THIS! Is one of my absolute favorite dishes EVER! It’s truly a fusion of concepts in many ways but what I love most about it, is the combination of spices in both the lamb koftas and this really easy biryani rice. I’ve had some bad first experiences with lamb until I had ground lamb. There’s something about lamb that requires a certain attention with the right spices to make everything marry in ways you’ll want to keep eating it. Which is totally an okay thing to do versus red meat from cow. Lamb is a much healthier alternative (in addition to bison).
Kofta is basically another name for meatball in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, although the main difference between a kofta and the usual meatball you’re more familiar with is the spices. The compilation of flavors are a little more complex BUT that doesn’t mean it’s complex to make. It’s literally just as easy as making any other meatball. These of course being lamb have some fresh mint among warm spices like cumin, coriander, garam masala and even chili powder. But they’re not spicy just VERY flavorful. I would definitely recommend this recipe for someone who has never had lamb before and are worried about any gamey-ness. In this case there is none!
And of course what better way to pair a perfect lamb kofta than with a very basic biryani. The name biryani sounds intimidating enough to make someone not want to attempt to make it. Although it’s again not that different from making any other rice dish that has lots of yummy flavor. This also is a South Asian dish where you’ll find is popular in various ways throughout the region depending on the country. What I did here is I took some basic elements of Indian cuisine, mixed it with some Persian flavors and concepts and even married it together with a few clean Latin flavors of jalapeno and coriander.
I have always had a fascination and a strong love for Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern food. Maybe I was from both regions in past lives or maybe it’s part of me in some way genetically LOL but whatever it is, when you can get several spices together and make them work so well with little effort (maybe if anything, more prep time than anything), to me that makes some incredible food. You really don’t have to go fancy with technique to prove yourself or anyone that you can cook. 🙂
LAMB KOFTA INGREDIENTS
6 – 8 servings
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds ground lamb
½ cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 small white onions, chopped and one chopped VERY fine (keep them separate)
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 ½ tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 small head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 large jalapenos, chopped & seeded
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
3 juicy limes
6 – 8 servings
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter
7 dried cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pinch of saffron
2 cups basmati rice
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chicken stock (or however much liquid the directions on the rice package calls for)
STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS IN ORDER
In a large glass bowl mix together (from the Lamb Kofta ingredient list) the one onion chopped VERY fine, crushed garlic, ground cumin, garam masala, ground coriander, chili powder, fresh mint and sea salt. Then add the ground lamb and gently fold everything together without over mixing to prevent the koftas becoming tough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or up to a few hours.
Now to get started on the Biryani Rice:
In a medium saucepan pour the olive oil and salted butter over medium/high heat. Sauté the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and whole cloves for about 3-5 minutes. An obvious sign is when you start to smell the strong aroma of all three together for a good minute.
Then add the onion, garlic and saffron threads for a couple more minutes, stirring. Throw in the basmati rice, curry powder and ground turmeric. Stir it altogether until the rice is completely coated yellow.
Add the chicken stock, stir and leave uncovered until it starts to boil. Once it comes to a boil reduce the temperature to a simmer, cover and let the rice absorb all its liquid for about 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and keep covered until ready to serve.
To finish off the Lamb Koftas:
In the meantime, place about two tablespoons of olive in a large skillet over medium-high heat to sauté the cauliflower florets, bell peppers, jalapenos, the other chopped onion, garlic powder and onion powder together for 5 minutes. Then, squeeze the juice of one lime over the mix and stir. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for another ten minutes until onions are very translucent and everything else seems to have absorbed all of the lime juice. Remove from heat and set aside for later.
Take the large bowl of ground lamb out of the fridge to make the meatballs about an inch in diameter. In a large skillet over medium/high heat pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet generously and cook the meatballs, moving them around until evenly brown all around. Each one should have a firm feel to your finger tip without feeling too mushy before you place them on a large plate covered with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
When finished cooking all the meatballs, drain the excess oil from the skillet and toss both the meatballs together with the vegetable mixture that you set aside earlier on medium heat for a couple minutes before serving.
Serve the Lamb Koftas over the Biryani Rice.