Lamb biryani is a popular South African Indian rice dish with a distinctive flavour of Indian spices and herbs. The lamb is marinated with herbs and spices before it is braised in ghee (clarified butter) and steamed together with layers of rice, lentils, fresh coriander and potatoes.


  • 500g of lamb (cut into medium sized pieces and rinsed thoroughly)
  • 2 large peeled potatoes and sliced into quarters
  • 1/2 low acidic tomato, grated (jam tomato)
  • 1 1/2 onions (1 onion sliced finely, 1/2 grated)
  • 50g butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup black lentils
  • 2 cups of rice
  • 2 sprigs curry leaf
  • 6 mint leaves, sliced finely
  • fresh coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 6 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander (dhania) powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (jeera) powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 2 green chillies, sliced
  • oil
  • 1  1/2  teaspoons ginger and garlic paste
  • 1/4 cup of sour milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3ml of cumin seeds
  • yellow food colouring


Preparing the ingredients

  1. In a large bowl combine the lamb, 1 sprig of curry leaf, 3 chopped mint leaves, 1 green chilli, sour milk, 1 teaspoon of chilli powder, 3 teaspoons of curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder, 3ml of turmeric powder, ginger and garlic paste.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together and ensure that all the spices are distributed evenly.
  3. Refrigerate the marinated lamb for at least one hour, or overnight if you prefer.
  4. Place the rice, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf and water into a pot and bring it to a boil on a medium heat setting.
  5. Cook the rice as per instructions on the packaging and set it aside.
  6. Place the potatoes into a bowl and add a few drops of yellow food colouring.
  7. Mix the potatoes well to ensure each piece is well coloured.
  8. Heat enough oil in a pot to deep fry the potatoes until a crispy outer coating is formed.
  9. Place the fried potatoes onto a paper towel to absorb excess oil and set it aside.
  10. Steam the lentils in water until soft.
  11. Drain the excess water and set it aside.
  12. Place the butter in a frying pan and allow it to melt.
  13. Reduce the heat to a low heat setting and fry the sliced onions.
  14. When the onions appear translucent remove the pan from the stove top and set it aside.
  15. In a large pot, stir in enough oil to cover the base of the pot.
  16. Add in the remaining sliced onion, curry leaf, bay leaf, cumin seeds, and ghee.
  17. When the onions turn a slight brown colour, remove the pot from the stove top and stir in the remainder of the turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, curry powder and mint leaves.
  18. Return the pot back to the stove top and simmer for 30 seconds.
  19. Stir in the marinated lamb. Mix well.
  20. Add in salt to taste.
  21. Reduce the heat to a low setting and allow the lamb to simmer until it begins to fry.
  22. Stir in the grated tomato.
  23. Cook until the tomato has dissolved  into a smooth gravy. A little water can be added if the curry sticks to the base of the pot.
  24. The curry should appear as a fry without much of a gravy like a typical curry.
  25. Remove the  lamb curry from from the stove top and set it aside.

Layering the biryani

  1. In a deep pot add enough rice to roughly cover the base of the pot.
  2. Add in all the lamb curry mixture.
  3. Disperse  1/2 the quantity of lentils over the curry lamb.
  4. Add 1/2 the fried onions and chopped coriander over the lentils.
  5. Stir in the fried potatoes.
  6. Place 1/2 the quantity of rice into a separate bowl and add in a few drops of yellow food colouring.
  7. Toss the rice well.
  8. The grains of rice will appear in various shades of yellow. Add the yellow rice into the pot containing lamb alternating with white rice.
  9. Disperse the remainder of onions (with the butter), coriander and lentils on the surface of the rice.

Steaming and serving

  1. Place a piece of foil over the brim of the pot to form a tight seal.
  2. Place this pot with the layered biryani into a larger pot. Fill less than half of this bigger pot with water for the steaming process.
  3. Place a lid onto the pot and steam for 1 hour on a medium heat setting.
  4. The level of water should be checked at 20 minute intervals to prevent burning. Water can be added if required.
  5. After 1 hour, allow the biryani to rest for at least another 20 minutes off the heat.
  6. Serve the lamb biryani  hot with a side dish like of dhall (see recipe in soup category) and salad.