• This pilaf will make you swoon. (Benito Martin)Source: Benito Martin

Served in the centre of the table, this dish is a complete meal and needs little else but bread and a good appetite.






Skill level

Average: 3.6 (797 votes)

This lamb pilaf recipe calls for Sella basmati rice which is simply rice that has been processed differently. It is sometimes referred to as par-boiled rice, and it is a lovely golden colour. 


  • 200 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 800 g lamb leg or shoulder, on the bone, chopped into 6 cm pieces
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 litres (8 cups) water
  • 75 g (⅓ cup) white sugar
  • 2 tsp garam masala (made from ground cloves, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon)
  • 1½ tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1 kg sella basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 4 hours or overnight
  • 250 g carrots, peeled and cut into batons
  • 75 g sultanas
  • 75 g mixed slivered almonds and pistachios, to garnish

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


You'll need to begin this recipe 4 hours ahead, or overnight if time permits.

Heat 50 ml of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the onion for 6–8 minutes, or until golden. Add the lamb, garlic and 1 tbsp of the salt and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until lamb is well browned on all sides. Add the water, reduce heat to low and cook, skimming surface occasionally, for 1½ hours, or until lamb is tender. Remove lamb from pan and set aside. Reserve the stock.

Place half of the sugar in a hot, dry saucepan over medium heat. Cook, shaking pan, for 5–6 minutes or until sugar has caramelised. Carefully add 250 ml (1 cup) of reserved stock, the remaining salt, 1 tsp of garam masala and a pinch of cardamom. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat and set aside.

Drain the soaked rice. Cook in a large saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes, or until almost cooked. Drain and return to pan. Pour over the caramelised sugar mixture, add a pinch of garam masala and cardamom, and stir until rice is evenly coated.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the carrot and remaining sugar and stir for 5 minutes, or until lightly caramelised and glossy. Add the sultanas and cook for another 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in another pinch of cardamom. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan until smoking. Pour oil over the rice. Using the end of a large spoon, make holes all over rice to allow it to steam evenly. Top with spiced carrot and reserved lamb. Cover and seal pan with a tea towel, then a lid. Place over high heat and cook for 5 minutes, or until you hear a ticking sound. Reduce the heat to low and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave, covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove lamb and spiced carrots, and mix rice well. To serve, cover base of a platter with a little rice, spoon over the lamb and then cover with remaining rice. Top with spiced carrot, then scatter with almonds and pistachios.


Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Alice Storey and Georgina Larby. Creative concept by Belinda So.


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