Monday 22 July 2019

Donal Skehan meets 'the spice king of Ireland' Arun Kapil

Recipes, Restaurant recommendations and more hidden gems from Donal's Little Black Book.

Donal Skehan and Arun Kapil
Donal Skehan and Arun Kapil
Arun bakery's Peter Flynn and Vlad Rannis
Lamb Biriana Ka Kesar pic: Yuki Sugiura

Donal Skehan's

Arun Kapil is the spice King of Ireland! His highly popular Green Saffron spices and sauces can be found in food stores throughout the country. Over the past two years, Arun has been writing an ode to spices in his first cookbook Fresh Spice.

Beautifully illustrated, the recipes aren't just a nod to his Indian heritage, but also show how spices can be used in everyday cooking to give simple, explosive flavour. Arun and I filmed a video showing how to make this simple recipe featured in the book for my YouTube ( channel which will be live this Sunday.

Read more: Donal Skehan: I silenced the food snobs

Arun says of this dish: "This is my version of an Indian classic; 'ka kesar' means 'with saffron'. From the glorious Nizam Hyderabadi palaces to the Moghul territories of Lucknow, Delhi and Agra across to Kashmir, Lahore and Karachi and back to Persia, biryani has many regional variations. Lamb, hogget, mutton - even goat - are all traditional. The key is undoubtedly the beauty of the basmati rice and a slow, 'dum' cooking method. 'Dum' refers to cooking in a sealed pot; traditionally the pot is sealed with dough but here we use a tight-fitting lid."

Donal Skehan and Arun Kapil


Serves 4-6

You will need

1kg stewing lamb, diced

1tbsp ghee, sunflower oil or unsalted butter

For the marinade:

5 large garlic cloves, crushed

60g fresh ginger, grated

125ml natural yoghurt

1 green bird's eye chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

2 onions, diced

2tbsp golden caster sugar

1tbsp sea salt

2tbsp powdered turmeric

2tbsp black peppercorns, finely ground

1tbsp chilli flakes

2tbsp Garam Masala

½tbsp freshly grated nutmeg

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

Handful of mint leaves, chopped

For the rice:

330g aged basmati rice

3tbsp cumin seeds

3 cloves of garlic

Seeds of 3 cardamom pods

Seeds of 1 black cardamom pod

½tsp finely ground mace

10 saffron threads

2tsp salt

Lamb Biriana Ka Kesar pic: Yuki Sugiura


1. Combine all the marinaded ingredients in a non-metallic bowl and mix well.

2. Add the meat, cover and set aside for at least 4 hours (or preferably overnight) in the fridge. Put the ghee in a large heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole with a tight-fitting lid.

3. Put over a medium heat, add the meat and all its marinade and cook for 25 minutes. Set aside.

4. Wash the rice thoroughly and drain it. 5. Finely grind the whole spices, except the saffron, using a mortar and pestle. Put 1.2l (2 pints) of water into a large saucepan, add all the spices, the rice, saffron and salt, and bring to the boil.

6. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. To assemble the dish, strain the remaining water from the rice into the meat mixture, stir thoroughly and then level the meat out evenly.

7. Spread the rice in an even layer over the meat. Cover the pan and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes.

8. Turn down the heat to its lowest setting and cook gently for 30 minutes, keeping the lid on and not stirring at all. (Alternatively, pop it into the oven, preheated to 180°C / gas mark 4.)

9. Remove the dish from the heat and leave it to rest for 5 minutes before taking it to the table, lifting off the lid with a flourish, and allowing everyone to get the full, fragrant Eastern aroma.

Biryani made simple!


Fresh Spice by Arun Kapi, €29.99, is published by Pavilion Books

For more information on stockists, follow Arun Bakery on Facebook & Twitter.


Arun bakery's Peter Flynn and Vlad Rannis

My new television series Donal’s Irish Feast began last Thursday evening on RTÉ One at 7pm. The show is focused on Irish food producers and their ingredients. As a country, we now boast some of the finest food in Europe so I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of our homegrown food heroes throughout the filming. In the first episode Dublin food producers were on the menu and I visited Arun Bakery in Smithfield, run by Peter Flynn and Vlad Rannis, to pick up some of their Brioche for Summer Fruit Pudding.

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Vlad is a master baker who moved to Dublin in 2003 and makes some of the capital’s best sourdough loaves with popular flavours like rosemary, walnut and a wholemeal and spelt variation simply entitled “The Bohemian”. Find Arun Bakery’s loaves on the shelves of selected food stores throughout Dublin and in the Honest2Goodness market in Glasnevin on Saturdays.

Irish Independent

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