This makes an impressive dinner-party dish. Lift the lid at the table to reveal the fluffy rice, saffron and fragrant spices. Feel free to use cubes of boneless chicken thigh, instead of lamb or mutton; it works just as well.
1kg boneless lamb or mutton leg or shoulder, cut into rough 3cm cubes
30g fresh ginger, scraped and finely grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2tbsp garam masala
1¿2 tsp chilli powder
1¿2 tsp ground turmeric
4 small green, medium hot chillies, finely chopped
A good pinch of curry leaves
1tsp ground cumin
6 green cardamom pods
2tbsp chopped coriander leaves
2tbsp chopped mint leaves
500g basmati rice
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
200g ghee or butter
250ml thick natural yoghurt
A good pinch of saffron strands, soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot milk
for the sealing dough
200g wholewheat flour
Mix the lamb in a stainless (or non-reactive) bowl with the ginger, garlic, garam masala, chilli powder, turmeric, chillies, curry leaves, cumin, cardamom, coriander and mint. Cover and marinade in the fridge overnight.
Wash the rice a couple of times in cold water, until the water is clear, and drain in a sieve.
Heat the ghee in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Add the onions and fry for about 10 minutes on a medium to high heat, stirring every so often, until they are golden brown. Drain in a sieve over a bowl to reserve the ghee.
Remove the lamb from the marinade and reserve the marinade, then reheat the ghee, reserving a couple of tablespoons for later and fry the lamb, a few pieces at a time, lightly browning them. Transfer the lamb into an oven- proof dish with a lid, like a traditional "degchi" or a Le Creuset dish. Add the yoghurt, browned onions and any marinade that's left and cook on a low heat for 40-50 minutes until the lamb is tender, then remove from the heat.
In another pan, bring enough salted water to the boil to cover the rice. Add the rice, stir well and bring back the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, drain well and spread the rice over the meat. Spoon over the reserved ghee, and saffron-infused milk.
Pre-heat the oven to 220ºC/430ºF/gas mark 7.
Make the sealing dough by mixing the flour and salt with enough water to form smooth, elastic dough. Roll the dough with your hands into a sausage shape long enough to fit around the cooking pot. Press the dough around the edges of the pot and put the lid on pressing it lightly onto the dough. Put the pot over a high heat for a couple of minutes to bring the contents to the boil and transfer to the oven for 40 minutes.
When you serve, break the dough seal and use the lid as chapatis for scooping up the biryani. Reuse content