My good friend Chef Russell Auckbaraullee, the owner and the executive chef of Penthouse Catering, must be one of the hardest working people in Toronto's food industry. When I met him he was just starting out his business that he would run from his small penthouse kitchen (hence the name, Penthouse Catering). Today he cooks for rich and famous, he has done many television appearances and I was fortunate to cook with him and have him cater my daughter's baby shower. We celebrated Sandrine's fast approaching arrival with some heavenly culinary creations, to say the least. To top that all off Russell happens to have quite a personality to go with his talent! Extraordinary food and entertainment! What more can you ask for?!
Chef Russell is a proud Mauritian and he loves paying tribute to his homeland. His cuisine is satisfying, elegant and has something that I like to call a "gastronomic je ne sais quoi". It is his signature that he puts on each and every meal he prepares. One of the dishes that perfectly demonstrates it is his Mauritian Lamb Biryani. A perfect ode to the beautiful island of Mauritius and it's multiculturalism. It has striking influences of African, Indian and Arabic fares and has that nostalgia calming effect that brings you home no matter where you your home is. It's that ideal culinary adventure led by captivating aromas of cardamom flirting with exotic saffron, spiced with green chilli peppers and a hint of cinnamon. It's an impeccable combination of spices that compliment tender, falling-off the-bone lamb chops and already fragrant basmati rice. This is that perfect dish to go to every time you need some TLC or you wish to take your taste buds on an adventure leading to the mammoth sensory pleasure.
3 cups basmati rice,
1/4 cup cooking oil,
8 whole cloves,
4 black cardamom pods,
4 cinnamon sticks,
2 large onions, sliced thin,
1 tablespoon garlic paste,
2 spoons turmeric,
2 spoons coriander powder
3 spoons rose water,
1 tablespoon ginger paste,
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves,
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves,
1 pound lamb chops,
salt to taste,
3 tomatoes, chopped,
4 green chilli peppers, halved lengthwise,
2 teaspoons smoked paprika,
2 tablespoons plain yogurt,
2 tablespoons lemon juice,
7 1/2 cups water,
1 teaspoon salt,
1 tablespoon vegetable oil,
1 onion, sliced,
1/2 teaspoon saffron.
Take the lamb and use half of the ingredients listed. To make the marinade start adding into a mixture bowl with the lamb - make sure to use half of these items from the ingredients list cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, cilantro, mint, turmeric, paprika, coriander powder, yogurt combine everything and massage well and allow to marinade over night or for 6 hours.
Place basmati rice in a bowl with cold water until covered for 30 minutes, then drain
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat; fry the cloves, add half of cardamom pods, and half of the cinnamon sticks in the oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add half the onions; cook and stir until the onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir the garlic paste and ginger paste into the onion mixture; cook until the garlic and ginger is fragrant, about 1 minute more. Sprinkle half the cilantro and half mint over the mixture and cook 1 minute more.
Add the lamb chops to the skillet; season with salt. Cook and stir the lamb until the meat begins to brown, approx 5 minutes. Add the rest of other half of ingredients at this point.
Stir the tomatoes, green chilli peppers, and ground red pepper into the mixture; continue cooking until the oil begins to separate from the gravy, about 10 minutes. Add the yogurt and lemon juice; cover and cook until the lamb is tender, about 15 minutes. Add water as needed to keep the mixture from getting too dry.
Bring the rice, 7 1/2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan until the rice is nearly al dente 10 to 15 minutes; drain any excess water.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet; fry the sliced onion in the hot oil until lightly browned. Keep aside.
Layer about half the rice in the bottom of a deep pot with a lid. Spoon the lamb masala over the rice. Top with the remaining rice. Stir the saffron and warm water together in a small bowl; pour over the top layer of rice. Spread the fried onion over the lamb. Cover the pot with the lid and rag to seal and place the pot over low heat; cook until the rice is thoroughly cooked, about one hour.