What's a pot of biryani without lentils? No really. Do tell.

Wat nie dood maak nie, maak vet.

These words were often spoken to me as I fought with my mother to have the kind of food I read about in the Women’s Value magazine she used to buy.

She liked to experiment with food and often made extravagant, but low budget meals.

I was 14 years old the very first time I cooked an actual pot of food. It was lentil bredie and it was delicious, and according to my unskilled eye and undeveloped taste buds, it was manna straight out of heaven.

My mother had to leave to go and look at a car that she wanted to buy, (Queenie, a burnt orange Mazda Capella) and repeated the instructions on how to cook the meal several times.

I had just started high school that year and felt if I could get through ontgroening at my new school, I could do anything.

At the end of my efforts, the lentils were still hard and there was very little salt in it and it was a vaal affere, but I felt very proud of myself. I knew it was not perfect, but it made me determined to get it right.

Needless to say, for the next few months, we had lentils for supper every third day, that is, until I discovered baked beans mos.

In our communities, lentils are part of growing up. It goes in langsouse, stews, curries, salads and of course, biryani, making meals delicious and nutritious.

This week Cooksisters decided to add a little spice to our usual recipes, with cool combos that can work on any given day. 

Nowadays, that asvaal bredie I made back then is just a bad memory.

How to make Cape Malay Biryani


  • 1kg mutton or lamb, cubed
  • 15ml grated ginger
  • 10ml garlic, finely chopped
  • 5ml salt or enough for taste
  • 100ml cooking oil
  • 300ml hot water
  • 6 – 7 potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 625ml rice of your choice (recommended: basmati rice)
  • 250ml lentils
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • A few dollops of butter
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 2 green chillies
  • 2.5ml turmeric
  • 5ml roasted masala
  • 30ml garam masala
  • 5 whole cloves
  • A few strands saffron
  • 1 tomato, grated
  • 250m1 buttermilk


Wash and drain meat in colander. Rub ginger, garlic and salt into meat. 

Combine marinade ingredients and marinate meat for 3 hours. Boil lentils until tender (20 minutes), rinse and drain. 

Wash rice until water runs clear and drain. Heat 50ml oil in a large pan over medium heat, add rice and toss to coat well (with the oil). Add 100ml hot water to rice and cook covered over medium heat for 5 minutes, remove from heat and set aside. 

Heat the remaining oil in a large pan and fry the potatoes until golden brown. Remove the potatoes and set aside. 

Add the meat, marinade and two-thirds of the onions to a saucepan and cook covered over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove meat and set aside. In saucepan, lay ingredients as follows: potatoes, rice, meat, potatoes, rice, meat and finally the lentils and reserved onions on top. 

Dot with butter and sprinkle with 200ml hot water. Cook covered over high heat for 5 minutes, then simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour over low heat. You can even layer the ingredients in a glass baking dish and bake in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour or until the rice and meat is nice and tender.

Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with atjar or sambal and serve hot.