Keema (Beef) Biryani Recipe

My first attempt at cooking a biryani, and it left me wondering why on earth this was the case, I’ve eaten them plenty of times, why hadn’t I made it? Well, I think I overlooked it  to make a full on curry with all the trimmings, which is daft really as a biryani is full of taste, comes together fairly quickly and isn’t heavy and creamy, like a lot of curries can be. And it’s still good with naan bread or chapati. My chilli powder is incredibly hot, so even after adding yoghurt to the sauce, we still needed a good dollop on the side, and a little of the fantastic apple chutney we  were given recently just perfected it(which reminds me I must chase that recipe!).  This means that I completely disregarded instructions of both recipes to add two teaspoons of chill powder, and only used  about quarter of a teaspoon. I got my chilli powder from an Asian supermarket, a British supermarket’s may be more subtle, use your own judgement here.

This feeds four generously. I took the parts I liked most from two recipes, one a Lamb Biryani, one beef.  I won’t claim this to be either an Indian or a Pakistani recipe as I’ve used a combination of their methods and ingredients.  It seems like a lot of ingredients but it’s mostly just the spices, which hopefully you’ll have already on your rack.


For the rice

400g / 2 cups long grain rice(do use basmati if you have it)

approx 1.5litres / 6 cups water

50-100ml milk

few saffron threads(if you don’t have any don’t worry too much)


For the keema

1 large onion, finely chopped

approx 350-400g beef mince

3 tablespoons of sunflower oil

1 Cinnamon stick

2 Green cardamoms, 1 Black cardamom (I used 3 black)

1 Star Anise (omitted from my recipe as I don’t have any, added a pinch of mixed spice instead)

8 Black Peppercorns, roughly pounded

2 Cloves

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon ground cumin ( I always use whole that I pound up as needed, much stronger, fresher flavour)

quarter teaspoon chilli powder

1 large tomato, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons passata (here the Spanish have something called Tomato Frito-meaning fried tomatoes, passata is the closest ingredient)

1-2 tablespoons fresh garlic/ginger paste(equal quantites of fresh garlic and ginger pounded in a pestle and mortar or blitzed in a mini food processor)

3 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped

approx 1 cup frozen peas

3 tablespoons natural yoghurt, plus more to serve

1 cup chicken stock

juice of half – one lime

a little water

salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons garam masala (optional, I couldn’t find any so left it out)


  • Rinse the rice well and cook in salted water until about half cooked; as in if you bite into a grain it is still hard and crunchy,but it has started to swell in size, 5-6 minutes of simmering is roughly how long I gave it.  It won’t soak up all the cooking water. Drain well and leave while you get on with the keema.
  • To the milk add the threads of saffron if you are using it.
  • Heat the oil, and add the onion, fry until translucent, then add all the dry spices apart from the garam masala, if using.Cook for a further couple of minutes to heat the spices, then add the ginger/garlic paste.
  • Add the mince, and cook thoroughly. Once the meat is brown add the tomato and passata or tomato frito, and stir well. Reduce heat and cook for five to ten minutes until the tomatoes are cooking through and melding into the sauce. If your sauce is too dry, add a little water. You want the finished sauce to be thick and there to be enough to help finish cooking the rice.
  • Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 / 350 deg f / 180 deg c.
  • Add the natural yoghurt, all the mint and two tablespoons of the coriander, reserving one. Add the peas and stir, heat through, season, then remove from heat.
  • In a large casserole or pyrex style dish that preferably has a lid, place about a third of the rice. Sprinkle with a little of the milk and some lime juice, then spread half the sauce over the rice.  Add another third of rice, sprinkle again and then the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining rice, and sprinkle with milk and lime.  At this point slowly pour the cup of chicken stock over the top, being sure to do so evenly. Cover with the lid or use tin foil and put into the oven for roughly half an hour.  Take a few grains and taste to see if they’re cooked through fully.
  • Stir the sauce through the rice and serve, with your choice of chutneys, natural yoghurt or cucumber raita, and naan or chapati if you so wish.

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