Getting Spicy in the Kitchen: Lamb Breyani
During the last week of my stay in South Africa, I had the pleasure of learning how to prepare a few traditional Indian meals, including Lamb Breyani and Chicken Curry. Well, let's just say that the Lamb Breyani rocked my socks off- enough that I had to share with you.
South Africa has the biggest population of Indians outside of India and Durban especially is rich with traditional Indian culture. In comparison, the US is heavily influenced by Mexican culture with similar holidays and cuisine, the same goes for South Africa and India.
Before this week, I didn't even know what a Breyani was but let me tell you, it's worth knowing about especially if you are in the mood for something with a kick! Fortunately, I was able to see the full process on the traditional way of making this awesome dish. In the Indian culture, between September 17th through October 17th, they participate in the Parthasi fast. During this fast, participants will not eat any type of meat, eggs or alcohol. Strictly just vegetables- so needless to say, this meal had significance.
Firstly, we went to a traditional market where the best ingredients are found. The quality of the spices and ingredients do matter when it comes to making any dish but especially with a Breyani. Indian food revolves around the spices that are used, without specific ones you may find your Breyani doesn't taste the way it should. Once you have all of the correct ingredients it's time to get in the kitchen and start cookin!
prep time: 30 mins/ cook time: 1.5 hrs
**I haven't added amounts because it depends on how much you want to make, we made enough to feed 15 people. Also the traditional way is not to measure but to decide for yourself.
curry leaves masala
breyani mix* onions
gara masala cinnamon sticks
lentils pea dhall
sunflower oil sour milk*
rice green chilies
carrots mustard seeds
butter egg powder
Most of the spices you don't recognize, you can find at a traditional Indian supermarket or in the International aisle of your local grocery store. For the sour milk, if you can't find it or do not prefer, greek yogurt will be a good substitute. Breyani mix isn't just one spice but made up of several ground spices (below) to achieve a certain flavor.
Directions on the Perfect Breyani
1. Start with your pea dhall. First pick out any bad seeds you may find, then soak in water for about 30 minutes. Once soaked, boil the dhall until it has turned to liquid.
2. Prepare your lamb leg by cutting it into large chucks. There is several variations of a breyani, you can have just a vegetable breyani or any other meat. For this one we chose lamb, but I know it isn't as common in the states.
3. Once your lamb is cut into medium sized pieces, put into a large mixing bowl. Pour a healthy amount of sunflower oil on your lamb pieces and half an onion, slice thinly, not chopped.
4. We added 5 chillies but I would say no more than 3. This is where the spice comes in. Cut off both ends and slice in half, longways. Throw into pot.
5. Grind ginger, garlic, and turmeric until it turns into a paste. Add about 3 tablespoons to the mix.
6. The following is the measurements we used, but remember we were feeding a lot of people. Add 4 tablespoons of gara masala, 4 tablespoons of the breyani mix (which you can find pre-made), 1 tablespoon of turmeric, and 7 tablespoons of masala.
7. Time for some herbs! Add chopped mint leaves, cilantro, 3 stems of curry leaves, unlimited amount of thyme- make sure to take stems off before placing it the pot.
8. Grate 5 roma tomatoes but do not throw the skins in the pot. This gives the food a nice gravy with the onions.
9. Next add about 1/2 litre of sour milk (or a healthy amount of yogurt) to the same pot.
10. Add salt, your preference.
Time to roll up your sleeves and get dirty! Mix this pot with your hands until the spices are mixed well.
After you add the spices and herbs, the 1st picture is what your pot should look like. The 2nd picture represents the traditional way of measuring salt- with your four fingers, excluding your thumb, scrunched up. The 3rd picture is mixing it up, make sure you get all of the ingredients well mixed.
11. Boil your rice and lentils in separate pots. Rinse rice first. We boiled 4 cups of rice and 2 cups of lentils. So for any amount of rice, half of that amount will be the amount you use for lentils. Add turmeric to rice while boiling until it is yellow. Do not overcook lentils, make sure they are not soft.
12. Peel potatoes and cut into medium sized pieces, we did 7. Boil potatoes in separate pot. Add salt while boiling and drain to let them cool.
13. While that is boiling, cover another cooking pot in a healthy amount of oil. The oil should cover the entire bottom of pot. Add a few cinnamon sticks and bay leaves to the pot and fry for a few minutes. Once nicely fried, add mixture of lamb and spices that you see above. Important: Do NOT wash the bowl that you mixed ingredients in!!
14. Mix all of the ingredients together by turning up with a spoon. Cook on high heat for about an hour and stir occasionally. ***Warning: this will smell AMAZING***
15. Get the bowl that had all of ingredients in and pour a little water into it. Mix with a spoon. After 10 minutes of cooking, pour this mixture of leftover spices into the boiling pot of lamb. This is just a technique to not waste anything that was leftover and to add liquid to the boiling pot. While cooking, keep adding hot water if getting dry.
16. As you have the four pots boiling, you will make a salad to put on top of the Breyani once cooked. The salad consists of grated carrots, diced onion, diced green pepper, diced cucumber, and 2 diced chillies. Right before serving you'll also add salt, pepper, and vinegar.
17. Once dhall is a liquid paste, take off heat and blend smooth. Once blended, get another clean pot (I know you'll be washing dishes for days after this) and cover bottom with oil. Add 1 onion, thinly sliced to pot. Add 3 halved chillies. Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds. Add quartered garlic cloves to mixture.
18. Cook this for about 5 minutes until flavors are blended then add a dash of turmeric. 1 diced tomato. Add 2 tablespoons of your ginger and garlic mixture. Add a little of hot water. Mash tomatoes with a spoon then pour dhall in. Add salt and butter slices. The liquid should not be thick but look something like this:
19. Once rice, lentils, and potatoes are done, take off heat. Let potatoes cool. Add half of the lentils to the same pot the lamb is cooking in and stir.
20. Once potatoes are cooled add egg powder dye and fry potatoes in oil until soft.
21. Add cilantro to the dhall and take off heat.
22. Thinly sliced an entire onion and fry in oil until golden brown.
23. Take the lamb mixture off heat. Get another large oven safe bowl. We are going to layer the rice and lamb to create the final product! So first layer half of the rice at the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle half of the remaining lentils then all of the lamb mixture. Add the fried potatoes as the third layer and use your hands to push potatoes into the bowl. Then add the rest of your rice and lentils to the bowl. Top with slices of butter, cilantro, and cooked onions. Let this cook in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes.
24. After 15 minutes take off of the oven and enjoy!
I know this is a long process and the recipe has so many components but there is nothing like a traditional Lamb Breyani.
Once it comes out of the oven, dig in! Add Breyani to your plate, pour dhall over, and top with the salad.
Anyone reading and decides to try this amazing traditional Indian meal, please message me and tell me what you think!
Happy cooking (and even happier eating)!