Cooking Out Of the Box, Literally ~ CCC#56 July Week 3


biryani from a mix

lamb biryani ~ out of the box

Hello friends! This is part of July Week 3 Cooking From Cookbook Challenge Group.

Cooking from Cookbook Challenge from Cooking4allseasons

I hope you won’t think I am completely crazy when I tell you that I couldn’t settle on a recipe from a cookbook this weekend! But I promise I didn’t resort to an online search 🙂

It’s garden time in the north woods, and around here that means eating from the fridge and freezer to make room for all the good things to come. I found a pound of frozen lamb and made up my mind to use it in a biryani. After scouring my cookbooks (and I did search some good ones, including The Bombay Palace Cookbook by Stendahl and A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey), I found myself too lazy to start toasting and grinding. I had my lamb, but needed inspiration. I found it in a little pink box, which has lived in a cupboard affectionately named “little India” for over five years now — ever since I moved to the north woods of Michigan.

the front yard

leaning apple tree and euonymus bushes in the front yard

Over the years I have learned the difference between freshly made spice mixes and the packaged variety. I am not ashamed, however, to say I use packaged masalas — especially when I’m cooking something in a hurry for work lunch, etc… or when I am plain lazy. Searching in little India, I came across a little pink box of MDH Bombay Biryani Masala. Magic!

bombay biryani masala from MDH

the box from which I cooked!

Now I do use packaged mixes from time to time, but I do not often follow the recipes on the boxes. Why not use the recipe on the back of this? It was perfect. All the whole masalas were in the pouch along with the ground spices. I dug out a pair of reading glasses (yep, getting older!) and got to work. I switched up a few things here and there but basically followed the box recipe, which I give below, along with the changes I made. It came out great, I must admit!

Bombay Biryani a la MDH


Wash and soak 1 lb basmati rice in 2x [its volume of] water for 20 minutes. (I had only 9 oz and used that).

Marinate 1 lb meat or chicken on the bone (I had boneless lamb), cut in cubes, in a mixture of ginger paste, garlic paste, salt, yogurt, and lemon juice (no measurements are given for this! I used about a cup of yogurt, 1 TB ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, 1 TB lemon juice and very little salt –  seeing that’s the first ingredient of the packaged masala!).

Chop 6 oz (I used 8 oz) onions and 8 oz (I used 12 oz) potatoes into half inch dice. Fry in 4 oz vegetable oil (this was way too much for me so I used 1 oz ghee and 1 oz grapeseed oil, and that was a luxury!) until onions are brown and potatoes are cooked. Add 7 oz (I used 9 oz) chopped tomatoes and one pack of MDH Bombay Biryani Masala; mix well until tomatoes are soft. Add the meat and 3 c water; cover and simmer until meat is tender and liquid has mostly cooked down. Salt to taste.

Boil the soaked rice until half the water remains. In a large [dutch oven], layer the rice with the meat mixture. Add remaining water and steam until rice is fully cooked. Serve with yogurt or raita.


The MDH Bombay Biryani Masala contains: salt, coriander, dried plum, red chili, fennel, mango, cassia, musk melon, turmeric, cumin, cloves, cardamom amomum seeds, garlic, black pepper, green cardomom, nutmeg, and mace.

I added: 1 small eggplant, cut into cubes, and 1 c frozen carrots

This was SUPER spicy and excellent actually, with the biggest black cardamoms I’ve ever seen included in the mix.

MDH bombay biryani masala

the contents of the spice pouch from MDH Bombay Biryani Masala

I am sure biryani is not a new process but my cooking photos are below — I added cashews and golden sultanas poached in ghee at the end — it was Saturday night after all!

veggies for biryani

tomatoes and masala added to the browned onions, potatoes, carrots and eggplant

lamb has been marinating in yogurt and gg paste

lamb is added, after marinating in yogurt, ginger and garlic

mix well!

mixed well and ready to cook

biryani base cooked

the biryani base is now cooked down and super-spicy!

the rice is added

layered with rice and ready to finish

garnished with golden sultanas and cashews

garnished with golden sultanas and cashews fried in ghee

biryani is done!

it’s done! gently turning it over

So there you have it — my “out of the box” lamb biryani. I made raita with — what else — some MDH raita masala (and one of the first little cukes from the garden).  I took a few pics but it was missing something — finally I figured it out. The pickle!

lamb biryani

lamb biryani with cucumber raita and mango pickle

Incidentally — the history of MDH spices (my favorite packaged mixes with the exception of sambhar podi, for which I turn to Sakthi) is very interesting and also inspiring. You can read about Mahashaya Dhampal, founder of the modern-day company, here; it is worth a look 🙂

And now, it’s time to start sifting through the cookbooks for next weekend. Happy Sunday!

bush pickles

bush pickles — cucumber for raita came from these!



  1. Srivalli Jetti said

    Oh wow I love your garden pictures Linda, so inspiring I tell you! coming to those packed masala packets, well even though I have an excellent recipe for homemade chana masala or pav bhaji masala, I always stock from brands like Everest and MTR(esp for chhole masala) works out well when I am in a hurry too..:)..nice biryani recipe you got there..Another thing you got me nodding is the fact that with so many cookbooks on hand, it is a tough task selecting one recipe a week right..:)

    Thanks Srivalli! I use both those boxed masalas quite often too — in spite of easy and favorite homemade recipes as you said. I enjoyed the ‘out of the box’ recipe, but I am looking through the cookbooks a bit earlier this week! 😉

  2. Your front yard looks so beautiful! Wish I could see your garden too.Yes, even I used packaged masalas when I am in a hurry to cook something fast or when I am too tired to roast and grind spices. I too have a few gem of recipes from the back of some packaged masalas.

    Thanks for your nice comment PJ — I do have fun taking pics in yard and garden 🙂

  3. Biryani looking good Linda. All it matters is the end result, using from a packet or freshly ground.

    Love your cucumber plant. I have an Indian variety and I so enjoy plucking them off the plant.

    ISG what a treat to see you here! I’d love to know which Indian cucumber you’re growing – I have not had luck with Japanese varieties but I’ll try another! Mostly I make my biryani from Daily Musings 😉

  4. veena said

    Lovely front yard. I understand it is so diffiuclt to settle on one recipe. Biryani looks great must have tasted awesome too.

    Thank you Veena! That biryani kept very well in the back of the fridge, too!

  5. I love the garden images here, Linda. the Biriyani looks so inviting I love the way the basmati rice cooked and layered looks.

    Thanks very much Seema! Basmati rice is so beautiful isn’t it – not only to eat but to look at 🙂

  6. Prof Prem raj Pushpakaran writes — 2019 marks the 100th year of Mahashian Di Hatti Private Limited!!!!

    100+ years of good taste and hopefully many more in the future!

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