The recipe for this comes from Shefali. She made an excellent vegetable biryani for the birthday party we had for their son Vayun, and Noor, this last March. I had been meaning ever since to ask her for the recipe.
Then, when I was wondering what to make for dinner this last Saturday evening, to go with the tikki-chole and tandoori chicken that I was planning for the main course (we had Jenny,Stefan,and Uma and her parents’ Kate and Oliver come over to eat with us) , I remembered this biryani and felt it would round out the meal nicely.
Shefali very patiently explained the entire process to me – and it certainly is a long one – over the telephone, after which I did a trial run during the week. The girls especially loved the biryani , though Shri I guess would have liked me to not skip the fried onions that usually adorn a biryani. But there was so much oil/ghee that had gone in to the rice already, I decided I just had to skip this last bit of garnish !
Since the experiment worked out well I did make the biryani for dinner on Saturday too and our guests liked it a lot.
Instead of the traditional accompaniment of raita, I made khamang kakdi to go with the biryani – as I wanted to include a salad on the table – and it wasn’t a bad combination.
The three girls had pasta, a leafy green salad and potato wedges that evening but I made enough so that Indira and Noor – and Shri and I, too – had the leftover biryani for lunch on Sunday and I have to say this is another dish that tastes even better the next day !
For the rice :
2 cups of Basmati rice
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
3 bay leaves
3 pods (cracked) each of green and black cardamom
salt, to taste (I would add 1 teaspoon)
For the vegetable mixture:
2 tablespoons of oil
3 medium carrots, peeled, washed, sliced in half along the length then diced in to 1 cm wide pieces
3 medium potatoes, peeled, washed, sliced in half along the length then diced in to 1cm-2 cm wide pieces
150-200 gms of fresh green beans, ends trimmed then diced in to 1 inch pieces
250 gms of whisked yogurt
3/4 teaspoon each of turmeric powder, red chilly powder and garam masala powder
3 tablespoons of mint-coriander paste (made with equal amounts of the two herbs) or mint-coriander chutney (I had some in the fridge so this is what I used and it added a nice tangy touch, I think)
1 large onion, chopped very fine
2 tomatoes, chopped fine or an equivalent amount of canned tomato pulp
1 and a 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger and garlic pastes
salt, to taste (I would add about 1 1/2-2 teaspoons)
You’ll also be using:
approx. 120 ml of warm milk
a generous pinch of saffron strands (I used almost 3/4 of a tablespoon, I think)
2-4 tablespoons of melted ghee
1-2 tablespoons of fresh mint leaves for garnish
Wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes. Then in a rice cooker or large sauce pan, heat the oil for the rice,fry the whole spices till their aroma is released. Now add the rice after draining it and fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the salt, 3 cups of water and cook till all the water is absorbed and the rice is almost but not entirely cooked (it should have just a little bite left).
While the rice cooks, soak the saffron strands in the milk and start to prepare the vegetable mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a shallow frying pan and add the potatoes. Fry till they start to acquire a crispy, golden color. Then add the carrots and the beans, and cook for a few minutes till they seem semi-cooked. Take the pan off the heat and let the vegetables cool.
Make a marinade for the vegetables by mixing the chutney and the turmeric powder, red chilly powder and garam masala powder in to the yoghurt. When the vegetables have cooled completely, add them to this mixture, toss everything together gently to coat the vegetables well and keep aside for at least an hour.
Now heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the same frying pan as the one used for the vegetables, and fry the chopped onion till it is a caramel-brown color. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes next, and fry the mixture till the tomatoes are well-blended. Add the marinated vegetables and cook everything together till the yogurt is absorbed but take the mixture off the heat before it goes too dry. Season with salt and toss in to the vegetables.
In a large baking dish, spread half the vegetable mixture, then spread half the rice over that (after gently fluffing the rice in the pan in which you cooked it to separate the grains. While doing this, also remove all the whole spices; the rice will have absorbed their flavors in any case). Sprinkle over, evenly , half the milk and saffron mixture , and half the ghee (I skipped this bit with the ghee the first time I made the biryani and it makes no big difference to the taste, I think). Now spread the remaining vegetable mixture, then the rest of the rice, followed by the remaining milk-saffron mixture and then the ghee. Garnish with fresh mint, wrap and seal the dish well with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated oven for 1 hour, at 170-180 degrees C.
After the end of the baking time, leave the dish in the oven for 15-20 minutes, then keep the dish well-covered till you are ready to serve/eat.
Then dig in with a large serving spoon to bring up all the yummy flavors, and eat slowly to savor them 🙂
This one is so worth the effort. Thanks again, Shefali !