Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dum Mutton Biryani in a Tagine

The haze and my eldest girl's coming PSLE are curbing our activities outdoor and keeping us homebound. That provides me more time to think of new recipes and what to cook for the family especially what to cook with the new tagine I received from the good people of Le Creuset.

The tagine was originally a heavy, unglazed clay pot with a round, shallow-sided base and a conical lid with a knob on the top that acts as a handle. Modern tagines, like the Le Creuset, are often crafted from cast iron for durability and better heat retention and distribution.

Tagine's conical shape creates a uniquely moist and hot cooking environment. The base is wide and shallow, and the tall lid fits nicely inside. As the food cooks, steam rises into the cone, condenses, and then flows down the sides back into the dish.

Tagine is therefore ideal for slow cooking, especially meat stew. It gives the flavours time to develop. That gave me the idea to cook my favourite Indian Dum Biryani dish in the tagine. “Dum” literally means “taking in air” in Hindi. The dum culinary style allows for meat, coated with fresh spices and herbs, to slow cook in its own juices, retaining moisture and losing none of its succulent flavour and nutrients. So cooking Dum Biryani in a tagine makes a lot of sense to me.  The unique nature of tagine will trap the steam and cook the meat and rice more evenly resulting in a more tender and flavorful mutton biryani dish. I was excited.

Once decided on the dish, I consulted Mark from Mako Images, my makan kaki and an avid cook himself, who had recently cooked the Dum Biryani the traditional way. He shared with me his traditional Dum Biryani recipe and some valuable cooking tips. Last week, we went to Tekka Market at the Little India to feed ourselves with the traditional Dum Biryani and, at the same time, got all the ingredients required for this recipe.

Cooking was a breeze as all I needed to do was marinate the meat and let the tagine do most of the job. When the tagine of biryani was being "dummed" in the oven, the aroma of the spices and meat filled the entire kitchen, I couldn't wait.  Opening the tagine dish at the dining table, serving out the biryani with the steam and aromas wafting through was an amazing experience.  We had a very delightful meal.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

Mutton Marinade
600g Mutton (2 inch cubes)
200g Yogurt
5 heaping tbsp Biryani Masala Powder (I got it from the spice stall at Tekka Market)
2 tbsp Fresh Papaya/kiwi Paste (Natural meat tenderiser)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Salt

2 Medium Onion (Peeled and sliced)
2 Green Chili (sliced)
1 bunch Fresh Coriander Leaves
1 bunch Fresh Mint Leaves

400g Basmati Rice

Whole Garam Masala
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2 Bay Leaves
10 Cardamoms
10 Cloves
10 Black Peppercorn
2 Star Anise
3/4 tsp Whole Cumin Seeds (jeera)

Handful Fried Shallots
Handful Roasted Cashew Nuts


Add all the marinades to the mutton and mix well. Marinate for 3-4 hours, best overnight.

Heat up oven to 180C.

Heat tagine* base over medium fire. Add oil/ghee and fry sliced onions and green chillies. Cook, stirring continuously, till onions are light golden brown. 

Add mutton with the marinade mixture and cook on high heat for seven to eight minutes.

Stir in water to just barely cover all the meat, bring it to a boil. Give it a good stir and cover with fresh coriander and mint leaves.

Cover the tagine with lid and place in the oven. Cook for an hour.

Meanwhile, soak the basmati rice for 20 minutes in water. Wash well till the water runs clear. Drain all the water.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of salt. Add rice and cook for about 2-3 minutes, just about al-dante. Drain and put the rice aside.

Dry toast the whole garam masala on a frying pan over medium heat. Do not burn the spices.

After an hour in the oven, remove the tagine of mutton from the oven. Layer the rice and whole garam masala evenly on top of the mutton. Cover with lid and return the tagine back to the oven. Cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove tagine from the oven and let the biryani stand for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve hot with generous amount of fried shallots, cashew nuts and coriander leaves.

* My tagine from Le Creuset is 27cm in diameter with a capacity of 2L. This size is just right for the portion in this recipe. If you plan to cook more, do get a bigger tagine.


  1. Oh me oh my!!! You have a spare room in your house? I'm moving in! :D

    1. Hahaha... Arthur, no spare room but I can arrange for an extra seat at my dining table any time, for you!

  2. Alvin , the LC's tagine alone is drool-worthy :D

  3. Wow! I want! Great pictures and food always!

  4. Looking it's an awesome dish. I think this Dum Mutton Biryani will be to much delicious than your pictures.

  5. OMG Alvin! You cooked this at home, I am impressed! I love mutton biryani but have not tried dum mutton biryani.

  6. A very friendly openhearted place to occupy a couple of nights. All persons were well trained, cooperative and helpful. online food delivery restaurant

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