Afghani Yakhni Pulao

Mallika Basu - Afghani Yakhni Pulao

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.


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. Arundhuti says:

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

  2. sra says:

    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!

  3. Asha says:

    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.

  4. Bong Mom says:

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

  5. Maninas says:

    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.

  6. Wendy says:

    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.

  7. Marie says:

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

  8. Mallika says:

    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

  9. meeso says:

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

  10. 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. 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!

  12. Ping says:

    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.

  13. Parul says:

    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!!

  14. Mallika says:

    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.


  15. rajiv says:

    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)

  16. 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!

  17. Deepti says:

    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?

    • Mallika says:

      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

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