Monday, March 12, 2012

vegetable biryani

I have always loved Indian food, but I have come to biryani's late in life.  I am not sure if I never had them when I was younger, or if I never had a good one.  A friend used to own a small Indian restaurant here in Vancouver and biryani was the special one day, so I decided to try it.  It was a revelation, a soft fluffy rice studded with intensely flavoured morsels including nuts and dried fruit. Since then I often order it when going to an Indian restaurant and have been experimenting with making it myself.

This Sunday evening a neighbourhood friend invited us over, along with a few others, for a Texas hold em game and potluck dinner.  So I decided to make a vegetarian biryani to take along as I know they like  Indian food and I thought it would travel well.  I found the basis for this recipe at
But I simplified it a little and had to substitute a couple of items.

First partialy cook the rice.

1 and half cup basmati rice
2 green cardamoms
2 cloves
1 small sliver of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
3 cups water

All the recipes that I found for biryani say to rinse and soak the rice, I assume to remove a lot of the starch, so I rinsed the rice in a colander then soaked in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 an hour, drained it and put in to a pot with the remaining ingredients.

Cook the rice with the lid on until all the water is absorbed and it still a little el dente, about 15 minutes then fluff with a fork and set aside with the lid on.

1/2 medium sized cauliflower, florets removed
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 medium sized potato, cubed
1 cup of chopped greeen beans
1  onion, finely sliced
1 green chili, chopped
2 tbsp julienned ginger
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 green cardamom
2 black cardamoms
2 cloves
small piece of cinnamon 
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder/cayenne pepper
2 tbsp cashewnuts or whole almonds
1 tbsp sultanas/raisins/dates
3 tbsp olive oil

Whole spices in the vegetable mixture

Heat the olive oil in a large heave bottomed pot
Add all whole cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon. Fry them until they crackle.
Now add the onions. Fry the onions till golden brown.

Add the green chilli, ginger and garlic. Fry for a minute.
Add the turmeric and red chili powder.

Give the mixture a stir.
Now add the vegetables and stir for a minute.

Add the yoghurt.
Stir and then add 3/4 cup water plus salt. Stir the mixture well.

Bring the entire vegetable mixture to a boil. Then simmer until the vegetables are cooked, about 10 minutes.

Add the dry fruits – almonds,  to the vegetable.
Check the salt. Add more if required.
remove half the vegetable mixture in to a bowl. Now spread half of the rice over the vegetable mixture remaining in the pot and top with some chopped cilantro and mint if you have any which sadly I did not.

put the remainder of the vegetable mixture which you had set aside on top of the rice.

Spread the remaining rice on top with a little more cilantro.

Cover with a tight fitting  lid, and place over a very low heat.  My gas stove has one burner that can be set to "melt" and this is what I used. I cooked it like this for about 25 minutes the rice steams and absorbs all the moisture from the vegetable mixture. Altenately you can put in a very low oven and cook that way.

This made enough for a pot luck for 10, along with many other dishes with enough left over for lunch the next day.  This was tasty and did travel very well, as my mothers trusty old Le Crueset is heavy and kept the dish warm while we took it over in the car and sitting in their kitchen for about 1/4 of an hour.

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