Spiced Goat & Rice Pilaf (Sindhi Biryani)

photo 3-23

From an American perspective goat meat might not be the first protein you might think when it comes to picking a meal to put on the dinner table but in some parts of the world, it is a dietary staple.  While not as plentiful as lamb, in Albania goat is often an item found on the menus of the better traditional restaurants.  I had never tried the meat prior to coming here but once I did, I was a fan.  When cooked correctly it is tender and meaty tasting but less gamey than lamb.  I quickly decided I wanted to cook it at home but was just waiting for the right inspiration.

And I found that inspiration close to a year ago when Saveur magazine published an article on Pakistani cuisine that featured this goat pilaf.  I was immediately enamored and knew I wanted to try the dish.  But a problem arose.  While the recipe said you could use beef as an alternative meat, I really wanted to make it authentic and use goat.  Finally after a lot of asking around last month I found a butcher that could procure some fresh goat meat so I thought I was good to go.  But then I couldn’t find cilantro, and with the recipe calling for two cups of the spicy leaves, it was a key ingredient in the spice paste that forms the base of the dish.  Then I heard that the local Carrefour was now carrying the herb.  I managed to buy what little they had in stock and supplemented parsley for the rest (grocery items are always hit or miss in Albania. I’ve learned that if I see something I want I need to buy it immediately because they might not carry it again) so now I was truly set.

This is definitely not a weeknight dinner.  There are just too many steps and an extended cooking time to make the dish a practical option for an after work dinner. Plus the ingredient list, including all of the spices, is lengthy.  Having a well stocked pantry that I am trying to cook down before we move, I actually had all of the spices already on hand!  However, if you are looking for a weekend dinner that is flavorful and satisfying, give this dish a try.  Use beef if you can’t find goat; mix in parsley if you don’t have enough cilantro.  The results will be well worth your efforts.  (And this dish just might inspire me to start growing my own cilantro).


2 cups cilantro, coarsely chopped (or a combination of cilantro and flat leaf parsley)

1 cup mint leaves

10 garlic cloves

10 small green chiles, stemmed

1″ piece ginger, peeled and sliced

1 1/2 cups canola oil

5 medium onions, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 pounds goat shoulder or beef chuck, cut into 2″ cubes

3 tablespoons ground coriander

40 whole black peppercorns

16 whole cloves

12 whole black cardamom pods

10 whole bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

2 cups plain yogurt

6 dried apricots, quartered

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 cups basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes then drained

10 drops orange food coloring

  • Puree the cilantro, parsley, mint, garlic, chiles, ginger, and 1/4 cup of water in a food processor.  Set the paste aside.
  • Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.  Add 2 of the sliced onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a paper towel to drain.
  • Heat the remaining oil in the Dutch oven.  Add the remaining onions and cook until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
  • Season the goat with salt and pepper and add it to the pan with the onions.  Cook until browned, approximately 10 minutes.
  • Add the reserved paste, the ground coriander, and half each of the peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay  leaves, and cinnamon.  Cook, stirring, until the paste is caramelized, approximately 6 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the yogurt.  Continue to cook until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  • Add the apricots and cook until they are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the remaining peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, and cinnamon in a 4-quart sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the rice, salt, pepper and 4 cups of water to the pot and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is al dente, about 7 minutes.  Drain the rice and set it aside.
  • Mix the food coloring with 1/2 cup of water.
  • Transfer half of the goat mixture to a bowl.  Spoon half of the rice mixture over the goat remaining in the pot.
  • Drizzle half of the colored water over the rice then top with half of the reserved onions.
  • Top with the remaining goat mixture, rice, food coloring and onions.
  • Cover the pot and cook over low heat until the rice is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Mix the rice and meat together then serve.

Serves 6-8

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