2 cups Indian* basmati rice
2 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon powdered mace
2 ½ lbs boneless lamb, cubed
2 tablespoons oil or ghee**
6 cloves garlic
1-3 fresh chile peppers
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup PLUS 1 tablespoon water
1 large (green) mango, peeled pitted diced
½ cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon amchur (green mango powder)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
Garnish: slice 1 onion thinly and fry in 1 inch of oil until brown. Drain fried onions on paper towels and set aside.
Meat: In a blender or food processor, puree 1 onion, garlic, ginger and chili peppers with 1 Tablespoon of water. Heat oil or ghee in a large sauté pan. Add cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Cook for e few minutes until spices are fragrant. Add lamb and brown cubes on all sides (about 10 minutes). Remove lamb with a slotted spoon into a bowl and set aside.
Add the onion puree and fry for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes golden. Add the tomatoes, mangos, garam masala, turmeric, mango powder, chili powder, salt and pepper. Fry for 5 minutes until spices are fragrant. Add browned lamb with any collected juices. Add yogurt 2 tablespoons at a time while stirring to combine. Once all yogurt has been added, add water and kaffir lime leaves, then partially cover pan and simmer for 1 ½ hours until lamb is fork tender. The curry should be fairly thick by now. If it is very watery, cook uncovered for 5 or 10 minutes.
Rice: Wash rice in 3-4 changes of water and then cover with water and let soak for 1 hour while meat is cooking. Drain rice and then add it to a large sauce pan with 2 quarts of water, mace, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and cook for 8 minutes until it is softened but not quite done. The rice kernels should be soft enough to crush between your fingers. Drain the rice and rinse with cold water to prevent it from getting sticky. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Assembling and cooking: Grease a large, wide, oven-safe pan with a lid. Spread 1/3 of the rice at the bottom, spread ½ of the lamb curry on the rice, layer with 1/3 of the rice and then the rest of the lamb. Cover with a layer of the rice with the fried onions on top. Cover and cook in oven for 30 minutes.
*Indian basmati rice is highly recommended for this dish. It can be found at any Indian grocery. Other kinds of basmati rice may become too soft or sticky.
**Ghee is just clarified butter. You can buy it in an Indian store or make it yourself. Heat a stick of butter in a pan on low heat until it begins to froth and the solids separate. Strain it into a jar through cheese cloth or a fine strainer. Keep refrigerated.
I am lucky to have a husband who likes food and to cook as much as I do. When I hear stories of husbands who don’t cook, won’t eat vegetables or don’t care about food, I am horrified. I have the sort of husband who text messages me at work that he is making byriani- “an elegant rice dish that you can post about” and by the time I get home, he’s had already gone to the Indian grocery to pick up the right kind of rice, kaffir lime leaves and amchur and started cooking. He also took the time to write up the recipe for me so I could share it with you. Husband cooking abilities aside, this really is a wonderful dish. It is lengthy recipe but not difficult one-it would be the perfect thing to make for company-that is very rewarding.