Mutton Biryani

Servings : Serves 4-5

A speciality of the Coast of Kenya, this biryani is one of my absolute favourite kind! The masala is cooked separately and the rice separately, then the two are served together.

Ingredients for Masala/Gravy

  • 1 kg mutton, goat or lamb, on the bone, cut into pieces
  • 500 gm onions, sliced then fried until golden
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp grated raw papaya (optional)
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1-2 chopped green chillies
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • pinch of cardamom powder
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 250 ml yoghurt
  • 2 pinches of saffron
  • 2-3 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste/puree
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, grated or blended
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • orange food colouring
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and halved, then fried until a knife can pierce through easily

Ingredients for Rice

  • 3 cups basmati rice, washed 2-3 times then soaked for half an hour
  • salt
  • saffron & food colouring
  • oil
  • whole spices



Clean the meat. Now in a bowl add meat, salt, ginger n garlic pastes, red chilli powder, chopped green chilli, half the fried onions, half the yoghurt, 2 tbsp. of the oil, cardamom powder, cumin powder, half of the tomato paste, raw papaya, turmeric powder, pinch of orange food colour, pinch of saffron and lemon juice. Mix it well then marinate overnight.

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker, then add the whole spices followed by the fresh tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are dry, then add half of the remaining fried onions (reserve a handful for later) and all of the remaining paste, yoghurt and saffron.

Cook together for a few minutes, then add the marinated mutton/lamb with its marinade. Let these simmer then add the hot water (it should completely cover the meat, so add more water if you find that the 2 cups aren’t enough) and cover the pressure cooker.

Cook for about 25 minutes on medium heat or until the meat is tender.

Once ready, add the fried potatoes, mix and simmer on very low heat for a few minutes for the potatoes to take on a good colour and for the masala to thicken and the oil to rise to the top. Sprinkle the remaining fried onions, then turn off the heat and set aside.

You can also cook this masala in a regular pan, it will take slightly longer but the result will also be great.


Wash then soak 3 cups of rice in water for about 20-30 mins. Soak a few saffron strands in some water and set aside. Bring a big pot of water to boil, add salt, 4 cardamom pods, 2-3 cinnamon sticks and 2-3 cloves plus about 2 tbsp. of oil.

Drain the soaked rice and add it to this water when it is boiling. Cook until the rice is about 3/4 done, remove and strain out all the water.

Put half the rice back into the pan, drizzle about 2-3 tbsp. of oil and the saffron water. Then add the remainder of the rice.

Add a bit of orange colour on one side and mix it up a bit with a spoon then cover the pot tightly. Steam this on low heat for 15 minutes or put in a 180 C preheated oven for about the same time. Serve the rice with the Biryani Masala on top.

Alternatively, you can layer the two in the pot by placing the cooked masala at the bottom of the pan and the rice on top, then steam as directed, for about 15 minutes on low heat. This tends to infuse the lovely biryani flavour into the rice as it steams.

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