
  7. Once all the meat is browned, return it all to the casserole, and mix in the onion and the 1 cup yoghurt. Cook everything in the casserole over a very low heat, lid on, until the lamb is tender, – ±20-30 minutes. (At this stage the meat can be set aside in the fridge for up to 48 hours, and then gently re-heated to finish the biryani.)
  8. While the meat is cooking, wash the rice under cold, running water until the water runs clear. Place in a pot and cover with ±2cm boiling water. Return the water to the boil, cook the rice for 5 minutes, then drain well and set aside.
  9. Once the meat is cooked, spread the rice evenly over it. Pour the reserved oil and ghee, mixed with the 1/2 cup yoghurt, over the rice, and then drizzle the saffron and milk over it.
  10. Mix the flour and salt with a little water to form a firm dough. Roll the dough into a sausage shape and press around the edge of the casserole to use as a seal between the lid and rim of the casserole.
  11. Bring the meat/rice in the casserole to the boil over a high heat, then press the lid down onto the dough to seal, and transfer it to the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
  12. Remove the pot and break the seal of dough before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

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Wickedfood Cooking School

Sunninghill – (011) 234-3252sunninghill@wickedfood.co.za

Wickedfood cooking school runs cooking classes throughout the year at its purpose-built cooking studios. Classes are run in the mornings and evenings 7 days a week (subject to a minimum of 12 people). The venue is also popular for corporate events and private functions – team building cooking classes, birthdays, kitchen teas, and dinner parties with a difference.

Our cookery classes are hands-on, where every person gets to participate in the preparation of the dishes. They are also a lot of fun where you not only learn new skills, but get to meet people with similar interests. For corporate groups and teambuilding cooking classes these classes are a novel way of creating staff interaction or entertaining clients.