Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • (vegetable oil 250ml
  • large onions 4 OR crispy onions in pack)
  • Large onions 2
  • boneless lamb neck fillets 800g, cut into 2.5cm chunks
  • green cardamom pods 1 tbsp
  • black cardamom pods 6
  • bay leaves 4
  • turmeric 2 tsp
  • cumin seeds 2 tbsp
  • cinnamon sticks 4, each 7cm long
  • Greek yogurt 200g
  • sea salt
  • basmati rice 600g
  • Saffron threads 2 generous pinches (optional)
  • Boiling water 2 tbsp
  • butter 125g

Method

  1. Preheat a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and pour in 250ml vegetable oil.
  2. Measure out crispy onions from pack OR (Chop 4 of the onions in half, then thinly slice into 5mm thick half moons. Fry the onion slices in the oil (there should be just enough oil to cover them, so add more oil if needed), stirring every few minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, drain on to a plate lined with kitchen paper and set aside.)
  3. Pour out the oil, leaving behind just enough to coat the base of the pan.
    1. Roughly dice the remaining 2 onions and fry them over a medium-high heat until they become translucent.
    2. Add the diced lamb and sear it until it begins to brown.
    3. Put in the green and black cardamom pods, bay leaves, turmeric, cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks, and mix well.
    4. Pour in just enough boiling water to barely cover the meat, reduce the heat to medium and cook the lamb for about 1½ hours until just tender.
  4. Leave to cool. Once cooled, add the yogurt to the lamb, and season generously with sea salt
  5. Preheat a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Fill the pan with boiling water and add the rice with a generous handful of crumbled sea salt.
  6. Boil for 6-8 minutes until the rice is parboiled. You will know it is parboiled when the colour of the grains turns from the normal dullish white to a more brilliant white and the grains become slightly elongated and begin to soften.
  7. Drain the rice and rinse it immediately under cold running water for a couple of minutes to wash off the excess starch until it is cool.
  8. Line the bottom of the saucepan used to parboil the rice with some nonstick baking paper and set aside.
  9. Grind the saffron (if using) with a pestle and mortar, then pour over the 2 tbsp of boiling water and leave to infuse.
  10. Back to the rice: return the paper-lined saucepan to the hob and pour in a generous drizzle of oil with a couple of good knobs of the butter. Add 1 tbsp crushed sea salt.
  11. Scatter in just enough rice to cover the base of the pan with a good layer. Drizzle a little of the saffron water (if using) over this layer of rice.
  12. Take the yogurt-marinated pre-cooked lamb and divide it into two portions. Layer one portion over the rice, then cover with a thin layer of rice, sprinkle over some more saffron water (if using), then add a generous layer of crispy onions and dot more butter on top. Repeat the layers until the rice, lamb, crispy onions and butter are used up.
  13. Wrap the pan lid in a tea towel, cover the pan and cook the rice on the lowest temperature possible if using gas, or low-medium heat if using electric, for 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.
  14. When ready to serve, either flip the rice on to a serving dish or decant on to a serving platter, then scrape out the crispy tahdig from the base of the pan and serve it on top of the rice.
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