Biryani is like the ultimate rich comfort yet classy food for us. It is also a dish I feel is made for potlucks and get togethers. It travels well and is made to be cooked ahead. You can make it as simple or as rich as you want with addition of roasted cashews, raisins and deep saffron.
When perfectly spiced, biryani can be as warming to the Indian soul as people would say chicken soup is over here :)
I have made chicken biryani a few times but we make veggie biryani a lot more often. I like the veggies slightly undercooked, but if you want fully cooked veggies then just increase the veggie cooking time by 5 mins and check for doneness.
Every biryani needs a yogurt raita to tango. Our yogurt raita is usually super simple, just beaten non-fat yogurt, grated half a carrot, few mint leaves torn, salt, pepper and pinch of cumin powder. Mix, taste and let rest in refrigerator.
If there are two things I feel are crucial to this biryani they are fresh mint leaves and a good quality saffron. I add mint leaves at every stage - while rice is cooking, while veggies and simmering and also in raita. It gives a wonderful aroma and balances the rich spices very nicely!
There are a few steps in this dish but with proper planning it can go from start to finish in less than an hour and is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
1.5C rice (ideally basmati, but any long grain rice should do)
6 cardamom pods, 3 bay leaves, short cinnamon stick, handful of fresh mint leaves
dash of oil & salt
Mix everything together. Cook in rice cooker. Turn off heat a little before cooker says rice is done. Keep checking periodically - I look for a stage where water is just absorbed and grains are separate but rice is not fully cooked - about 80% cooked.
Remove from rice cooker. Spread in a large plate and fluff. Add a touch of ghee or butter. And leet cool to room temp.
1C cauliflower florets, 1 carrot chopped, 3 small potatoes - chopped, 1/2 red pepper, few musrooms (really any combination of 2-3C chopped veggies)
1/2tsp mustard seeds and cumin seeds each
1/2tsp turrmeric powder
2tsp biryani spice blend
few mint sprigs
Heat oil. When hot, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder and biryani masala. Add all the veggies, water, salt and cover and let cook for 5-7 mins. Then remove from heat and add yogurt. Mix well. Let cool uncovered.
1/2 of large onion - sliced. Heat in 2 Tbsp oil over low-med heat until onions are nicely browned and slightly crunchy. Set aside
Roasted handful of cashews
Warm 2Tbsp milk and add 1/4tsp saffron strands. Mix well and let sit.
2Tsbp beaten yogurt
Chopped cilantro and lemon wedges
Pre-heat oven to 375
In a largee cassarole pan, layer 1/4th of the rice. Then add 1/2 of veggie mix. Dash over some saffron milk and a Tsbp yogurt. Repeat with another layer of rice and veggies. Top with another rice round. Add more saffron milk, cashews, half of fried onions on top. Seal tightly with an aluminium wrap and then close the lid.
Cook for 20mins @375.
Remove from oven, garnish with cilantro and remaining fried onions and serve warm with raita and lemon wedges.