Our friend, the chef Mark Hix, has been hosting the curry tent at the Smoked & Uncut festivals for the past few years – it is one of the the sit down pop-up restaurants that festival go-ers can feast at during the afternoon or evening.
I’ve been involved for a few years now. Curry is a new thing for the festival but I love cooking it – I find it fascinating. The flavours in Indian food are complex but I love experimenting with them – the dishes can taste quite intense but they’re simple really. Paratha with green pea dahl, mutton biryani, a vegetable curry and flatbread. It’s a perfect festival feast. - Mark
This isn’t the biryani you find in your local curry house. It normally looks like leftovers, but this version makes an impressive party dish if you’re doing an Indian spread. Traditionally, it’s cooked in a thick earthenware or metal pot with the lid ‘sealed’ on with dough around the rim to keep in the moisture. At Smoked & Uncut, we made thick dough lids instead – they look great and you just lift the lid off at the table to reveal the fluffy rice, saffron and fragrant spices. Feel free to use cubes of boneless chicken thigh or pheasant thighs – they work just as well.
Mark’s Mutton Biryani
• 1kg (2lb 4oz) boneless mutton or lamb from a single joint like the neck or shoulder, cut into rough 3cm (1¼ inch) cubes
• 25g (1oz) fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
• 4 garlic cloves, crushed
• 2 tablespoons garam masala
• ½ teaspoon chilli powder
• ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
• 4 small green, medium hot chillies, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• a good pinch of curry leaves
• 6 green cardamom pods
• 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
• 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
• 500g (1lb 2oz) basmati rice
• 200g (7oz) ghee or butter
• 4 large onions, thinly sliced
• 250ml (9fl oz) thick natural yogurt
• a good pinch of saffron strands, soaked in 2 tablespoons hot milk
For the dough lid
• 200g (7oz) wholewheat flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 egg, beaten
• a sprinkling of cumin seeds
• a sprinkling of onion seeds
Mix the mutton in a non-reactive bowl with the ginger, garlic, garam masala, chilli powder, turmeric, chillies, cumin, curry leaves, cardamom pods, coriander and mint. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
Wash the rice a couple of times in a bowl of cold water until the water is clear. Drain in a sieve.
Heat the ghee in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Add the onions and fry for about 10 minutes on a medium-to-high heat, stirring every so often, until they are golden brown. Drain in a sieve over a bowl to reserve the ghee.
Remove the mutton from the marinade, reserving the liquid. Reheat all but 2 tablespoons of the ghee and fry the mutton, a few pieces at a time, depending on how big a frying pan you have, lightly browning them.
Transfer the mutton into a cooking pot approximately 20cm (8 inches) in diameter.
Add the yogurt, browned onions and any marinade that’s left and cook on a low heat for 1½ hours, or until the mutton is tender, then remove from the heat.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the rice, stir well and bring back the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, drain well and spread the rice over the meat. Spoon over the reserved ghee and the saffron-infused milk.
Preheat the oven to 240°C, 220°C fan (475°F), Gas Mark 9.
Make the dough lid by mixing the flour and salt with enough water to form smooth, elastic dough. Roll the dough 1cm (½ inch) thick and cut slightly larger than the pot. Press the dough around the edge and trim any excess.
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with cumin and onion seeds. Transfer the pot to the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Lift off the dough lid to serve.
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