Lamb Pulao

Friendly warning…

This is not a recipe for the time poor…or those who like one-pot dishes…or folk who enjoy a jar of sauce as the backbone of their curries…or someone who is really hungry right now. No, not for them. Fair warning has been issued.

Lamb Pulao is a slow, luxurious layering of phenomenal flavours, built over a whole day, maybe even a number of days. Multi-staged, multiple pots & pans and many, many ingredients. A cooking experience to be cherished and best cooked for times of togetherness.

Don’t back away if you don’t have time today though. Bookmark the recipe and save it for a rainy day, for there is bound to be one soon. This sumptuous, aromatic dish deserves time and attention. It can wait until you’re ready.

First things first…the rice.

This may be a recipe that contains chilli but it is the quality and preparation of the rice that will make or break the dish. Basmati is the grain of choice here. It has super perfumed, long grains with snow white qualities. The Perfect Prince of Persia.

The rice should be treated with the care and consideration it deserves. Give it a thorough washing by gently whooshing it around in a large bowl. Replace the water a good few times. Try not to bash the grains too much. The aim is too remove the dusty starch from the outside of the grains but not break the grains and release more starch. After the initial rinsing, soak the rice overnight in plenty of cold water. The next day change the water a couple more times. The rice is more fragile after an overnight soak so again, try not to break it. Aim for clear water. Leave it sitting in a bowl of water until ready to cook the pulao.

Time for the stock. Apart from the lamb, there is a vast store cupboard list of ingredients. Perhaps grab a cuppa before reading on:

  • 1 kilo of lamb bones, preferably with some meat left on them. Or pieces of lamb specifically for making pulao. Neck, cutlets and the like. The goal is to have the flavour from the bones but with pieces of meat within the finished rice. Ask your butcher, make him your friend and you will most certainly receive all sorts of goodies.
  • 3 brown onions
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 inches of ginger
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 cinnamon stick/cassia bark
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder/flakes
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 black cardamon
  • 3 Allspice berries
  • small handful of cumin seeds
  • 10 green cardamon
  • handful of coriander seeds
  • salt to taste
  • 3 whole green finger chillies
  • 1 large tomato
  • fresh turmeric, only about a 1cm length.
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil

Here we go, the method…

  1. Find your biggest pan and open the windows. Roll up your sleeves and get this show on the road.
  2. Heat the oil in the pan. Brown the lamb. Smokey!
  3. Once all the bones are sealed it’s time for the veggies, just halve them and add to the pot. You could deseed the chillies if you want. Your choice. Give everything a quick hot fry.
  4. Chuck in the spices. There may be a lot but no need for special treatment, in they go like George’s Marvellous Medicine.
  5. Then pour in the water. Stand back unless you want a spicy (and meaty) facial.
  6. Bring the pan up to boil and then simmer for a good long while. Probably a couple of hours. The meaty bits of the lamb should be tender.
  7. At this stage you should test the stock for salt. It should be a little over salty as it will be used with bland rice.
  8. Strain the stock. The veggies and spices have done their work but when things have cooled down pick the meat from the lamb bones and keep it in a separate bowl.
  9. The stock can be stored for a couple of days in the fridge or divided into meal sized quantities and frozen. Cook a great big vat of the stuff and your midweek meals will be transformed.

Your work for today is done.

And now, the pulao ingredients,

Don’t be scared but here comes another hefty shopping basket of ingredients. This makes enough rice for 6 hungry adults, maybe with a little leftover for the next day.

  • 3 cups of pre-soaked, washed basmati rice
  • 6 cups lamb pulao stock (double the number of cups of rice you will be using)
  • 3 brown onions, sliced
  • ghee
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • pinch of saffron
  • small handful coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • lamb pieces from the stock
  • 3 black cardamon
  • 5 green cardamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Fry the onions in the ghee until as dark as you would like. A little caramelisation is no bad thing. This adds a good depth of flavour and that strangely desirable dirty look to the rice.
  2. Pop the whole spices into the pan and allow them to release their aroma. Careful not to burn anything at this stage.
  3. And now the lamb pieces. Remember them? Ooooh, they’re going to be soooo good in the finished dish. Gently though, don’t break them up.
  4. Add the rice, fry until slightly translucent. Keep it moving to allow all grains to be coated in the ghee and spice mix.
  5. Stock next. Double the quantity of rice. So, 1 cup of rice = 2 cups of water. Just remember to use the same cup to measure.
  6. Bring to the boil. Put on a tight lid. You can add a layer of tinfoil before the lid if need be. The pulao can be cooked in the oven or simmered on the lowest heat on the hob. There is less chance of the bottom layer of rice sticking if you bake it in the oven.
  7. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for a further ten minutes. The grains should be light and fluffy and separate.
  8. Serve with your favourite dahl and maybe something yoghurty. A salad on the side would be perfect. Perhaps some fermented chilli sauce or fermented lime pickle. Ooooh, dinner is served.

Authentic, wholesome, comforting, aromatic and overwhelmingly delicious. Not much else to say except, you’re welcome.

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