A special occasion tradition that we like to have once a while even when there is nothing in particular to celebrate. Whilst the recipe is the same whether I cook it with lamb or chicken, this smoke kofta version is my favourite. Smoked anything is a favourite of mine really.
Then there is the kofta. Everyone's family has a delicious biryani recipe. But that doesn't mean I can't start that tradition with my own little family. This recipe is definitely a keeper and one I hope will evolve into an heirloom recipe. It is requested often and I have a feeling it will be one of the first recipes I lovingly hand down to my own children when they head off to greener pastures.
Ingredients (serves 4)
oil, for deep frying
1kg (2lb) onions, finely sliced
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 cardamom pods
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2·5cm (1in) piece ginger, grated
250ml (8fl oz) tomato paste
75ml (3fl oz) yoghurt, whipped
1 tbsp brown sugar, plus 1 tsp extra
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
4 tbsp fresh coriander, leaves picked and chopped
pickled onions, to serve
raita, to serve
For the koftas
300g (10oz) beef mince
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2·5cm (1in) piece ginger, grated
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
For the rice
350g (12oz) basmati rice, rinsed and soaked
1 cardamom pod
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp saffron
20 minutes preparation time and 2 hours cooking time
1. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Deep-fry the onions, in batches, over a medium heat, until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, using a fork to separate any clumps (this will help keep them crispy). Repeat with the remaining onions and set aside, until needed. Using the same oil, deep-fry the potatoes over a medium heat until cooked through and golden. Drain on paper towel and set aside, until needed.
2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, make the koftas by mixing the mince, garlic, ginger, chilli powder and 2 tbsp water, until combined. Season well. Roll the mixture into small balls around 2.5cm (1in) in diameter and drop into the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. For the rice, bring another pan of salted water to the boil and drop in a cardamom pod. Cook the rice following the packet instructions, then drain. Leave for around 20 minutes, until dry.
3. Put the 2 tbsp milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Crush the saffron in a pestle and mortar and add it to the milk. Heat in the microwave for 20 seconds, then pour it over the dry rice; fluff with a fork. Set aside.
4. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the 3 tbsp sunflower oil over a medium heat and add the cloves, cinnamon stick, turmeric and cardamom pods. When the cardamom pods have puffed up, add the garlic, ginger and tomato paste. Add three quarters of the fried onions to the pan (reserving the rest to garnish), crushing them a little with a spoon, until they melt into the mixture.
5. Add 300ml (½pt) water and cook, partially covered, over a low to medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Add the yogurt and sugar; stir until combined. Add another 300ml (½pt) of water and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 30 minutes more (adding more water, if needed). Add the fried potatoes and koftas for the last 10 minutes of cooking, making sure not to stir it too much otherwise the koftas will break up.
6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to gas 3, 170°C, fan 150°C. Layer up the kofta mixture and rice in a deep, ovenproof dish. Start with a thin layer of gravy and koftas, followed by the rice, a handful of the reserved crispy onions, mint and coriander. Repeat, until everything has been used up, making sure the top layer is rice. Scatter over the remaining crispy onion, then cover with a lid or foil and smoke it with charcoal before sealing, cook bake for 20 minutes. Serve the biryani with pickled onions and raita.