Vegetable Biriyani

Who doesn’t love a plateful of biriyani? This aromatic rice preparation combines vegetables, fragrant basmati rice, fresh herbs, whole dry spices and a touch of the luxurious saffron. While I prefer simple and easy-to-make recipes, I make an exception for biriyani though. Simply because it is worth that little effort you put in. The best part about biriyani is that it tastes better the next day (if you have any left that is) when the flavours of the spices and masala intensify the taste of the dish.

Ingredients

  • Basmati rice – 2 cups
  • Potato – 1
  • Assorted frozen vegetables (beans, cauliflower, capsicum, carrot) – 1 large cupOnions (large) – 1 chopped finely + ½ thinly sliced for frying
  • Tomato – 1, diced
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tspn
  • Mint leaves – 1 cup, chopped and tightly packed
  • Coriander leaves – 1 cup, chopped and tightly packed
  • Saffron – 4-6 strands
  • Yoghurt – ¾ to 1 cup
  • Biriyani masala – 5 tspns
  • Coriander powder – ½ tspn
  • Chilli powder – 1 tspn
  • Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
  • Cinnamon sticks – 2
  • Cardamom pods – 4
  • Cloves – 4
  • Bay leaves – 2
  • Mace (javetri/ japatri) – 2
  • Salt – To taste
  • Oil – ½ tblspn for the biriyani and 1 cup for frying the onions
  • Ghee – 2 tblspns
  • Water – 4 cups for the rice + ¼ cup for cooking the veggies

Directions

Start with the prep:

  1. Wash and soak basmati rice in water for about 35 to 45 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 cup of oil in a skillet and sprinkle the thinly sliced onions and fry them till they turn crispy and brown. Remove the fried onions form the skillet and place them on a kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. Keep it aside.
  3. Fill a small cup with about ¼ of water and put the saffron strands. Allow them to soak till they are required to be added in the biriyani.

Method:

  1. Use a heavy-bottomed skillet or saucepan, heat oil (you could use some of the oil used for frying the onions for an infused oil flavour) in it Toss in 2 cardamom pods, 1 mace, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and 1 bay leaf. Sauté the spices till it releases an aroma.
  2. Put the chopped onions and let them turn soft and slightly brown.
    Add the ginger garlic paste and cook stirring till the raw smell from the paste leaves.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Cook till the tomato pieces have broken down and softened.
  4. Sprinkle a little water to prevent the soft tomato pieces from sticking to the bottom of the vessel. Now add the vegetables, starting from the ones that take the longest time to cook. I have used frozen veggies here.
  5. If you are using fresh ones, start with potatoes followed by beans, cauliflower and capsicum.
  6. Allow the vegetables to cook for a few minutes till you are able to run a fork through it easily.
  7. Add a little bit of water to aid the cooking process.
  8. Ensure you do not overcook them as they can make the ‘masala’ for the biriyani very soggy.
  9. Once the vegetables are fairly soft, add the yoghurt, 3 teaspoons of biriyani masala, chilli powder and salt.
  10. Take a small handful of the mint and coriander leaves and give it a mix. Allow it to cook for 5 minutes.
  11. It will be hard to miss the fragrance of the mint and coriander leaves cooking with the dry spices and biriyani masala.
  12. In the meanwhile, drain the water the rice has been soaking in. Transfer the rice to a wide-mouthed vessel and add 4 cups of water.
  13. Add a salt, 1 bay leaf, 1 mace, 2 cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and place it on the stove.
  14. Allow the rice to cook till it is 80% done.
  15. To check this, take a few grains and taste-test it to see if it is partly cooked and that it is still has not been cooked through.
  16. Once done, drain the water completely and keep aside.
  17. Coming back to the veggies, once they are cooked and soaking in yoghurt, turn the stove off.
  18. Now comes the final part and the best part of the biriyani prep work – yes, the assembling!
  19. In a heavy bottomed, wide-mouthed vessel, scoop out some cooked vegetable and put them on the bottom of the pan.
  20. Spread it to cover the bottom surface of the vessel. Take out some rice and spread it over the vegetable mixture.
  21. Pour some ghee over the rice.
  22. Follow it by pouring some water that the saffron strands have been soaking in. Add a few strands of saffron too.
  23. Sprinkle about 1 tspn of biriyani masala, some mint and coriander leaves and the fried onions.
  24. Repeat the steps for another layer.
  25. Then place the vessel with the assembled biriyani on the stove with high flame.
  26. Cover the vessel and let it cook for 3 minutes, you will hear a small crackling sound.
  27. That is your indicator to turn the stove to low flame. Let the rice, spices and vegetables cook for another 20 minutes in low flame.
  28. After 20 mins, turn the stove off and serve like you would serve cake.
  29. This way you will get four layers with a combination of rice and masala.

Tips:

  1. Use vegetables of your choice. Even mushrooms taste lovely in this biriyani.
  2. Paneer is a good addition to the dish as well.
  3. Serve with salan, raitha or both.

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