Lamb and Cardamom Pilaf

11:30 am on 20 September 2010

More Than French: Recipes and Stories is a record of Mouchel's life in food, with recipes from those who have impacted his cuisine.

This is a Mouchel family dish, built around the family’s fondness for rice and Australia’s liking for lamb. Using spices is also more common in Australian cooking than in the cooking of France or Japan. 

If there is no time to marinate the meat in the spices, add them while the meat is browning. I like to add a chunk of butter to the pilaf at the end, forking the melting butter through the rice and meat with the fresh herbs. A little butter, perhaps surprisingly, lightens the dish.

If possible, use a large heavy-lidded casserole dish, so the vegetables and meat can first be browned, then placed directly in the oven. If the lid does not seal well, place a double layer of aluminium foil over the dish before putting on the lid.

(Serves 6)


  • 1 kilogram lamb, taken from the leg
  • and cut into 2–3cm dice
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, or 1 medium-sized
  • brown onion, peeled and diced
  • 150 grams (about 1) carrot, peeled and diced
  • 150 grams (about 1 stalk) celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 350 grams (1½ cups) basmati rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 750ml warm chicken stock, or water
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • salt and pepper
  • 50 grams butter (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint


In a bowl, toss the cubes of lamb in the curry powder and cayenne, and place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. When you’re ready to start cooking, remove the bowl from the fridge and preheat the oven to 160°C.

Warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over a medium heat and add the chopped shallots (or onion), carrot, celery and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the shallots have softened, but not browned. Remove the vegetables from pot, and set aside.

In the same pot over medium to high heat, brown the lamb in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the grated ginger and season with salt and pepper.

Turn the heat down, and add the cooked vegetables, the rice, the wine, the chicken stock and the cardamom seeds to the pot. Stir, season with a little salt and pepper, and bring just to the boil.

Cover the dish and place in the oven for around 45 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

To finish, add the butter (if using) and fluff the pilaf with a fork. Sprinkle over the chopped parsley and mint, and serve immediately.

Stephen Morris’s wine recommendation

Clos Marguerite 2008 Pinot Noir (Marlborough). There is smoke and charcoal on the nose, and nice fine tannins in the mouth. A lighter and savoury style. A bit of earth. Nutmeg, cardamom (even, maybe) amongst the spice notes.

Cloudy Bay 2008 Pinot Noir (Marlborough). Black cherry and damson plums, Aniseed and liquorice. Cloves, but not strongly so. Spice flavours grow richer as it sits in the glass and some of the puppy fat fruit flavours fade - which is not a bad thing at all.

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