Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quick Vegetable Biryani

One of the most flavorful and aromatic rice dishes is biryani, brought to India by the Mughal rulers. For those of us interested in the history of biryani, this is a good read. Traditional biryani is labor intensive and takes a good couple of hours to get done. The final step in a traditional biryani is the layering: a heavy-bottom pan is filled with alternate layers of rice and veggie masala, top is covered with dough (made of wheat flour, similar to roti dough) and cooked on a slow fire. This dough helps to seal all the flavors inside, thus enhancing the flavor of the dish. A more modern alternative is to layer rice and veggies in a glass or an oven-proof vessel, cover with aluminum foil and bake in an oven. Here is my take on biryani: an easy and a fast one for everyday cooking!! Since my version is the quick cooking one, I skipped the layering part and just mixed the whole thing together and let it cook covered for a few minutes.

The time-consuming part in this version is marinating the veggies, longer it stands better it tastes. I like to marinate a whole bunch of veggies at a time, use half for immediate consumption and store the other half for another day. I normally freeze the unused portion and it stays good for 3-4 weeks. Once you have the marinated veggies ready, the masala takes just about 20-30 min to cook, which is normally the time it takes for rice to get done. Cook the rice just three quarters way through initially as it gets completely cooked at the end with the veggies.

2 cup rice (mix rice with 2 cardamom, 4 cloves, 1 bay leaf)
1 small onion
1 big tomato
1 tsp cumin (jeera)
1 inch stick cinnamon
3 cardamom
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
2 cup mixed veggies (carrots, cauliflower, beans, peas, potatoes, bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini)
2 tsp oil or ghee
Garam masala powder, to taste
Salt to taste

Grind together: 1/2 cup mint, 3 green chillies, 1 inch ginger, 3 cloves garlic
For Marinade: 2 tbsp yogurt, 2 tsp red chilli powder, 2 tsp Coriander-cumin powder (dhaniya-jeera powder), 1 tsp dried mango powder (amchoor), 1tsp sugar, 1 tsp turmeric
Garnish: cilantro, fried cashews or peanuts (optional)


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and stir in half of the ground paste. Add veggies to this marinade and let it rest for 1 hour or so.
  2. Cook rice + whole spices mixture with 2 cups of water for 20 min .
  3. Add 2 tsp oil in a big saute pan. Add cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, jeera and the onions. Saute until the onions are brown. Add tomatoes, remaining half of the ground paste and saute for 2 more minutes.
  4. Now add the marinated vegetables along with the marinate. Saute for 2 more minutes.
  5. Add 1 cup of water and cook until the veggies are tender but firm and all the water has been absorbed.
  6. At this point, add the cooked rice to the veggies. Mix well. Add salt and sprinkle some garam masala powder.
  7. Sprinkle a few tablespoon of water, close the pan and let it cook for 5 - 10 minutes in a low heat (take care not to burn the dish).
  8. Garnish with cilantro and serve with raita.
This dish can very well be jazzed up for a special occasion but that's for another week :-)

Happy cooking.....

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