Justine says: “Biryani is such a nostalgic dish for me: growing up in Kwa-Zulu Natal, we were immersed in a lot of Indian cookery. I always remember my father, and my uncle Hugh too, sometimes coming home with two litre ice-cream tubs of delicious biryani kindly given to them by women who worked with them. Post-farming, my father worked for a while as an estate agent in offices in Pietermaritzburg, and my uncle was a pathologist who ran his own labs in Kwa-Zulu Natal. They both used to come home bearing these treasures: the flavours hidden in these recycled ice-cream tubs seemed so exotic, the smells overwhelming: and the mix of rice and lentils alluring, and addictive. I still mix lentils and rice, and the flavour and combination is a comforting one for me. This is an easy biryani to make, and I use beef mince: but of course lamb, lamb mince or chicken would be brilliant too. Use this idea as a base, and experiment with flavours from here.”
For the lentils
I cup Lentils (I use Puy lentils- as close to the memory I can get)
1 ½ cups water
3 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
For the rice
1 cup rice
3 cups water
1 tsp turmeric
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tsp Marigold bouillon
For the beef mince
400g beef mince
2 cloves garlic, peeled and microplaned
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ghee (or butter)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 fresh green chilli, deseeded and chopped
½ tsp of each of these
ground ginger, allspice, dried chilli, ground coriander and garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Maldon salt
1 cube Kallo beef stock, or similar
Good grinding black pepper
Pinch white pepper
Zest and juice of a lemon
Large handful of coriander, finely chopped
Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
4 basil leaves, chopped
For the crispy onions
1 large white onion, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, microplaned
1 tsp Maldon salt
½ cup flaked almonds, toasted
Pop the ingredients for the lentils into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until al the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside. Get the rice on the boil too: pop all of the ingredients into a saucepan, give it a stir, bring the rice up to a boil and boil for 30 seconds. Pop a lid on the saucepan, remove from the heat and place in a warm spot until all of the water has been absorbed. This, I find, is my favourite way of cooking rice: I get on with whatever else I am cooking, and let the rice steam, and by the time the rest is ready, the rice is too.
While the lentils are cooking and the rice is steaming, get on with the beef.
If you have bought your mince from the supermarket, as I did with this recipe, remove it from the packaging and massage and squeeze the mince with your hands: I find it makes the appearance of the final dish, for me, more aesthetically pleasing. I don’t go for that shredded minced beef look: and I find that by squeezing the mince, it alleviates this little problem. Of course, if you buy your mince from your butcher, this won’t be a problem.
Heat the oil and ghee (or butter) in a frying pan until slightly foaming. Add the onion, chilli, garlic and spices. Saute for about 4 minutes, and then add the beef mince. Turn the heat up a little higher, and fry the beef for 10 minutes. Keep stirring, as you want that all important stick and browning to happen. After ten minutes, add the crumbled beef stock, cube salt and peppers, and fry for a further 15 minutes: you really want the beef to be a “dry” spiced beef, not a sauce at all.
While you are frying the beef mince, you can get on with the crispy onions too: n a separate small frying pan, heat the oil. Add the sliced onion, salt and garlic. Fry for about 10- 15 minutes- you may need longer: you want a good caramelisation to the onion. Set aside when done.
Now, once everything is ready and cooked, you are ready to mix your ingredients together. I use a very large mixing bowl to do this properly, and then I ladle it into serving bowls. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick from the rice, and add the rice to the bowl, along with the mince, lentils, lemon juice and zest and the chopped herbs. Mix well. Ladle into serving bowls, top with crispy onions and toasted flaked almonds. Absolutely heavenly: eat with a spoon, please.
Michael’s wine recommendation – CLICK HERE
I live on Salisbury Plain, England, in a very old, wonky thatched cottage that looks like it’s been iced with royal icing and topped with Shredded Wheat. I grew up in South Africa, but have lived in England for 18 years.
I run my design business, Hector and Haddock, from my studio at home where I design linocuts, screen prints, tea towels and greeting cards. A complete bibliophile and self confessed hoarder, all of my designs and work pay homage to vintage graphics and paper. I also use this extensive paper ephemera collection to create bespoke paper pictures for clients.
More than anything, I love to cook for people. I hope that you find these recipes helpful, inspiring and delicious, even if you don’t follow a gluten free diet. There’s more on the inspiration behind my blog in The Plain Kitchen