Memories of Meat – A Mutton Biryani for Christmas Feast



Lima Kanungo, retired lecturer of English from Zakir Hussain College, Delhi, says "What are feast days without a feast! Christmas and Easter, the two main feast days for Christians were celebrated in our house with biryani for lunch after the mandatory church service." She mentions that it was meat that made festival days special because "mutton was too expensive to be cooked often for our large family."

Recalling how her mother superseded her Tamil Catholic prejudice against beef and pork, Professor Lima says "She would cook it" for the protein requirement of her children, "but not eat it." In those days they "got excellent pork from the army cantonment and beef was delivered to the house!"

"The meal ended with cake on Christmas and payasam on Easter. I don't remember biryani being cooked on any other day!" says Professor Kanungo.


For Marination:
1. 250 gms mutton
2. 1 heaped tsp of yoghrt
3. 1/3 tsp turmeric powder
4. 1 pod garlic and 1 index finger long ginger – ground together
5. Salt to taste

Marinate the mutton with the above ingredients.

For Cooking:

1. Less than a tumbler of rice – washed and drained
2. 5 cloves
3. 2 cardamoms
4. 1 cinnamon stick
5. 1 medium sized onion – sliced
6. 1 green chilli
7. 2 medium sized tomatoes – sliced
8. Ginger garlic paste – to taste
9. A pinch of Turmeric powder
10. 1/4 tsp chilli powder
11. 1 1/2 fistfulls of mint leaves
12. 1 tsp lemon juice
13. Green coriander
14. Salt


1. Heat oil in a pressure cooker.
2. Add onion and green chilli. Fry till it turns golden.
3. Add tomatoes and mash it well.
4. Add ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder and chilli powder
5. Add the mint leaves and salt
6. Fry till you get the aroma of the  mixture.
7. Add the marinated mutton pieces and a little water.
8. Cook for fifteen mins after the whistle.
9. After the pressure subsides, add rice and equal quantity of water.
10. Add salt to taste.
11. Add lemon juice and green coriander.
12. Cook under pressure till one whistle.

Note: On Christmas and Easter, biryani "was accompanied by a South Indian style egg curry and a pachadi which is a raita with finely chopped onions, tomatoes and green chillies."