Bollywood Cooking: The Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani

Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani (0025) by Meeta K. Wolff  

You have not celebrated a festivity if you have not celebrated the Indian way! I shall be so bold and state the fact. Indians love grandeur and splendor, especially us Punjabis, and being a big hearted folk we splash out on celebrations and festivities whenever the occasion allows us to. However, Indian weddings are the most extravagant and lavish festivity one can ever experience. 

It’s been a long time since I’ve attended an Indian wedding but my memory is filled with rich vivid pictures; a kaleidoscope of colors with such unique and glamorous flair. I have memories of sitting on a white horse with my uncle, who dressed in pure white and a silk pink turban, seemed slightly nervous as we set off to pick up his bride. Along the entire route we were accompanied by the lively baraat, who danced, sang and reveled on this joyous occasion. The procession seemed to grow with every turn we took, picking up merry revelers along the way. Soon, it seemed to me, sitting up on the horse, that we were floating in a single mass of a brilliantly colored sea. Splashes of glorious gold, opulent orange and ravishing red to my right, while on my left a burst of marvelous mauve, brilliant blue and gorgeous green radiated exhilaration and liveliness.

Indian marriage ceremonies are very ritualistic, often beginning days before the actual wedding. These so called pre-wedding ceremonies are a lot of fun and really the perfect excuse for more partying. Punjabi weddings, in particular, are vibrant and celebrated like a carnival, exhibiting splendid elegance. We love music, singing and dancing, so it is no surprise that each ceremony is accompanied by a lot of bhangra, giddas and sangeet.

Cinnamon2011 (0045) by Meeta K. Wolff

There are quite a few pre-wedding ceremonies, but my favorite one is the ceremony of Mehndi or henna. For the bride it is one of the most important rituals before the wedding where the mehndi is brought to her house by a member of the groom’s family (sister).  It is then applied to the bride’s hands and feet in beautiful intricate motifs. Usually, hidden within the mehndi pattern is the name or the initials of the groom. The ritual is, of course, also accompanied by festivities, with the dancing and singing of traditional songs.

The actual wedding day itself also includes several rituals, which are performed throughout the day at both the bride’s and groom’s respective homes. Finally as both arrive at the location of the ceremony the marriage begins with the Varmala. This is the actual beginning of marriage rituals, which involves the bride and groom exchanging garlands, studded with white, red and mustard colored flowers. The Granthi or priest chooses an auspicious time or muhurat of the wedding ceremony and begins with reciting the Lavan paath or prayers from our holy book the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. While the groom recites the first few mantras, the bride’s sisters steal his shoes. This is an amusing tradition, in which the girls will charge the groom a fee for agreeing to return his shoes.

When all the rituals have been carefully carried out at the end of the long day it is finally time to indulge in mouth-watering food. Indian weddings offers opulent and lavish food preparations and guests are treated to a magnificent variety of dishes.

Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani (0032) by Meeta K. Wolff

Upon arrival at the venue of the function, finger food and other snacks along with drinks, soups, juices, mocktails, are served to the guests. After the marriage ceremony is completed, guests continue the feast with the main course followed by dessert. One will find a rich and extravagant array of dishes, which most probably will include popular North Indian dishes like, Dal Makhani, Mutter Paneer, Butter Chicken and sweet rice pudding called Kheer. Another dish sure to be on the menu is a biryani, usually a chicken biryani but often one will find the Queen of biryanis – the Hyderabadi Biryani adorning the buffets.

An iconic dish, the Hyderabadi biryani combines the Mughlai and Andhra cuisines into one flavorful dish. There are two methods of preparing the Hyderabadi biryani – in the Katchi (raw) biryani, raw meat marinated in yogurt and spices is sandwiched between layers of aromatic rice. The vessel is then sealed and steamed for hours over hot coals. The Pakki biryani is made of meat that is cooked before it is layered with the rice and then placed for a shorter amount of time on the hot coals.

In this version I use the Katchi biryani method, but tuning it down so that it is simpler to cook at home. The result is a simple yet incredible oven baked biryani, full of aromatic flavor. The rice and meat are baked until the lamb is succulent and falls apart at the touch of a fork. Irresistibly good!

Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani

Printable version of recipe here


For the lamb

500g boneless leg of lamb, cut into small cubes
250g Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons ginger, crushed
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili
1 teaspoon garam masala 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Handful each of mint and coriander leaves, finely chopped

For the rice

300g Basmati rice
2 tablespoon ghee or butter oil 
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
2 black cardamom pods
2-3 cinnamon sticks
2 red onions, cut in half then thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1-2 tablespoons warm water for about 15-20 minutes
2 tablespoon Ghee or butter oil
Handful mint leaves chopped


  1. To marinate the lamb, combine lamb cubes with all the spices, herbs and ginger, garlic and yogurt. Toss well to coat the meat pieces. Refrigerate, covered overnight so that the flavors blend with each other.

  2. Wash and rub the rice well until the water runs clear. Place rice in a bowl and fill with water about halfway up the bowl, set aside for about an hour until the rice soften. Drain well.

  3. In a medium sized saucepan heat the ghee or butter oil, then add the cumin seeds cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Cook the spices until they begin to sizzle and take on a golden color – about 15 seconds. Add the onion slices and stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes until they are fragrant and turn light brown.

  4. Stir in the saffron and water and allow to gently simmer for 3-4 seconds, then add rice. Toss to coat the rice with the saffron and onions.

  5. Pour about 230 ml water, season with salt. Stir the rice to incorporate the ingredients, then bring to a boil. Cook for approx. 5 minutes until the water had been soaked up. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

  6. Heat the oven to 170 degrees C. Prepare a large casserole dish by lightly brushing the inside with some ghee or butter oil.

  7. Spread the lamb, together with the marinade over the bottom of the casserole dish. Drizzle the remaining ghee over the meat, then add the rice, spreading it evenly over the lamb. Cover casserole and bake for an hour or until the rice is cooked and the lamb is succulent and tender.

  8. Serve in the casserole topped with chopped mint leaves.



Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani (0020) by Meeta K. Wolff 

A exquisite celebratory dish filled with fragrant spiced flair. This biryani suits all occasions and festivities and will be the star of your dinner table. It’s also the perfect dish for me to celebrate a blog birthday with all my readers. It’s hard to believe this but this week (on Friday) What’s For Lunch, Honey? turns five. I guess I can say I am here to stay. An interesting statistic I picked up from Blogger: 18176 comments have been made on the various posts over the past five years. Thank you to each and every one of you – I know there are a few who have been with with following this space since Day 1.

What’s For Lunch, Honey? has opened so many doors for me – doors I would never have thought I would ever walk through. But here I am on the other side and feeling rather good about how this blog has evolved and how it has helped me hone my creative skills focusing on something I do with a passion – photography!

imageWhich brings me to something else I wanted to celebrate with you. As of this week I am represented by the fantastic Wonderful Machine and you can find me in their Germany section and in their Food/Drink section. They liked my portfolio and took me on! Wonderful Machine represent great photography talents from around the world and I am in good company,  especially with her!

Shoot for the moon. If you miss at least you’ll land amongst the stars!

Hope you all have a lovely week and weekend. I’ll be back next week with something sweet! Be safe.

More Bollywood Cooking from WFLH:

Creamy Butter Chicken Gajar Ka Halwa - Carrot Halwa Aachari Alu - Potatoes in Mango Chutney Sauce


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. Congrats on the completion of five succesful blog years !!!

    Loved this post. I have never attended a North Indian wedding, and seen them only in movies. Sounds like so much fun.

    And I am so in love with the biriyani.

  2. Congrats Meeta...You deserve every bit of what you have achieved...Biryani sounds tempting but you see im a veggie..Cant wait to see you in Weimar!hugsxx

  3. The biriyani I make uses a lot more of ghee and spices. But since we make it only once in a while, nobody complains. Do check it out:

  4. That biryani is splendid! So festive and flavorful. Now, I'm hungry...



  5. It's been wonderful to know you over the years, dear Meeta; wishing you many more successes in the future.

    We,especially dinesh adores biryani and yours looks fragrant.

  6. Congragulations Meeta for the blog and for the wonderful machine taking you .
    Indeed nothing can beat a Indian celebration.
    Wishing you and you blog many many more happy delicious and Photography years together.

  7. Looks like congratulations are in order all around. Five years, what an amazing accomplishment! And how exciting to be represented by Wonderful Machine. I wish you much continued success. I loved reading all about the wedding traditions, I could really envision it with the way you described all the details.

  8. Congratulations on five years of blogging, and your "upgrade" to very professional photographer! May the year ahead bring even more good things.

  9. Oh boy! I'm going to my first Indian wedding in May in London and this is a fantastic teaser! I'll make sure to share your post (and the recipe) with the bride. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Looks really yummy! Congrats to you on 5 years on blogging! Keep up your great work! :)

  11. Congratulations on your blog anniversary! I remember the first posts, even though in those days I only lurked on all the blogs, not having one of my own. It was a great journey and you have given me a lot of wonderful stories, great photography tips, and tasty recipes. You fully deserve to be a part of Wonderful Machine group - we have so much to learn from you.
    Wedding ceremonies are so different in different cultures, but it is amazing to me how some of the elements can be the same. Serbian weddings are also full of rituals, and stealing bride's shoes and returning them for a fee is one of them.
    I have eaten biryani only in restaurants, but this seems like a flavorful and not too complicated dish. We have a great halal butcher in our Persian store, and the lamb is always fresh.
    Looking forward to many more years of your posts!

  12. What a wonderful dish. This is something I often order in Indian restaurants here (although probably not as good as your authentic recipe, it's tasty.)

  13. So much flavor in this dish! I love all of the spices here and I bet it just made your house smell amazing!

  14. Splendid indeed! your Biryani and your accomplishments. Meeta you are the star. Biryani is my favorite thing to eat, any time any day. You have painted the picture of a wedding ceremony so well :-) Congratulations and many many more to come. You will always be my inspiration.

  15. I'd really like to make this dish, and am familiar with most ingredients. But not black cumin and black cardamom. Do you think the usual variety would work ok, or are the flavours completely different? I can't get many exotic spices in my area...unless you know of some mail order spice companies delivering to Central Europe (Czech Republic)??? Just thought I'd ask, you being a 'neighbor' and all :)

  16. I'm so happy you posted this recipe, Meeta. :-) I've wished for a good biryani recipe and this is PERFECT! :-)

  17. Congrats on your achievements and your blog anniversary!
    Look forward to sharing with and learning from you.

  18. Biryani is my all time favourite Indian's like comfort food! Thank you for sharing the rituals behind the wedding and on how to make this dish. Bookmarked for winter! And congratulations on being signed up by an agency...very well deserved!

  19. Congratulations Meeta on your accomplishments! You are truly a great inspiration for new blogger like myself!
    I absolutely love this Byriani dish! :)

  20. What a co incidence! This is exactly what's for dinner tonight in my house :-)
    I love the recipe and its one of our family favorite!

  21. Biryani is one of my favorite rice dishes. This should be king of biryani!

  22. Congratulations Meeta! Looks like a lovely biriyani... I guess every Indian has their own version of biriyani which has been passed on through generations :)

  23. Happy fifth blog birthday. Although relatively new as a reader I enjoy every post. And wow Meeta, how did you manage to read all those comments?!

  24. Thank you all so much for all your well wishes. YOu are the ones that bring life to WFLH so thank you for supporting and motivating me through the past 5 years.

    Glad you are all liking this post and the biryani and hope you will come back and tell me how it tasted!

  25. What a great read! I have been privileged enough to attend an Indian wedding once - so colourful!

  26. Biryani is my all time favorite...and your Biryani looks simply splendid!!!

  27. Mmmm...the briyani is looking and smelling gorgeous. I loved the way you portrayed it and wrote about the details. Wud love to try ur recipe shortly !

  28. Hi Meeta, Love your blog ! Happy anniversary ! Don't mean to be a party pooper, but I am being a bit frank here and I hope you won't mind. I feel like the Western world has this concept that Indian weddings are always the Big Fat Indian Weddings shown in movies, which I know is not always true. I think the scale, pomp and grandeur of a wedding varies, depending upon the community, personal wealth and location in the country. My guess is that Punjabi weddings probably come closest or replicate the huge weddings shown in movies, but there are other communities that do weddings on a much more smaller and quieter, solemn scale !

    Best wishes,
    An Avid reader of your blog !

  29. This dish looks so fantastic. And I just love your description of the wedding celebration, it sounds magical!

  30. What a vivid picture you painted in this post. I've never been to an Indian wedding, but now I'd really like to go to one!

  31. Awesome lamb briyani with such simple spices! Must try this!
    @anonymous: Indian weddings are indeed big fat weddings. I've never heard of an Indian wedding which doesn't feed atleast a few hundred people easily (sometimes it can be a few thousands). Though some families don't have the money to spend for all the pomp and splendour, they never go low budget on food. You see, food is one of the main factors that unites us :)

  32. I can practically taste this biryani just by looking at it! The colours are so enticing!

    I haven't had something like this in a LONG time. The best thing about desi food is that you can vary the amount of spices as much as you want!

  33. I would like to try the lamb biryani tomorrow (Sunday). Two questions: For how many servings is your recipe (I presume it's 4?) and what kind of vegetable would you recommend as a side dish? I usually love green beans with lamb. Do you think that would fit as well? Or rather some kind of salad?

  34. Beautiful rituals punctuated by fabulous food. Lovely!

  35. What a milestone, Meeta! Congratulations. I'm so glad I know you through your blog. Here's to 5 more years!

  36. Congratulations and happy blog anniversary Meeta! You are definitely among the stars! :)

    You know, I have always wanted to attend an Indian wedding because of all the glamour but also because of the food! This looks delicious and is just calling out to me!

  37. Of course I love your photos, superb, and the dish; your description of the wedding reminded me of my secret longing to marry a maharadjah! Oh well, I can still dream about it!

  38. Your dishes look yum … loved the presentation of the food ! good work
    you can view some of my dishes on ! i would be really happy if you follow it :)

  39. Nice post very informative. I've only seen Indian weddings in films and actually I've got interested in their rituals. Very solemn yet a fun festive occasion to be experienced.

  40. Thank you so much for all your comments on the biryani. I've been getting a lot of feedback from people who have already made it - glad it's such a hit!

    @Anonymous Avid Reader - Thanks for your comment. Of course how pompous a wedding is depends on the community and as you said the personal budget a family has. In this post I particularly refer to Punjabi/Sikh weddings. But in general I do know for a fact that Indian weddings where ever and whatever the budget is is celebrated with glamor and grandeur within the respective community (and personal wealth).

    @Britta - sorry for the late reply. The recipe is for 6 people with side dishes. You can make a lovely potato dish like this Aacari Aloo dish. It's easy and works extremely well. I like it with a Mutter Paneer.

    Thanks everyone for all your lovely well wishes too. Hugs!

  41. The Indian wedding ceremony sounds amazing- so rich with tradition. I can only imagine the food but this post definitely helps. The dish and pictures are gorgeous!

  42. Hi Meeta,
    Congrats for completing 5 years of blogging....& also for other accomplishments....

    I thiink it's first time I'm stopping by to leave a comment though once in a while I do visit U, but today couldn't leave without comment....biryani looks wonderful & Indian weddings yes the punjabi ones that's what I miss most living abroad & O'course food but that we can make in our kitchens(I'm smelling biryani in my near future)....


  43. I have to check for next available tickets to fly to Germany....Biryani is my all time favourite food... Spice full, aroma full, flavorful....all in all one pot complete meal.....

  44. Thanks for your answer, dear Meeta. I couldn't make the dish last weekend because - believe it or not - I did not get any lamb leg on Saturday afternoon!!!
    Not to speak about cardamom pods or black cumin seeds... :-(
    I'll try in an Bio-Supermarkt today... otherwise I think I have to look for a shop that is selling all kind of "Asian" foods.
    As for the lamb I hope I will get it this week.

  45. Happy 5th blog birthday and congratulations on all your well deserved success.

    My two little girls are obsessed by weddings at the moment and they believe the most splendid of any wedding they've seen has been the Indian weddings they watched on TV. It does look like a sumptuous event. Colorful, meaningful, and exciting, just like your dish.

  46. wow 5 years... congratulation!!! Your lamb biryani looks soo delicious.. i never thought one could make biryani without using a proper hundi .. and here you presented it so beautifully . If I want to make chicken biryani, should i still cook it for an hour ?

  47. Happy Blog Birthday - your space is such an interesting and innovative one. Not to mention the breathtaking photography! :) Thanks for all the energy and effort that goes into it!

  48. @Britta - You can substitute the black cardamom with 3-5 normal green cardamoms and also use normal cumin seeds you get here in Germany.

    @Lael - I love Indian weddings basically because they are like fairy tales! A day away from the reality of everyday routines.

    @Kankana It depends if you cook the chicken prior to add it to the biryani or not. If you are not cooking it and adding the chicken pieces raw then yes you will need the entire hour. However, if you cook the chicken before then you can reduce the time to approx 40-45 minutes.

    Thank you all for your fantastic comments on this post! Hugs!

  49. Fantastic presentation! I love the design!

  50. I can't wait to try this out! Lamb is one of my favorite foods, and the lists of spices in this recipe alone make my mouth water. My only concern is finding some of the ingredients. We don't have too many international markets in Nashville, TN!

  51. This is so wonderful! I had this type of dish when I as in Hyderabad last year. I looooooooove it. And I love your beautiful photos. Thank you for the recipes.

  52. Dear Meeta,
    I just chanced upon your website today. Thank you for sharing your recipes with us. They look amazing! Your photography is excellent. I love Indian food and am currently trying to cook some of them. Before I start off with this biryani recipe, may I ask you how many people do your recipes serve? Thank you.

  53. Thanks for your comments and hope you are all enjoying the biryani.

    @W - it serves for 6-8 people.

  54. Thanks Meeta, do all your recipes here serve 6-8 people too?

  55. And where is the curry? In US all Bollywood stuff is associated with huge portions of curry. It seems to be more like a Chinese dish.

  56. @Sabrina: Curry is a generic term primarily employed in Western culture to denote a wide variety of dishes originating in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Thai or other Southeast Asian cuisines. So-called "curry powder," denoting a commercially prepared mixture of spices, is largely a Western notion, dating to the 18th century. Garam masala used in this dish is a blend of ground spices. So you might call the Garam Masala a special type of curry if you prefer.

  57. Such a fantastic blog! The photos are simply stunning :)


Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.