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Recipe: Neera's Yakhni Pulao

Last updated on: December 26, 2022 12:19 IST
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This recipe comes all the way from Chhapra, Bihar, from Neera Ismail.

For decades and decades, maybe even over a century, on special occasions like Christmas and Easter, this lightly-spiced version of Yakhni Pulao has been cooked in the family home.

The mutton is put together separately and the rice is then cooked up in the leftover mutton stock or in Urdu yakhni. Later the mutton is added to the rice and it becomes a fragrant pulao.

Neera also makes excellent Shami Kebabs, Katey Masale Ka Meat, Chole Bhature and more.

Yakhni Pulao

Photographs: Archana Masih

Neera's Yakhni Pulao

Serves: 5-6


  • 1 kg mutton, with fat, well washed, cut into large-ish pieces
  • Salt to taste, about 2-3 tsp
  • 2½ cups water
  • 4-5 tbsp ghee

For the masala potli or muslin cloth-wrapped spice bouquet garni

  • 100 gm mota saunf or larger fennel seeds
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 heads garlic, peeled
  • 2 tej patta or bay leaves
  • 50 gm khadi dhania or whole coriander seeds

For the pulao

  • 1 kg basmati rice, washed
  • 4-5 tbsp ghee
  • ½ tsp shahi jeera or the finer variety cumin seeds
  • 6-7 black peppercorns
  • 2 tej patta or bay leaves
  • Salt to taste, about 2 tsp


For the mutton

  • Coarsely grind the spices for the masala potli and tie in a muslin cloth.
  • In a pressure cooker, add the mutton, masala potli and salt with the water and cook for 2 whistles over high heat.
    Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
    Take off heat and let the pressure release naturally.
    Then open the cooker and drain the mutton pieces.
    Transfer the water that remains in the cooker into another saucepan and keep aside for later.
    Keep aside the masala potli too.
  • In a large thick-bottomed kadhai or saucepan lightly fry the mutton in ghee over medium heat till cooked and crispy on the outside.
    Keep aside.

For cooking the rice with the mutton

  • Heat the ghee for the tadka or seasoning in a pressure cooker and add the shahi jeera, bay leaves and the peppercorns.
    Saute a few minutes.
    Add the raw rice.
    Add the salt.
    Fry the rice for 5-7 minutes.
  • Then add the water reserved from cooking the mutton.
    Squeeze all the juice from the potli into the rice and discard the potli.
  • Cook for 2 whistles and take off heat.
    Let the pressure release naturally.
    Open the cooker, add the mutton pieces and lightly toss.
  • Serve hot -- the pulao tastes best by itself, with no accompaniment but if preferred, consider opting for a plain dahi or yoghurt raita to which a few pinches of homemade garam masala have been added.

Editor's Note: Vegetarian takes on Yakhni Pulao do exist, whereby the mutton is substituted with a medley of vegetables like chopped cauliflower, julienned carrots, beans sliced lengthwise, fingers of doodhi or bottle gourd, ginger.

Neera Ismail

Neera Ismail is the principal of the Holy Cross Prep School, Chhapra, Bihar.

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