How to Make Vegetable Biryani, Asia’s Layered Rice Dish
Admittedly, a recipe for biryani, the delicious Asian rice dish, is long. So many ingredients, right? But also, so many aromas, so many flavors, so many textures.
It’s the price to pay. Hoist up those reading glasses and get that potty ready.
Keep in mind that there are three secrets to a great biryani. Watch them and you’ll understand why biryani apparently remains the most popular take-out and delivery order in Indian restaurants around the world.
- First, carefully layer the main components. The accord of biryani’s distinct physical layers reflects and syncopates the many vibrant flavors of this classic, one-pot dish.
- Second, caramelize the onions until you get a rich mahogany brown. As a layer in its own right, the sweet onion vein may be the most important layer of all. It’s so delicious, so bewitching in flavor.
- Third, chop the cilantro and mint well and mix them together thoroughly. Then, sprinkle them evenly as you layer them. They will be sort of adult Pop Rocks, punctuating bites of biryani with their green and heady aromas and tastes.
Adapted from cooking.nytimes.com and cookwithmanali.com. Instead of the listed individual ingredients of both ginger and garlic, you can substitute 8 level tablespoons of ginger and garlic paste, always available from Indian grocers. For 6 to 8 people.
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 9 green cardamom pods
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 4 tablespoons ghee, or more, softened or at room temperature
- 3 medium red onions, peeled, seeded and sliced lengthwise “pole to pole”
- 4 tablespoons raw cashews, roughly chopped or crushed
- 1 large waxy white or yellow potato, partially peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/3 head of cauliflower, stemmed and broken into small florets
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices on the diagonal
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup frozen green beans
- 1 cup frozen sweet potato or butternut squash chunks
- 2/3 cup whole milk yogurt
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon red pepper powder
- 4 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 piece of canela or 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed into a paste
- 2 serrano or jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded, minced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems (about 2 cups whole, lightly packed)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves (about 2 whole cups, loosely packed)
- 3 teaspoons of rose water
Prepare the rice: Rinse the rice well in 4-5 changes of cold water, stirring and rubbing the grains of rice with your fingers, until the water runs almost clear. Drain well. Over medium-high heat, bring 3 liters of water to a boil and add 6 cardamom pods, 4 whole cloves and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Add the rice, stirring and cook over low heat for 8 minutes, then drain the half-cooked rice and set aside, stirring in 1 tablespoon of ghee.
Prepare the onions: In a large saucepan or skillet, in 2-3 tbsp ghee, over medium-high heat (to start), cook the onions with 1 tsp salt, stirring and partially covered, until they soften noticeably and begin to brown. golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook the onions, now uncovered, folding them over and over again, until the entire mass is considerably reduced in volume and dark brown, another 10-15 minutes or more, depending on the heat and your pan. Remove and reserve.
Prepare the vegetables: In the same skillet, adding a little more ghee if needed, toast the cashews for 90 seconds, removing them to a small bowl or ramekin. Add the potato pieces and cook for 8 minutes over medium-low heat until they begin to soften slightly. Add the cauliflower and carrot pieces and cook for another 7-8 minutes.
Add the frozen vegetable pieces and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring. Turn off the heat and add the yogurt, garam masala and chilli powder, coating all the vegetables well with the mixture. Remove and reserve.
Prepare the saffron milk: heat the milk, either in a small saucepan or in the microwave (if the latter, be careful not to boil or boil over) and add the crushed saffron, stirring. Put aside.
Prepare the aromatics: in the large saucepan, adding a little ghee if necessary, add all the cumin seeds, the cinnamon stick, the bay leaves, the peppercorns and 3 cardamom pods and heat them to until they become aromatic, about 30 to 40 seconds over medium heat. -high heat.
Scoop out the center and add the chopped ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for 90 seconds, stirring, then stir in the spices from the edges. Bring it all together, add to the reserved vegetable mixture, stirring well, and set aside.
Assemble the biryani: combine the chopped cilantro and mint and keep the mixture in a small bowl handy. Prepare the semi-cooked rice, the onions, the vegetable mixture with its herbs and the saffron milk.
In a large Dutch oven or other such pan (such as a cazuela or large casserole) that has been coated on its inside walls and bottom with a thin film of vegetable oil or more ghee, place 1/ 3 rice. Then add a layer of 1/2 of the onions, 1/2 of the vegetables and 1/2 of the cilantro-mint mixture.
Repeat the same layering, ending with a top layer of 1/3 of the rice. Sprinkle the saffron milk and rose water evenly over the biryani.
Cook the biryani: seal the jar tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil and its lid and, in a 225 degree oven, place the jar, cook the biryani for 90 minutes to 2 hours, turning the jar at least once.
Check that the biryani is well heated in its center or cook a little more if not. Serve, with a number of typical Indian accompaniments such as naan or other breads, yoghurt or raita, spicy pickles, lime wedges, fresher coriander leaves, etc.
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