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Recipe: Biryani Rice Dish With Garden Vegetables

In what can only be described as a volcanic hotpot of Indian flavours, my mother's biryani recipe caters especially to the health req...

recipe indian pakistani rice biryani vegetables
In what can only be described as a volcanic hotpot of Indian flavours, my mother's biryani recipe caters especially to the health requirements of my family. They include very little meat  in meals (my sister is a Muslim vegetarian), our spice intake is minimum, and my father is a heart patient who lives on vegetables.

Biryani in India, Britain, Malaysia and Iran
Biryani is a South Asian rice dish in which roasted spices and the main ingredient - usually marinated meats - are cooked between layers of rice. Although, you will find variations throughout Iran, India, reaching as far as Malaysia, and every Pakistani family has their own take on biryani.
Here in Britain, there are only a few biryani dishes I've come across. My mother's loosely vegetarian recipe is similar to Tahaari biryani, a vegetarian version of the dish that is cooked with meat stock. We will pick the vegetables in season and adapt our recipes to them. For our sustainable Eids and family get togethers though, we like to add cashew nuts, saffron, pomegranate seeds and orange zest, which follows the more regal Middle Eastern flavours.

Recipe feeds about 6-8 • Gas Mark 4 (Medium-high heat) • Vegan/Halal

Ingredients:
• 2 cups basmati long grain rice, approximately 500g
• 2 tsp salt (less/more to taste)
• 1 tbsp of cumin seeds

• 1 medium onion and two large
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 inch of stem ginger
• 2 cloves fresh garlic

• 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
• 1 tsp ground cumin seeds

• 1 chopped medium tomato
• 1 finely chopped green chilli (1 jalapeno pepper)

• 1 tsp curry powder
• 1 tsp ginger powder
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1 tsp paprika

• 1 organic carrot, diced
• 1 organic courgette, sliced thinly or cubed
• 75g Green peas
• 1 whole red pepper, halved and sliced
• Half an aubergine, diced
• 1 tsp garam masala (ground)
• 1 tsp red chilli flakes

Method:
1) Boil the rice until the grains begin to split, with half a teaspoon of salt. Salt prevents the rice sticking together. Add crushed cumin seeds to this. Drain rice and rinse through once with cold water to prevent further cooking.

2) In a separate pan, saute two large onions with olive oil on medium-low heat and salt (salt draws moisture out). Add the crushed fresh garlic and ginger. Stir occasionally to stop the ginger and garlic from over-browning. As soon as both begin to turn golden brown, add the ground coriander and cumin seeds and cook for 3-5 minutes. Again, watch out for browning, you want to lightly fry the spices only, not burn them.

3) To this mixture, add one chopped tomato and one finely chopped green chilli (deseed for medium heat). To add more flavour to this rice base, add the ginger powder, curry powder,  turmeric and for colour, paprika. These are readily available as mixed spices otherwise you can just ground your own from dried spices.

4) Keep frying this mixture for a further 5 minutes to fuse the spices on a medium-high temperature. Then lower the gas/cooker temperature, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to mush the tomato further and prevent sticking and, to reduce the whole mixture.

5) Now for the vegetables. add the chopped carrots first as they take the longest to cook. After 4-5 minutes or until the carrots have softened a little, add the courgettes and peppers, cook for  a further 3 minutes and finally add the aubergine and peas. Keep stirring after every minute on a medium temperature and add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to prevent sticking.

6) Turn the heat down low and check for taste. It should be very flavourful, somewhat salty and very spicy. The more spice and kick you get from this mixture, the better it will taste with the rice as the latter will absorb and reduce the vegetable concoction. If that 'kick' is lacking, add another half a teaspoon of ground coriander seeds and curry powder and quickly cook for 2 minutes before taking the pan off the heat.

7) Spoon some of the rice into a deep cooking pot and layer half of the fried-spice-vegetable mixture on top. Spoon more rice on top of this and add the rest of the spices and keep going until finished. A giant tagine works great for this.

8) Sprinkle garam masala and red chilli flakes on top. For greater flavour, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and 1tsp of lemon and lime juice over this. It's like a flurry of crazy flavours but after cooking the end result is quite mild and delicious.

9) Put the pot over a low temperature now and add half a cup of boiled water. Cover and cook until this water has evaporated and the rice is steamed through.

10) Serve as large portions for a main course, or smaller portions with fried onions, fresh leaf salad and lamb chops.

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Peace + Eco-jihad,
Zaufishan - now I'm hungry.

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