(BTW, I will bold the ingredients sometime)
Biryani is a rice dish with many variations throughout India and other countries. In India, biryani is made from layered basmati rice, meat or veg curry, yogurt, and herbs, infused with flavor from whole garam masala, then cooked over “dum” (will be explained later in the post!). Hyderabadi Biryani comes from the city of Hyderabad in India. This version is a vegetarian version. To make it vegan, use oil instead of ghee, and use cashew yogurt, almond yogurt, soy yogurt, coconut yogurt, or other vegan alternative. This dish is quite time-consuming to make, but it is worth to make when you have time. This is one of the most delicious Indian foods I have ever tasted. I hope you enjoy it too!
All Recipes Are Adapted from Veg Recipes of India
Part 1: The Rice
1. Wash 1 1/2 to 2 cups white basmati rice. Don’t use the rice cooker cup. Use a regular measuring cup or measure 375 to 500 ml rice. I recommend using 2 cups rice. However, if you want less carbs and more veg, then 1 1/2 cups rice is good too. The dish will also be more flavorful with less rice. You don’t need to overwash basmati because it doesn’t have so much cloudy starch like Japanese rice. Then cover with water and soak for 30 minutes.
(Meanwhile! Dice 100 grams carrot. Cut 150 grams potato into bite-size cubes. Remove hard ends of 100 grams green beans and cut into 1/2 inch lengths. Measure 1/2 cup frozen green peas or fresh green peas with shell removed. I did not use cauliflower because I didn’t have any. If you have, then cut 150 grams into bite-size florets. If you didn’t have like me, use a larger potato, mine was about 200 grams. Also, thinly slice 1 American size onion or 1 1/2 Indian large size onions or 2 Indian medium size onions. Cut 2 tbsp finely julienned ginger, and 1 to 2 tbsp chopped or thinly sliced garlic. Julienne one or two green chilies or none, if you want non-spicy version like me. Measure out the spices you need on two small plates. On each plate, put 2 green cardamoms, lightly crushed, 1 black cardamom, lightly crushed, 2 cloves, 1 inch long cinnamon stick, 1 small size Indian bay leaf AKA tejpatta, 2 strands mace. Since I don’t have tejpatta and mace, I use a pinch of grated nutmeg instead of mace and skip tejpatta. Remember, you should have two identical plates now. Then, on one of the plates, add 1 heaping tsp caraway seeds AKA shahjeera. If you don’t have, use cumin, but it has a very different flavor. Lastly, if rice is still soaking, then get 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro and 1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves. Combine them together. If you don’t have the herbs or dislike their flavor, you can skip them. Congratulations! You are now done cutting everything! If you still have time, heat 2 tbsp milk in the microwave until warm, I did 15 seconds, then add 1 pinch saffron and let sit. If you still have time, beat 200 to 300 grams yogurt until smooth in a bowl (store bought yogurt doesn’t really need beating but homemade is often clumpy). If you didn’t have time, do these while cooking rice.)
2. Drain the rice well. Add to a pot. Add 2 cups to 2 1/3 cups water, depending on amount of rice. Then add the plate of whole spices that did NOT have caraway seeds. The water will not cook the rice all the way through. Cover, bring to a boil. Actually, the rice will absorb all the water so it might not boil! Don’t let it burn! Ok, now stir well. Cover and cook on low for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Stir well again. Then cover and let sit until needed.
3. Heat 3 tbsp ghee in a large pot. I use a Staub cocotte. The pot will later cook the rice. You need a tight lid, so a cocotte is the best choice. Then add the second bowl of whole garam masala, the one with caraway seeds in it. Fry until the spices are fragrant and a little darker.
4. Add the onion and fry until golden brown and soft. Caramelizing the onions this way gives a great flavor to the curry. Then add the garlic, ginger, and green chilies. Saute one minute.
5. Add heaping 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and heaping 1/2 tsp red chili powder (use Kashmiri red chili powder for non-spicy). Stir well for another minute.
6. Now add all of the veggies. That means: potato, cauliflower, carrot, green beans, peas. Actually if you use frozen peas you can add them later, right before adding the rice, but it’s easier just to add everything. Stir well and saute a couple minutes.
7. Now lower the heat. The yogurt that you beat in the bowl, remember? Add about 1/2 of it. Then stir well. If you are lucky, it will be fine. If you are like me, it will become tiny pieces of paneer. This is because yogurt curdles easily when heated. Some tips to prevent curdling: use full fat yogurt (which I didn’t have), and you can add a tsp or two of besan (chana dal flour) or garbanzo bean flour while beating it until smooth. Anyways, if it curdles, don’t worry too much since it is okay in this dish.
7. Now add 3/4 cup water and salt. I used 1/2 tsp salt (I like lower sodium so you can use 1 tsp salt if you want, just base on what you usually like). Stir well. If it doesn’t really cover the veggies, add more water to cover. I used about 1 cup water total. Now cover and bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat until potatoes and cauliflower are mostly cooked. They do not need to be all the way cooked. I cooked until the potatoes could be cut with a fork, but were still too hard for my liking. That is the perfect amount of time you want to cook, because after adding the rice, you must cook 20 more minutes.
(While cooking, mix the milk and saffron mixture with the rest of the yogurt.)
8. When done cooking, you can leave on low heat or turn off the heat. Sprinkle all the dry fruits and nuts evenly. 1 heaping tbsp golden/green raisins, 2 heaping tbsp cashews, halved, 1 heaping tbsp sliced almonds (you can soak 2 heaping tbsp almonds for some time, then peel and slice yourself). I used whole almonds, but they are pretty big for this recipe so I would recommend sliced.
9. Now, sprinkle 1/2 or 1/3 of the chopped cilantro and mint evenly. Then sprinkle 1/2 or 1/3 of the yogurt mixture (I just put dollops evenly around the pot). Lastly add 1/2 or 1/3 of the rice and spread very evenly.
10. Repeat this process to make 1 or 2 more layers or rice (depends whether you used 1/2 or 1/3). Now that there is rice, after dolloping the yogurt, I spread it evenly on top.
11. The final layer should be rice (no yogurt or herbs on top). If you want, sprinkle 1 tsp rose water evenly on top. Careful! The rose water is very strong. Don’t add too much. When assembled, cover the pot tightly.
12. Cook over medium heat (or low heat if your stove is more powerful that mine) for 20 to 25 minutes. During this time, the rice absorbs the liquid from yogurt and the simmering curry. It’s crazy how the top of the rice can get cooked, but that is because the curry evaporates and the liquid goes up. It’s also crazy how the bottom rice is not overcooked! Anyways, this method of cooking is called “dum”. This differentiates a biryani from a pulao. In pulao, everything is put on the stove and cooked mixed together. Biryanis have everything layered and cooked on dum. You can also bake at 190 Celsius for 20 minutes instead of cooking on stovetop. Make sure that it is oven-safe. The Staub cocottes are all oven-safe. If you use other cocotte, make sure the lid handle is not plastic. 🙂
13. Serve with raita, kachumber, mango pickle, roasted papad, and Hyderabadi mirchi ka salan. (If you dislike or don’t have one or more of these, don’t serve with it!) Prepare these while simmering the vegetable curry or cooking the rice on dum. The mirchi ka salan takes the longest so start making it early on.
Raita: Grate 1 cucumber. I used Persian cucumber and did not peel. You can peel if you use a cucumber with a bitter peel. If you use a large cucumber like American cucumber, don’t use the whole thing. Then mix in 1 cup yogurt. Add 1/8 tsp cumin powder (preferably from roasted cumin), 1/8 tsp red chili powder (optional), 1/8 tsp chaat masala, 1/8 tsp kala namak or sendha namak or regular salt. Mix well. Optionally, garnish with a few chopped cilantro or mint leaves.
Kachumber: Chop 1 Indian size onion or 1/2 American size, 2 roma tomatoes or 1 larger, 2-3 small Persian cucumbers, 4-5 mint leaves, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1 green chili (optional). Add to a bowl with 1 tsp lemon/lime juice, 1/4 tsp cumin powder preferably roasted (optional), 1/4 tsp red chili powder (optional), kala namak or sendha namak or regular salt to taste. Mix well. Adjust lime/lemon and salt to taste.
The mango pickle must be made a long time in advance and the correct kind of mango is not available here. You can use a jarred one or skip.
Hyderabadi Mirchi ka Salan
(First, soak 1 tbsp tamarind in 1/2 cup hot water for 15-20 minutes or so, then mash well when ready.)
1. In a pan, heat 1/2 tbsp oil or so, and add 1 Indian size onion, sliced or 1/2 American size. Cook until translucent and maybe lightly browned.
2. Add 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut and saute until lightly browned.
3. Add 1/4 cup roasted peanuts and 1 1/2 tbsp roasted white sesame seeds. Saute 1-2 minutes.
4. Add to a blender with 2-3 garlic cloves, 1/2 inch ginger, 1/2 tsp red chili powder (or Kashmiri), 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala. Blend to a smooth paste, you can add a little water for help.
5. You need 10-12 green chilies that are not too spicy. You can use jalapenos. Remove the stem. Remove the seeds if you don’t want to die of spiciness (unless you can REALLY stand it!). Cut a slit in the chilies but do not cut in half. For people who do not eat too spicy food, use strips of very mild green chili like poblano. For people who cannot eat spicy at all, don’t make this dish because it literally means “chili curry”.
6. Now heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan or kadai or wok etc. Add chilies and saute a few minutes until partially cooked. Then remove. Try to leave as much oil in the pan as possible. Add more oil to get 2 tbsp in the pan.
7. Now add 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds and as soon as you hear the POP, add 1/2 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji) (skip if you can’t get) and 1/2 tsp cumin seeds. Saute a few seconds.
8. Now add 7-9 curry leaves and saute a minute. Add the ground paste. Saute 3-4 minutes until the oil separates.
9. Strain the tamarind liquid and get rid of the solids. Add the juice, with 2 cups water. Stir, bring to a boil, simmer 5 minutes.
10. Add the chilies and salt to taste, simmer 7-9 minutes. Sprinkle chopped cilantro for garnish.
Enjoy with the biryani or with any rice dish.
If you make this biryani recipe, I hope you enjoyed as much as I did 🙂