Cyrusi gos no pulao

Cyrusi gos no pulao

Cyrus's lamb pulao

Mr Todiwala's Bombay
Helen Cathcart

There are many recipes for lamb pulao (or pilaf) with each person claiming that his or hers is the very best. This is a time-tested one by me: I have tweaked and added to some old recipes and traditions and come up with a recipe which is more foolproof than many I have tried. Pulaos are indulgent food, always eaten at celebrations and festive occasions or when you just want to treat yourself. Remember that in the subcontinent top-quality basmati is used for pulaos and biryanis. Basmati is graded by age and quality. Most households will store good rice in airtight containers and use it in rotation but never in the year it was produced. Older rice has a better aroma and, if kept well, ages like a good wine!


Quantity Ingredient
500g lean lamb, diced
200ml plain greek-style yoghurt
vegetable or rapeseed oil, for deep-frying
500g onions, halved and very thinly sliced


Quantity Ingredient
100ml oil, reserved from earlier onion deep-frying
2 cm piece cinnamon stick
4-5 green cardamom pods, split
3-4 cloves
2-3 large red chillies, left whole
2 large green chillies, finely chopped
5 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
4-6 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
300-400ml water
500g onions, thinly sliced


Quantity Ingredient
500g basmati rice
4-5 litres water
2 bay leaves
4-5 green cardamom pods, split
1 teaspoon salt

To finish

Quantity Ingredient
a good pinch saffron strands
150ml cold water
2 tablespoons melted butter
2-3 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, quartered
3-4 potatoes, peeled, boiled and cubed
3-4 eggs, hard-boiled and shelled
1 lime, juiced

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
masala daal or some simple cucumber raita


Quantity Ingredient
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
1 green chilli, seeded if liked, and finely chopped
1 small tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon vinegar
salt, to taste


  1. Mix the lamb with the yoghurt in a container with a lid. Cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. The next day, heat oil for deep-frying and fry the onions until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain in a colander over a bowl and set aside. Reserve the oil. When the onions have drained, tip them into a separate container so the colander and bowl are ready for the masala onions.
  3. To prepare the masala, wash the onions well in cold water and drain thoroughly. Remove as much water as you can before frying (if you have a salad spinner, use that. Alternatively, wrap in paper towels and pat well).
  4. Heat the oil and fry the onion, stirring regularly until lightly golden, then transfer with a slotted spoon to the colander over a bowl to drain. They will continue cooking in the latent heat and be deep golden when cooled.
  5. Add the whole spices to the onion oil. Stir until they sizzle, swell and brown but do not allow them to burn. Immediately add the sliced browned onions and sauté a few minutes until richly coloured. Remove the fried onion and masala with a slotted spoon, squeezing as much oil back into the pan as possible.
  6. Reheat the oil to smoking point and add the marinated meat. Do not stir much, allow it to sear on all sides. Once brown continue to sauté until almost dry. Add the chopped green chilli, ginger and garlic and sauté until the garlic begins to lightly colour.
  7. Blend the ground spices in the water and add to the lamb with a little salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is almost dry again, stirring occasionally so the mixture does not stick. Stir in the sautéed brown onions and whole spices, and add a little more water, if necessary, to moisten. Cover tightly with a lid and cook over a low heat for about 40 minutes until the lamb is almost tender and bathed in a rich sauce (the lamb won’t be completely tender, it will finish cooking in the oven). Taste and re-season if necessary.
  8. Meanwhile prepare the pulao. Bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan with the bay leaves, cardamom and salt.
  9. Wash the rice well in a bowl until the water runs clear, drain and set aside.
  10. When the water is boiling rapidly, add the rice and stir continuously for a minute or two over a high heat. Boil for 6–7 minutes or until the grains are almost tender (it is best to keep the rice just slightly underdone as it will be baked later). Drain in a colander, discard the flavourings, if preferred, and set aside.
  11. To finish the pulao, preheat the oven to 150°C. In a small saucepan or frying pan gently heat the saffron until it becomes crisp and fragrant. Do not allow the saffron to burn or singe. At no stage should you leave it unattended! Immediately add the water and slowly heat to a simmer then cover and set aside to infuse.
  12. Put half the boiled rice in a bowl and mix in the saffron water. Get every saffron strand out of the pan (add a few more grains of the rice to the pan and stir round to absorb any residue, then tip into the bowl).
  13. Pour the melted butter into a large casserole or saucepan with a tight-fitting lid that will take all the rice and meat, and make sure it coats the base. Mix about half of the reserved fried onions into the remaining cooked rice, and add it to the casserole, levelling the top. Sprinkle over half the coriander and mint, and arrange half the tomatoes and potatoes over the top.
  14. Gently spread all the lamb on top, including all its sauce and scrape the pan clean with a spatula. Scatter the remaining coriander, mint, tomatoes and potatoes on top. Cut the eggs into halves and place them, yolk side up, evenly in between the potato and tomato pieces. Now cover evenly with the saffron rice. Sprinkle the remaining fried onions (retain a spoonful to use as a garnish later) and the lime juice over the rice.
  15. Cover tightly with the lid. If the lid is not tight-fitting, place a sheet of foil over the casserole before putting on the lid. In India we would seal the pot with dough to make a perfect seal. You can do that instead. It does not damage the pot and will break off once fully baked. Simply mix flour and water to a pliable dough and press it all round the edge sealing the lid to the rim of the pot.
  16. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hours. After about 40 minutes reduce the temperature to 120°C. Do not be tempted to take the lid off and look – the steam must be kept inside the pot.
  17. When you are ready to serve open the pot and gently mix the layers together. Remove into large platters and serve garnished with the reserved browned onions, if liked, with masala daal, cucumber raita and kachumber.
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