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Pakistani Lamb Pulao

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This extraordinary dish is served on special occasions in Pakistan and Northern India. See how it's made from fresh spices and then cooked in the oven.

This extraordinary dish is nothing like the kind of Indian risotto you can sometimes eat in restaurants in the West. It needs long and careful cooking but if you follow the instructions on this page it's bound to be a success.

 

Lamb Pulao
800 gr lamb, ie shoulder
2 cups basmati rice
6 cups thinly slices onions
400gr peeled tomatoes
100gr sultanas
4 garlic cloves
1 piece ginger root
6 green cardamom pods or 3 black
20 black peppercorns
1 bay leave
1 stick cinnamon
sea salt
a pinch of mace
a pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
ground turmeric
5 cloves
2-4 dried chilies
2 cups water

 


The spices we'll use, clockwise from spoonful of ground turmeric: black peppercorns, whole coriander, whole cumin seeds, green cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, serrano chilis and in the middle from the bottom up sea salt, nutmeg and cinammon.

Spices cost nothing these days and although you can't store them forever like my mom does, 'vintage' cardamom will still have way more flavor than no cardamom at all. And please never buy ground spices - they taste like sawdust after two weeks and you'll miss all the fun.

 


You need the very best basmati rice for this dish. Don't hesitate to visit an indian grocery or order it online for best result. On the picture you see my bag of premium basmati. Pour two cups into a sieve.

The first step is very important - you need to to wash the rice a couple times, then leave it in a bowl filled with water for 1 to 2 hours. If you omit this the rice will not be fully cooked.

 

 

Dry the meat with a paper towel and cut all the white fat patches you can. Cut the meat in cubes the size of your thumb's width.

 

Season them with salt and pepper. Wrap in plastic foil and let the meat rest while you finish the preparation.

 

Take ginger, onions and garlic out of the fridge.

 

Peel them, then chop the onions as thinly as possible. Crush the garlic and grate the ginger until you have an equal amount of both.

 

Using a recent addition to FXcuisine, I reduce peppercorns, cumin, coriander, mace, nutmeg and the deseeded and stemmed chilies into a much finer powder than what I could have with my mortar.

 

Heat some ghee or oil in a dutch oven.

 

Add the large fragrant spices: cardamom, cinammon, cloves and the bay leave. Fry over high heat until the turn brownish. You don't want to burn them but the bay leave should change color. This process increases the flavor much like it does when you heat raw sesame seeds.

Add ginger-garlic purée and fry some more, about 3 minutes or until purée is colored.

 

Add onions and cook over medium heat until onions are soft, about 10 minutes.

 

 

Add ground spices, mix, and cook for a further 2 minutes.


Add the lamb and cook until colored on every side, mixing all the time.

 

Add tomatoes, salt and turmeric ...

 

... and then the 2 cups water. Bring to a strong boil.

 

Drain the soaked rice and pour it in.

 

Mix well. Heat the oven to 165C°/325°F.

 

Wrap a ribbon of tin foil folded 4 times over itself all around the dutch oven's top to make as tight a seal as you can. Cover and cook in the oven for 40 minutes. Don't peek! If you really have to, you can cook this on very low heat on your stove.

 

Here is the dish after 40 minutes, gloriously fragrant, the rice transformed in an intriguing pile of small white sticks.

Serve with a cucumber raita as a main course. Put some melted butter or ghee on top and pan-fried almonds and chopped coriander leaves.

This recipe comes from Mangoes & Curry Leaves, the best Indian cuisine cookbook I've seen in English, winner of the Beard Cookbook award. Warmly recommended if you like Indian food!


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30 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Cindy Bradley
How much water are you using?
  • #2
  • Comment by saima
I used 3 cups of water for 2 cups of rice. It turned out great!..just needed a bit more salt. Maybe I'll use 2-3 tea spoons next time (only had the ground).
  • #3
  • Answered by fx
Cindy, I apologize for this oversight. It is 2 CUPS of water, I just updated the recipe.
  • #4
  • Comment by parshu narayanan
Pakistanese??? Reminds me of that old Indo-Anglian joke - Never call a Goan a Goanese - he'll ask you to go and ease yourself.
  • #5
  • Comment by iera
Hye... your briyani looks so delicious... I thought of trying it this weekend... but is it 800kg or 800gram for the meat?...800kg is a bit too much rite. =)and can you tell me what is curcuma?... is it turmeric powder? And if i am using the normal stove, should I put it in high, medium or low flame when the dutch oven is left for 40 minutes? Thanks!
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Iera, thank you for your comment. I have corrected the typos. Indeed it is 800 grams/ 1.5 lbs lamb and not 800 kg. Curcuma is French for Turmeric as you rightly point out. I changed this too. You can cook this on a stovepot on very low heat. In the subcontinent they would bury it in ashes but this is disappearing.
  • #7
  • Comment by iera
Thanks a lot for your info... I'll try it and let you know late!
  • #8
  • Comment by Penny Lane
Very authentic and beautifully presented, but as parshu pointed out, there's no such thing as "Pakistanese" - it's "Pakistani".
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
Thank you Penny Lane, I apologize for that gross mistake, the title is now 'Pakistani Lamb Pulao'. French is my mother tongue, I hope it doesn't show too much in my writing!
  • #10
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
I've said it before, my firangi (frankish) friend, your English and your writing style are excellent, esp. for someone's 2nd or 3rd language - it's my 3rd language too after Tamil and Hindi, I know. it's also a good rebuttal to the popular tourist belief that French speakers detest English.
  • #11
  • Comment by jeena
Hi there, I like your blog! Nice recipe it looks yummy I love basmati rice this dish is just what I would love to eat:)  Feel free to visit my blog too :)Click here for jeenas food recipe blog :-)
  • #12
  • Comment by Monica
Hi,  What I would like to know is that after cooking the "Biryani", does it appear to be sticky or are the rice grains seperated? Coz this is how I would like to be:) I know some people who like sticky pulao and biryani. Would using only 2 cups of water cook the lamb properly? Here it appears stunning....thanks for the recipe !
  • #13
  • Comment by Fiona
I know I have to write down something when I see the picture. It must be yummy~~Thank you, FX. Thanks for sharing so many cuisine over the world. I could get so many great recipes here even I can't speak French, Indian, or Italian. Now I know how to make Pakistani Lamb Pulao and it's all your contribution.I will try this and share with my friends and I am sure they will love it.Thanks a lot~~Fiona from China
  • #14
  • Comment by Mitch - Vancouver, WA
What a great dish... Had to substitute some on-hand pork tenderloin for the lamb.  Where/when do the sultanas go in? And are they the grape or raisins?  Also used about 1tsp of Turmeric (not sure how much the recipe actually called for).  Next time may throw in some root veggies before the oven for a little more hardiness.
Great site and great recipes. Just yesterday, for the first time I tried this PLP, and was a real success, thanks to you, it came just as in the picture, and with the same, I think, wonderful taste.I like, as italian, make fine italian traditional dishes, but it's a short time I am trying some "exotic", as I like a lot indian cooking, and your site is the one I like over all.Everyday I give a look here, and from now on I am gonna try other recipes of yours.one question about the pak.lamb: when you add the sultanas? I read it in the list, but they are lost in the way.I added after the tomato, but i am not sure about this action.Hope to read you soon, thanks again
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
Luciano, grazie per la tua visita! Ti rispondo in Inglese di modo che tutti possiano capire:
The sultanas need to be added with the liquid, ideally you should soak them in some water before starting so that they won't deprive the rice of its water. I think the Italians and the Silk Road countries make the very best rice dishes in the world, and you will find exploring those pulaos, byrianis and plovs very rewarding! Try to use whole spices that did not wait for you during 5 years on the shop's shelves and you'll be fine. Good luck!
  • #17
  • Comment by Neal
Together with your raita, this is the best dish I have found on the internet. The fragrance of the finished dish is indescribable. I garnished it with chopped panfried almonds and cilantro like you recommended. I can't emphasise enough how much this dish relies on fresh, whole spices; the intoxicating mixture of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, etc. is really what puts this dish over the top.

I used a whole lamb shoulder which I cut into chunks. I left the shoulderblade in with some meat still on it, and I'm glad I did. All the other bones (and now the blade as well) are reducing to stock on the stove. This dish will keep on giving, even after the leftovers are gone.
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Neal, if you like this type of rice you must absolutely try the Persian Jeweled Rice. Fragrant pulaos have been developed by Indian chefs after one of their rulers came back from exile in Persia in the 16th century, but the original Persian dishes are well worth checking out! Sweeter and less spicy, but in my opinion even more spectacular.
  • #19
  • Comment by Fat Uzbek
You put meat too earlier. It should fry, not sautee. And it can fry only when the onion lost almost all of it moisture.
In your case it didn't fry.
  • #20
  • Comment by Andrew
This is a great site with fantastic step by step photos which are a joy in themselves!

I am actually researching a good recipe for Kazakhstan Plov, which I was once served by a Kazakh friend. His recipe had a (half) leg of lamb embedded in a saffron-flavoured rice with apricots. There were other spices too, including a secret concoction that came in a jar from Georgia (I forget the name but I think it may contain tamarind). The lamb was carved from the bone after cooking and served over the bed of rice which had deliciously absorbed all the lamb juices. The lamb, on the other hand, had absorbed some of the spices at the surface but had retained its individuality. I think that the bone marrow had also added to the flavour.

In the course of this research I am becoming very interested in the various methods of preparing pilaf/pilau/pulao/plov/polov ... (whatever the name in various countries). The intricacies and hotly contested methods of preparation are fascinating!

I have, naturally, bookmarked your site!
  • #21
  • Answered by fx
Andrew, thanks for visiting! There are many of these rices dishes all over the Silk Road, but the most sophisticated, methinks, are the Persian ones. Check my Persian Jewelled Rice article to see an example, I think you will like it.
  • #22
  • Comment by Mrs Bilal
Oh my God ,i am really impressed by you , i wish to meet you, i am from pakistan and  a professional home economist.i was searching net for food stuff and me and my husband found this site only to get information from the whole world, i spend my half day in kitchen always experimenting new dishes and now this place is a haven for me, love it.
  • #23
  • Comment by mir
This is a very good recipe. Few things are done differently in Pakistan and it may be a matter of personal taste.
Instead of boneless Lamb it is made with bone-in or boneless goat meat which gives it more taste IMO.
Also, I would suggest this sequence

Add onions and cook over medium heat until onions are golden brown in color.
Add salt and turmeric  
Add the meat and cook on low/med heat until it releases oil. (This is important)
Add tomatoes and cook for 5 mins
Add ground spices, mix, and cook for a further 5 minutes.  
.......
.......

Your website is wonderful, keep up the great work!
  • #24
  • Answered by fx
Mir, thanks a lot for your visit and tips! The lamb with bone-in looks like a great idea.
  • #25
  • Comment by Marcus
Thanks for your amazing website. I tried this recipe with excellent results; I've also noticed a considerable improvement in the quality of my curries lately, thanks to the techniques demonstrated in your article.

Your site is a cut above any other food blog I've read - you're a great storyteller as well as a fantastic cook. Hope to keep reading here for a long time to come!
  • #26
  • Comment by Carole
Aggghhhhh-- I'm in heaven. For over 10 years I have been looking for a recipe that produced this combination of delicious, complex, aromatic flavors. Thank you, thank you, thank you- I LOVED this recipe- served it with the Raita and Dal. Can't wait to explore your site some more-- Carole
  • FX's answer→ Great! It is a fantastic dish indeed.

  • #28
  • Comment by zilqadh
wonderful:)  just a quick 'paranoid' question - i want to cook it with beef, and it takes me a good 30 mins to cook beef in a pressure cooker...will it be safe to 'just fry' the beef on the stove, before i put the entire dish in the oven to cook - will the beef be cooked through?  i dont want the meat to be raw when i serve...
i would really appreciate your timely reply please!
also, i am going to be using basmati rice - will the ratio of rice to water being 1:1.5 be ok?
thx again!
  • #29
  • Comment by gurriya
VERY VERY BEST AND NICE. GOD BLESS U
  • FX's answer→ Glad you liked it.




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