Spring has sprung but around here it still feels like winter. And there still are vast quantities of cauliflower in the market, although the spring veggies, like asparagus, are elbowing their way in.
You know how everyone is doing just about everything you can imagine with cauliflower — culinarily — and for a while now I have been seeing cauliflower “rice” pop up just about everywhere. It’s a great idea, isn’t it? Substitute grated or shredded cauliflower for rice in just about any recipe, and you’ve got a grain-free, low-carb substitute for rice that’s even healthier than the actual grain because it has more fiber, more Vitamin C, more everything.
I wanted to try out some cauliflower rice on my rice obsessed family and toyed around with the idea of a Cauliflower Pilaf and a Cauliflower “fried rice.” In the end I decided to go with a biryani because I wanted lots of great flavors and veggies in this recipe. And boy, did it work.
My Cauliflower Rice Biryani, with a lot of the same ingredients as I would add to a regular rice biryani, is minty and spicy and chock full of vegetables. Spring vegetables, like asparagus and carrots. You have a lot of leeway here: add green beans, snow peas which are in season, summer squash like zucchini, and green bell peppers. Even potatoes are incredibly good in a biryani, although cook them before you add them to the recipe because this one doesn’t take long to cook. In fact, it takes just over 30 minutes from the time you pick up the chopping board to the time you call out, rather happily, “Dinner’s ready!”
Then, just sit back and watch them eat. But be sure to grab yourself a plateful of the Cauliflower Rice Biryani first because it won’t last long.
Cauliflower Rice Biryani
- 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and separated into florets. Process the cauliflower in a food processor until it breaks down into rice-size bits. Don't turn it into a mush-- use the "pulse" function on your processor in short bursts of five seconds each time until the deed is done.
- 1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, julienned or cut into small rounds
- 6-8 inch stalks of asparagus, tough ends trimmed, then cut lengthwise into 3/4- pieces
- 1 tsp coconut or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp shah jeera or black cumin substitute with regular cumin seeds if you don't have these
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 2 leaves dry bay
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp minced or crushed garlic
- 1/4 cup raw cashews ground to a smooth paste with 1/2 cup water
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp to 2 garam masala or biryani masala
- 2 tbsp finely chopped mint
- 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
- 1/2 tsp cayenne optional -- check to see if your garam masala or biryani masala has chilis added to it. Some of these premade mixes can be pretty hot
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp coconut or vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp golden raisins and 2 tbsp raw cashews for garnish
- Heat the oil in a large pan with a tight lid
- Add the cloves, cardamom and bay leaves. Saute until the color of the bay leaves darkens slightly, about a minute.
- Add the shah jeera and saute for a few seconds, then add the onions.
- Saute the onions until they begin to turn golden at the edges. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and saute a few more seconds
- Add the carrots and asparagus, mix, cover the saucepan with a lid, and let the vegetables cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the cashewnut paste and the lemon juice. Stir well and cook a couple more minutes until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
- Add the biryani masala, cayenne if using, mint and coriander leaves and stir to mix.
- Add the cauliflower rice, give everything a good stir, add some salt, cover with the lid, and let the biryani cook 8 minutes.
- Uncover, stir, and check seasoning. Add more salt if needed.
- To make the garnish, heat the 1/2 tsp of oil, add the raisins and the cashew nuts and fry for a few seconds until the cashews start to turn golden brown.
- Pour over the biryani.
- Tip: Serve the biryani with a fresh raita, like my soy-free Cucumber Raita.