Biriyani is a labor of love. It takes a long time but on the plus side, the required amount of cooking panache is zero. This recipe allowed me to use up some root vegetables leftover from Thanksgiving, listen to Chuck Berry while peeling and chopping and run a serious raid on my overcrowded spice shelf. Plus, during the recovery from the cooking intensity of Thanksgiving, I have been making the simplest food I could think of (cauliflower puree, vegetable soup, quesadillas, etc) and it was time for a real home-cooked dinner. And it was delicious. This comes from a Lucknowi lamb pulao recipe, which I fiddled with a bit to make vegetarian/vegan.
For the curry
Serves about 4
Ghee or olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green chili, deseeded and chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 fat turnip, diced (or large swede or potato)
1 fat carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
couple handfuls of cauliflower florets
handful of green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
Cooked lentils or chickpeas
1 fat juicy tomato, chopped
2 oz full fat greek yogurt, or coconut cream if vegan
2 whole cloves
2 whole cardamom
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
dash of fresh nutmeg
2 tsp salt
200g basmati rice
few strands saffron
1) Wash the rice and let it soak for about 30 minutes while you make the curry.
2) Heat up oil or ghee (be generous as this will not be as salty and fatty as the lamb version) in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and gently fry the onions till golden brown, about 15 or 20 minutes. Do not let them burn.
3) Add in the garlic, ginger and chili, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Fry for another couple minutes, stirring. I used 1 deseeded jalapeno and this came out fairly spicy, so be mindful of your own taste.
4) Add in the vegetables according to cooking time, so carrots, celery and turnip first. Stir and cook for about five minutes, then add in the cauliflower and green beans. Add a little water if needed.
5) Add in the powdered spices and salt, stir and gently fry for about 5 min.
6) Remove the whole spices if you like. Especially the cinnamon stick.
7) Add in the yogurt or coconut cream, chopped tomato and lentils. Stir together, then cover with a lid and cook till tomato has cooked down and all the vegetables are tender. Turn off the heat and make the rice.
8) Rinse the soaking rice and then cook in a pot with the water (equal rice to water). Add in a dollop of olive oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of turmeric. When the rice is boiling, take the lid off, turn the heat down to simmer and cook the rice until all the water has been absorbed. Watch it and be careful not to burn the bottom of the rice. When the water is gone, the rice should be mostly cooked, but not completely.
9) Butter or oil a baking dish and then add in half the rice as the first layer, then the vegetable curry as the second layer, and finally top with the remaining half of rice.
10) Cover with a lid or tightly packed tin foil and cook in the oven on 325-350F for about 20 minutes. While the biriyani is cooking, soak the saffron in a little water.
11) When the biriyani is done, sprinkle the saffron water over the rice.
Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley.