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Extra Special Beef Biryani

Tender chunks of gently spiced beef in a fluffy saffron rice with almonds, sultanas and fresh coriander.

Serves 6-8 generously (10 if part of a buffet.)

100ml full fat milk

1 heaped teaspoon saffron strands

1kg well-marbled braising steak

4 medium-large onions, peeled

4 large garlic cloves, peeled

25g chunk fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

2 plump fresh red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

5 cloves

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

¼ cinnamon stick

12 cardamom pods

2 ½ tsp flaked sea salt, plus extra to season

½ a whole nutmeg, finely grated

135ml sunflower oil

200ml full fat natural bio yogurt

450ml water

2 bay leaves

2 tsp caster sugar

40g flaked almonds

50g sultanas

325g basmati rice

4 heaped tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander

50g butter

3 large free-range eggs

freshly ground black pepper

fresh coriander, to garnish


Pour the milk into a small saucepan, add the saffron threads and heat gently for 2 minutes without boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside for 2-3 hours or overnight.

Trim the beef of any hard fat and cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat 2 tbsp oil in the frying pan, season the beef with salt and ground black pepper and fry in 2-3 batches over a medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Tip into a large, heavy-based saucepan as soon as each batch is browned. Add more oil as required.

While the beef is frying, roughly chop 2 of the onions and put in a food processor with the garlic, ginger and chillies. Add 50ml cold water and blend to a paste as fine as you can make it. You may need to remove the lid and push the mixture down a couple of times until the right consistency is reached.

Put the cloves, cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar or an electric spice grinder with the cinnamon, seeds from the cardamom pods and 1 ½ tsp salt. Pound or grind until as powdery as possible. Grate the nutmeg into the mixture and tip into the onion paste. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Blitz quickly until all the ingredients are combined.

Pour a further 3 tbsp of oil into the same frying pan that was used to cook the beef and fry the spiced onion paste over a medium heat for around 10 minutes until lightly browned, stirring often. Tip into the pan with the beef. Stir in the yogurt, water and bay leaves. Place the pan over a low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer gently for 1½ hours or until the beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

When the beef is tender, remove the lid from the pan and stir in the sugar. Increase the heat and simmer the sauce until reduced and thick, stirring often. It should coat the pieces of meat well. This will probably take around 10 minutes.  Add a little more salt and pepper to taste.

While the beef is reducing, put the almonds in a non-stick frying pan and cook over medium heat for 4-6 minutes until lightly toasted. Turn often so they do not burn. Stir the sultanas into the almonds and immediately tip into a heatproof bowl; leave to cool.

Cut the remaining two onions in half and slice thinly. Pour 2 tbsp of oil into the pan in which the almonds were toasted and fry the onions for 6-8 minutes over a fairly high heat until softened and deep golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside.


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/gas mark 4. Half fill a large pan with water, add 1 tsp of salt and bring to the boil. Put the rice in a sieve and rinse under plenty of cold water. Stir the rice into the hot water and return to the boil. Cook for just 5 minutes, no more, then drain well. Toss with the chopped coriander.

Transfer half the meat and sauce into a large, fairly deep ovenproof dish – a large lasange dish is perfect, but a roasting tin will do. Spoon over half of the part-cooked rice and drizzle with half the soaked saffron threads and milk. Top with half the fried onions. Repeat the layers once more. Dot with the butter. Cover the dish with two layers of tightly fitting foil and bake for 30 minutes. The steam generated from the meat curry will continue to cook the rice.

While the beef and rice is in the oven, hard-boil the eggs for 9 minutes until firm and drain in a sieve under running water until cool enough to handle. Peel the eggs and cut into quarters.

Remove the dish from the oven and discard the foil. Use a fork to lightly fluff the rice. Garnish with the freshly boiled eggs, scatter with toasted almonds and sultanas. Add a few fresh coriander leaves and serve.



This is a great dish to serve for a crowd. You can prepare the saffron milk and cook the beef well ahead of time. Spread the beef in the dish it is going to be baked in, cover and chill for up to 24 hours. (The saffron milk can also be left to soak in the fridge.) Roughly one and a half hours before serving, bring the beef to room temperature, half cook the rice and scatter over the meat. Bake as above for 45-50 minutes until the beef is piping hot and the rice is tender.

This makes a mildly spiced dish. If you like a bit more heat, don’t worry about deseeding both the chillies.

Make with lamb shoulder meat instead of beef if you prefer and reduce the initial cooking time to 45-60 minutes.


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