Mughal Flavours: Mutton Biryani

January 10, 2008
10 days into the month and finally a post! I know I’m very late, but wish you all a wonderful New Year ahead! :)

A few days ago, I made mutton biryani. I followed the recipe that I’d learnt from a chef at the Dumphukth Restaurant at the ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton. I made certain additions to it, like adding more spices (always a good thing). Also, the biryani can be made of mutton, beef or chicken. Pick your favourite. It takes a while to prepare it all at one go, so what I usually do is keep the birasta ready, or better still marinate it the night before (this is what I do when I have to rush to office the next day).

Here is my version of the recipe:

Mutton Biryani

1 kg Boneless mutton
5 medium potatoes cut into 4 and deep fried till partially cooked.
3 tomatoes, diced

1½ cups yoghurt
1 cup birasta (browned onions – read ahead for the method of browning)
¼ cup oil
2 tsps Garam Masala powder
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 black cardamoms
3 star anise
1 tbsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
2-4 bay leaves
1 cup coriander/parlsey leaves (chopped)
1 cup mint leaves (chopped)
10 slit green chillies (or to taste)
3 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
Salt to taste

For the Rice:
1 kg Basmati rice
1/4th tsp saffron, dry roasted for a few seconds and then dissolved in a little milk
Few drops of rose water
Few drops of kewra water (screwpine essence) – they add to the fragrance of the Basmati rice, but it’s okay if you don’t have it.
Salt to taste
½ cup ghee (clarified butter)
A few table spoons of the mint and parsley mixture as well as some browned onions.

Browning onions:
Using a mandolin slice about 6 medium onions (these will reduce after frying). Salt it and let it stand for a few minutes. Squeeze out the excess water. Deep fry until the colour is that of almonds. Be very careful, you might be tempted to fry it for a few seconds more, but don’t! They will continue to cook and become dark, even after they’re out of the fryer. This is called a birasta. This tastes wonderful when made properly. A little extra time, and you’ve got yourself burnt onions and a little less time will give you a lumpy mass instead of separate strands. I tend to much on them while I’m cooking so I always make a little extra. :-P

Cooking the biryani:
  1. Prepare a marinade with all the ingredients and marinate the mutton for at least 1 hour.
  2. Wash and soak rice for 30 minutes.
  3. Boil water and add rice to it. Add salt, rose water and screwpine essence.
  4. Place marinated mutton in a thick bottomed pan, add the tomatoes and potatoes and cook for about 15-20 minutes (if you’re using chicken, you don’t need to cook it at this stage).
  5. Cook rice till it is 70% done. Strain and while it’s still steaming, spoon layers of rice over the mutton and sprinkle with mint, coriander and browned onions and saffron milk between the layers.
  6. Pour the melted ghee over it evenly.
  7. Cover this with a lid and place some heavy weight on it so that no steam can escape.
  8. Let it cook for about an hour.
  9. Garnish with fresh coriander, mint, fried cashews and birasta.


2 cups yoghurt
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 medium tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
A handful of chopped coriander

Mix all the above ingredients together and keep it refrigerated.
Serve steaming hot biryani with the cold raita.

22nd Feb, ’08 edit: I added black cardamom and star anise this time to the recipe, and it made it so much more fragrant!


  • Reply Zen Chef January 12, 2008 at 12:22 PM

    This looks like a really good recipe! I was drooling just reading the ingredients. Yum!
    I might give it a try one of these days. Good job!

  • Reply Sarah and Tiggy January 12, 2008 at 11:38 PM

    Here is a link to a recipe for roasted chicken I posted a while ago. http://chefsarahjane.blogspot.com/2006/08/roasted-chicken.html

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply Shaheen January 14, 2008 at 1:35 PM

    Zen Chef: Oh you must! It’s one of my favourites :D

  • Reply Anonymous February 13, 2008 at 8:45 PM

    How does one know when the rice is 70% done or otherwise, please? I seem to invariably end up with rice that is too soft or raw.

  • Reply Shaheen February 13, 2008 at 9:07 PM


    Yes, making the rice cook till the right time is a bit tricky. I too on one occasion have ended up with mushy rice.

    After that, I have focussed on the timer, about 7-10 minutes after the water has come to a rolling boil, depending on the kind of grain you have. But more than a timer, trust yourself. It should be firm to the bite because the rice will continue to cook in the steam even after being drained out.

    Also, immediately after draining the rice, start spreading over the marinated chicken mixture. This way the rice will still be steamy and cook through with the chicken.

  • Reply Madhuri October 5, 2009 at 10:47 AM

    Thank u soooo much for this wonderful recipe… I am not a very regular cook but this recipe got me making it… and everyone just loved it..!!


  • Reply The Purple Foodie October 6, 2009 at 12:05 AM

    Hey Madhuri, it's great to know that you loved this recipe! Now I'm tempted to cook. :)

  • Reply Saleem October 22, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Hi Shaheen,

    I stumbled upon your blog whilst researching for briyani recipes. I must say that your recipe looks pretty interesting. Could I ask which type of briyani does this belong to – awadhi perhaps? Any information revealed would be greatly aprreciated.


    • Reply The Purple Foodie October 26, 2010 at 10:37 AM

      Hi Saleem, I’m not sure which region it hails from because there wasn’t anything mentioned on the recipe sheet I got from the hotel that demonstrated this. It simply said “Murgh Biryani”.

  • Reply archana April 21, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    We tried out the biryani with Chicken the other day. The rice turned out a bit mushy cause I couldnt make out 70% done :D But the taste was amazing. It was very delicious. My hubby and I devoured it. :)
    I have now written (yes written, not typed :D) it down in my recipe book.
    Thank you so much.

    I love your blog.


  • Reply chicken biryani recipe July 14, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    nice tasty recipe

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