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Dindigul Lamb Biryani

Recipe by: Asha Loupy

Serves: 6

Dindigul Lamb Biryani
Photo by:  

Melati Citrawireja

This Dindigul mutton biryani, a beloved dish from the state of Tamil Nadu, is inspired by the version made on the Anamalai Estate. Made with jeera samba — a type of Indian short grain rice — this regional biryani is rich, intensely fragrant, and herbaceous. Instead of mutton, we're using lamb shoulder, which gets slowly cooked with our house biryani masala, plus a little extra nutmeg, coconut milk, and lots of very finely chopped cilantro and mint. The rice is par cooked with a touch of lemon juice and salt, then layered on top of the braised lamb, and baked in the oven until the grains soak up some of the gravy and luscious fat from the lamb. Serve with lots of plain, full-fat yogurt on the side.

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  • 3 tablespoons store-bought or homemade ghee
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 to 3 serrano chiles, split lengthwise with the top still intact
  • 4 tablespoons (30g) Biryani Masala
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated Anamalai Nutmeg
  • 2½ pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt or 1½ teaspoons Surya Salt
  • One 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 roma or plum tomato, finely chopped or puréed
  • 1 whole head garlic, top quarter trimmed off to expose cloves
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems, very finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bunch mint, very finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 cups jeera samba rice (Indian short grain)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Plain, full-fat yogurt, for serving


  1. Heat ghee in a karipot or 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the serrano chiles and continue to cook until the onions are translucent and start to turn golden around the edges, about another 6 to 9 minutes. Add the biryani masala and nutmeg, cook, stirring frequently, until the spices are fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds.
  2. Add the lamb and 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon surya salt, toss to coat in the spices, and cook, stirring frequently, until the outside starts to turn opaque, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, tomatoes, and ½ cup water, and bring to a simmer. Nestle the head of garlic in the pot, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the lamb is tender and easily pulls apart with a fork, about 2 to 2½ hours. Off the heat, stir in half of the cilantro and mint, cover, and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  4. To prepare the rice, place the jeera samba rice in a medium bowl, fill with cold water, swish the rice with your fingers, and drain. Repeat the process until the water almost runs clear, about 3 to 4 times. Transfer the rinsed rice to a medium saucepan and add the lemon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt or ½ teaspoon surya salt and 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Off the heat stir in the remaining half of the chopped cilantro and mint.
  5. To assemble the biryani, place the lamb over medium heat, bring back to a simmer, and then turn off the heat. Lightly spoon the par cooked rice over the lamb masala (you don’t want to pack it down because you want to give the rice room to finish cooking and absorb some of the liquid from the masala). Cover and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve directly out of the pot or transfer to a serving platter. Enjoy with plain, full-fat yogurt on the side.

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