I haven’t gotten around to gardening this year, but my unkempt vegetable patch has already expressed itself in a riot of deep-green mint.
Mint’s one of my favorite herbs, and one that I use most often in my Indian kitchen, after coriander or cilantro. Luckily for me, it is likely also the easiest herb to grow, and returns year after year with almost no tending. By spring I already have armfuls I can pick and toss into anything I please.
Mint’s also one of the most versatile herbs around: it’s great in sweets and spicy dishes alike. Regular old black tea turns into an extraordinary treat when you dunk in a crushed mint leaf. And who doesn’t love a mojito? Or two? In fact, Happy Cook just posted a fantastic recipe for a mojito, and I can’t wait to make it.
Mint’s also good for you– its cooling properties make it the perfect summer food. It aids digestion and is a great breath freshener.
I use mint lots of different ways in my cooking: I use it as a garnish for curries. I zap it with silken tofu, salt and lemon juice in the blender for a cooling raita. I mix it up with some nuts, garlic and olive oil for a refreshing pesto. And I use it, of course, to make the uber-delicious mint chutney.
But one of my favorite ways to use this divine herb is in this Mint Biryani With Roasted Mushrooms that I’m sharing today.
I used white basmati rice for the recipe, but you can go ahead and make it with brown rice, for some added healthiness. I have separate instructions on how to cook the brown rice. Also, use more mint if you’re using brown rice so that the herb’s flavor can stand up to the nuttiness of the brown rice.
1 1/2 cups white or brown basmati or other long-grain rice
4 pods of green cardamom
2 1-inch pieces of cinnamon
1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
3 cups water
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. When they sputter, add the rice and stir for a minute until the grains start to turn opaque.
Add the water, and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
If you’re making this with brown rice, change the proportion of water to 3 3/4 cups. Once the water comes to a boil, cover the saucepan with a tight lid and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for 50 minutes.
Let stand for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, thinly slice:
1 pound of white button mushrooms or crimini mushrooms. You can also go with a meatier mushroom like portabella or shiitake here.
Toss the mushrooms on a baking sheet with 1 tsp oil, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp red chilli powder and salt to taste.
Roast in a 350-degree oven about 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and beginning to caramelize, but not burned.
(Tip: If you don’t have mushrooms around, potatoes would also be great here. Cut them into thick fingers, and follow the rest of the instructions. You might need to add a few more minutes in the oven for the potatoes to cook and turn golden-brown.)
In a blender, add and grind:
1 cup tightly packed mint leaves (Add another 1/2 cup if using brown rice. I would also add 1 tsp more of the garam masala and maybe another green chili, but I leave that to your taste.)
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 hot green chillies, minced
1/3 cup soft tofu (can use soy yogurt as a substitute)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil.
1 medium onion, sliced. Saute until it turns golden-brown.
Add 1 tomato, diced, 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 heaping tbsp of garam masala.
Stir and let cook until the tomatoes start expressing oil.
Add the mint paste and stir and cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Add salt to taste.
Now carefully add the rice to the mint, using a light touch so as to not crush the grains. Using a fork, mix the rice and the mint paste.
Cover and cook for another 2 minutes on a very low flame.
Sprinkle the roasted mushrooms on top. Biryani tastes especially delicious with a garnish of fried onions. To make this, heat 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil and saute 1 medium onion, thinly sliced, and 1 tsp sugar. Turn off the heat when the onion caramelizes and turns a deep golden-brown.
Nuts, tossed in with the onions in the last minute of cooking, or raisins or even roasted sunflower seeds make a great garnish for biryani.
If you’re looking for ways to jazz up your rice, look for more great ideas here.