April 19th, 2010
Vegetable Biriyani With Cucumber Mint Raita
Vegetable Biriyani and its variants make a frequent appearance on my table. So my family and friends, including myself were quite surprised that a recipe for the same has not yet appeared on divinetaste. When my aunt and cousin arrived last week, I made this for lunch and that’s when I also felt that I could no longer postpone the writing of this post.
Biriyani is essentially a preparation of meat and rice and is a gift of the mughals to the cuisine of the world. There are hundreds of variations of this rice preparation. A pulao is quite similar to a biriyani and in “A Historical dictionary of Indian Food” K.T. Achaya says that the recipes in the Ain-i-Akbari show little distinction between a biriyani and a palao. But the techniques and flavours used in the north Indian (Lucknow) biriyanis and pulao are different from those of the south (Kerala and Hyderabad).
One of the plus points of this rice preparation is that you can use seasonal fresh vegetables that you have on hand. I’m lucky to have farm fresh vegetables delivered at my doorstep from my vendor Nathuram every alternate day. This gives me a great choice of vegetables to use.
I still remember the day when my friend Preethi had recreated my version of biriyani in her kitchen after having noted the recipe to the tee. I cannot forget the smile on her excited face exuding so much happiness and contentment for having mastered the art of preparing this exotic rice. I always joke with her saying with her around I dont need any recipe testers.
The best part of the art of food preparation is when you are able to feel the satisfaction of making a wonderful creation and the contentment arrives when others savour it too. This Biriyani is perfect for a crowd or when you have many mouths to feed. It is visually attractive and nutritionally adept with carbohydrate from the rice, vitamins and minerals from the vegetables and protein from the yogurt served as an accompaniment.
Vegetable Biriyani Recipe
The ingredient list is long but this is a fantastic rice preparation to make for a party. Vegetables in season can be used and soy chunks or paneer cheese can be added for additional flavour
500 gm (2 1/2 cups) good quality basmati Rice
2 medium sized carrots, cut into 1” pieces
1 medium sized potato, cut into 1 “ pieces
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
100 gm, 1/2 cup peas
15 to 20 French beans, cut into 1” pieces
1/2 cup paneer cheese or soy chunks prepared by soaking in hot water (optional)
250 ml (1 cup) fresh pudina or mint leaves
125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh thick yogurt (omit for a vegan version and replace with 1/2 cup
750 ml (3 cups) hot water
2 bay leaves
3 green cardamom
3 black cardamom
2 star anise
1” piece cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp coriander seed powder (dhaniya powder)
1 tsp asafetida
4 tsp salt
8 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
To be ground into a paste:
1 big tomato, cut into 4 big pieces with juice
250 ml (1 cup) packed fresh coriander leaves
15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh ginger
2 green chillies
Wash the rice in a colander under a running stream of water and soak the rice in a pot with enough water to cover the rice for anywhere between 1/2 hour to 1 hour. After an hour drain all the water with the help of a strainer.
In a food processor or blender, assemble the tomato, coriander, ginger and green chillies and grind to a fine paste. There is no need to add water since the tomato has enough juice in it to get a good consistency paste.
Cut the vegetables and keep aside.
In a wok or kadhai or a degchi (shallow vessel used for cooking rice) or a big dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium flame and add in the whole spices, cloves, bay leaves, green and black cardamom, star anise and cinnamon. When the cloves puff up and the other spices release their aroma into the oil, put in the asafetida, turmeric, red chilli and coriander seed powder and stir for a few seconds. Mix in the ground paste and cook until the oil separates. Put in the cut vegetables and whole mint leaves and mix well. Stir in the yogurt, rice, water and salt.
You can transfer this entire mixture to an electric rice cooker and cook till done or cook covered in the degchi or dutch oven for about 30 to 40 minutes on a very low flame.
Serves 6 to 8 for a main course or more as a side.
Cucumber Mint Raita
Slice one end of the cucumber and rub vigorously against the cut exposed part of the cucumber. This will help to extract the bitter white juices from the cucumber.
500 ml (2 cups) thick fresh yogurt
2 medium sized cucumber, chopped fine
2 tbsp mint leaves
1/2 tsp black salt or kala namak
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
1 green chlli
1/2 tsp ginger, chopped
In a mortar and pestle or a blender or food processor, grind the mint leaves, ginger and green chilli to a fine paste and keep aside.
In a bowl, using a wire whisk whip the yogurt until smooth and creamy.
Mix in the ground mint paste, cumin powder, salt and the finely chopped cucumber.
Serves 4 to 6