Smoky Sweet Potato and Lamb Biryani

Biryani is usually my last choice when I go out for Indian food. I really like having the spicy juicy curry on one side of my plate, and the cooling dry rice or naan on the other side. The 2 elements meet on my fork in a happy union. Biryani bascially takes them and bakes them together in one big pot. I have had a few interesting ideas recently involving biryani style dishes, so before I can go crazy with the concept, it is important to learn the basics! This is a pretty standard biryani that would be fun to make for a party and just dump in the center of the table after it is fully baked.

The main flavor of this dish is black cardamom. This and smoked paprika is where the smoky part of the dish comes from. To make the spice blend for this curry, I used a tablespoon of my standard curry powder (link below) and added a tablespoon each of black cardamom and smoked paprika to it.

Onions cooked down to brown.

Tomatoes cooked down with the onions. Remove this paste from the pan for use later.

Next brown the lamb chunks and add ginger-garlic-chile paste, followed by the spice blend.

Cabbage, sweet potato, onion tomato paste, and yogurt. It almost looks like salsa and sour cream!

Now it’s time to layer the biryani! Most indian biryanis put the curry on the bottom, but persian style ones put rice on the bottom in order to get a rice crust (or tah-dig). I was going for a tah-dig here, but did not really achieve it. The bottom layer of the rice was mixed with ghee or clarified butter.

Then the ingredients were just layered up. Mine went rice-curry-rice-curry-rice.

With a top layer of saffron water.

When it is done it is important to dump the whole thing out onto a big serving plate.

Some mint and cilantro for the top.

Spice blend was 1 tablespoon of this curry powder, 1 tablespoon of ground black cardamom, and 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika.

Ginger-chile-garlic paste was an inch of ginger, 7 chiles, and 5 garlic cloves pureed to a paste.

Tomato onion paste was 2 onions cooked down to very brown, add 1 can diced tomatoes and cook down till a paste is formed.

Brown cubed lamb (1.5 lbs) in some oil, add ginger-garlic-chile paste, cook 2 minutes. Add spice blend, cook 1 minute. Add cubed sweet potato and chopped cabbage, cook 3 minutes. Add tomato onion paste and yogurt, cook 1 minute.

Meanwhile, soak 3 cups of rinsed rice for 30 minutes. Strain. Boil rice for 5-8 minutes. It should still have some bite to it. Strain rice. Take 1/3 of the rice and put it in the bottom of a heavy oven safe pan. Mix with some ghee. Add half the curry to the top of the rice. Add the next rice layer, more curry, then top with remaining rice. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of hot water that has been soaking for at least 10 minutes with saffron. Bake at 325 for an hour. Remove from oven and dump onto serving platter.


  1. The whole dish looks delicious but I am especially impressed with your rice – it’s perfect! Mine never comes out that good (unless I use a rice cooker, which I don’t have access to at the moment). Have you got any tips or tricks to cooking rice?

  2. The rice is basmati. I have outlined above the tips on making it come out like that. It basically involves 3 steps: soak, boil, steam. Soak 30 minutes, rinse, boil the way you would pasta for 5-8 minutes, then layer with the curry and saffron water and bake or cook on low heat for awhile.

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