Afghani Yakhni Pulao

February 4, 2010

We had Christmas, next a germ-infested mini Basu and then my beloved grandfather passed away.

In the meantime, UK’s Channel 4 gave us Indian Winter. A classic example of how the Western media stereotypes India with one clean sweep. We are all slumdogs. Naturally.

The posters were enough to send shudders down my spine. A celebrity chef, most famous for the excessive use of the F-word squatting on a railway platform amidst turbans, saris and drums. Shame they forgot magic carpets, snake charmers and a couple of Maharajahs.

Then I saw the line up. There’s a Hindi movie or two. A building design TV presenter to tell us why slums are wonderful. And the chef will learn about the, hold your breath, staggering diversity of Indian food. Why invite an Indian to help the creative process? I could go on, but I couldn’t put it better than this or indeed this.

Perhaps someone should inform Channel 4 that there’s more to India than slums and samosas. Like this subtle and yet so flavourful Yakhni Pulao. Mother’s Afghani ancestor’s brought it with them to Delhi generations ago, and it then arrived in our Kolkata home where I literally grew up on it. Yakhni means stock and it’s literally pulao cooked in stock. Meat in bone is best. But I have to admit I cheat mid-week with boneless meat, when I don’t have a moment to make it to the butcher.

Soft and comforting, this Yakhni Pulao is anything but a bitter pill to swallow.



Feeds 3-4:

  • 400gm basmati rice
  • 400gm diced lamb or goat meat, bone in (boneless only if you can’t make it to a butcher)
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 inch ginger
  • 3 tbsp thick yoghurt (Greek or hung curd)
  • Whole spices: 6 cloves, 1 bay leaf, 6 whole black peppers, 2 black cardamoms, 2 inch cinnamon
  • Three quarter tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 7 cups of hot water
  • 2 tbsp flavourless oil
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • Salt to taste


Finely chop or puree the ginger and garlic with the yoghurt in a hand blender. In a bowl, mix together the diced lamb, yoghurt, turmeric, chilli and ginger garlic. Wash the rice well, and leave to soak covered in water.

While the meat and rice sit, slice the onion. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan to high with two tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, add the whole spices and as soon as they start sizzling fry three quarters of the onion for 10 minutes. You can sprinkle a pinch of salt to aid cooking.

When they are golden and sizzling, mix in the meat and marinade, the coriander and cumin. Toss in the pan for five minutes to brown the meat. If the masala mixture starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, just add a little hot water and scrape to release.

Next add eight cups of hot water, cover and leave the meat to cook uncovered on the high heat for 50 minutes.

While the meat is bubbling away, bring another pan to heat with the ghee. Saute the remaining onions until golden and set aside with a slotted spoon. Then drain and gently stir the rice in the remaining ghee. As it turns translucent, mix the rice into the meat and its stock – the “yakhni”.

Bring the rice to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked. You should have a lovely, caramelised crust at the bottom of the pan too. Decorate with the golden fried onions and serve with nothing but a pot of stirred yoghurt.



19 Responses to “Afghani Yakhni Pulao”

  1. Mallika Says:

    January 20th, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Hi Deepti, I was just going through my archives and discovered some kind of technical error, which meant half my recipe was missing and another random sentence was inserted. I am so sorry, I can only blame a very difficult time for it. I have now updated the recipe and am hoping you are still lurking 🙂 x

  2. Deepti Says:

    April 27th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    hey….long time lurker/recipe try-outer, first time commenter….I was just wondering….isn’t this recipe for preparing lamb and rice separately? how is this a pulao?

  3. Hipolito Stehlin Says:

    March 13th, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Hi! I’ve been reading your site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!

  4. rajiv Says:

    August 14th, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Hi Mallika,

    “I don’t know anyone who makes a samosa from scratch in India”

    Utter bollocks – ask any South Indian: most of us do! My mom still does, and so do I! You remind me of all those fake ultra Indians who are more “Indian” than Indians, and profess to be the authority on what is “Indian”! Grow up!

    For the record, I thought Gordon’s “Great Escape” was highly enjoyable fare, and so are his recipes from the book! I am not ashamed of the India he portrayed.

    (And by the way, I have been in the UK since 1993 – but still retain my Indian passport)

  5. Mallika Says:

    February 25th, 2010 at 4:24 am

    Thanks so much everyone for the wishes. Mini Basu is feeling better (and making me ill with exhaustion now)!

    Wendy – I thought SM was entertaining nonsense.
    Ping – I’ve tried it with Beef and it’s lovely too.


  6. Parul Says:

    February 24th, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Hi Mallika,
    Wooo Hoo, youre back!! Condolences on your grandfathers passing and hope mini Basu is back to normal. This dish looks yummy, my family of carnivores will devour every last scrap of this one.
    Dont stress too much bout the work/child guilt thing we all do it, but our little uns turn out fine and we just end up with more grey hairs!!

  7. notyet100 Says:

    February 18th, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    yummy this looks

  8. Ping Says:

    February 10th, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Sorry about your grandfather. This recipe looks delish. Have you made it with any other meat than lamb? As lamb is so expensive here in Bkk.

  9. Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen Says:

    February 10th, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about your grandfather, Mallika – my condolences! Maybe you should be on channel 4 and show them how it is really done! Give them a new perspective! Sounds like they desperately need it!

  10. Fig and Cherry Says:

    February 8th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Oh dear, that show sounds like a mess!

    On a positive note, I love reading your blog and making your recipes – they make Indian cooking so easy! Seriously.

  11. meeso Says:

    February 6th, 2010 at 9:47 am

    My condolences to you and your family. Rice looks delicious.

  12. Mallika Says:

    February 6th, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Namesake – so nice to see a post from you after ages . Condolences on your granddad’s passing away . It seems like the end of an era ,Poor Mini B – how is she now ? Why make samosas from scratch when the neighbourhood mishtiwala does a better job anyway ?:p

  13. Marie Says:

    February 4th, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Hi. My heartfelt condolences. I lost my maternal grandmother too in Jan. Hope the little one is better now. What is her name.

  14. Wendy Says:

    February 4th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    My condolences about your Grandad. What an awful start to the year.

    Ignoring the ridiculous C4 Indian Winter thing in its entirity, what did you think of Slumdog Millionaire itself?

    I enjoyed the story but… Not sure how to put it… I’ve never been to India (would love to go) but Vikram Seth and Arundhati Roy are among my favourite writers and I felt the India they portrayed wasn’t in Slumdog. Whether that India is similar to the real India, I don’t know though.

    Anyhow, what did you think?

    PS Hope the wee one is feeling better.

  15. Maninas Says:

    February 4th, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Hello, nice to see you back!

    Sorry to hear about your grandad. May he rest in peace.

    I watched some of the Great Shouther’s escapades in India, and cringed all the way through. He looked positively uncomfortable! He was probably just trying to outdo Jamie who “only” went to America.

  16. Bong Mom Says:

    February 4th, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Good to see you Mallika. Hope Mini B is feeling better. Sorry to hear ’bout your Grandad, please accept my condolence.

  17. Asha Says:

    February 4th, 2010 at 10:33 am

    My condolences to you.
    Hope little one is better, it’s been a pretty bad Winter so far. As much as we love the powder snow, ice and sleet are killers.
    You must watch this Video @ Sandeepa’s, it’s bone chilling. Never mind the Samosas, it’s a horror for kids there.

    Good to see your post though.

  18. sra Says:

    February 4th, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Sorry about your grandad! Doesn’t the stereotyping grate? I once bought this t-shirt for a cousin: it has tourists asking a snake charmer to do Vivaldi in some specific note/scale!
    Hope mini Basu doesn’t catch germs again!

  19. Arundhuti Says:

    February 4th, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Sorry to know about your grandfather. But it’s nice to see a post from you after so long. Pulao looks delectable!

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