A delicious, fragrant Vegetable Biryani made with an assortment of vegetables, including cauliflower, carrots and potatoes. This recipe will leave your family and friends licking their fingers. A gluten-free, vegan recipe.
Food spawns traditions– or maybe it’s the other way round. But you get what I mean, don’t you?
Most of life’s biggest celebrations, observations, and events center around food, gorgeous food. Special kinds of foods mark special occasions. Growing up, food was always the centerpiece of just about any day in our lives that was out of the ordinary. Puran Poli for Holi. Modaks for Ganesh Chaturthi. Chavde, Chakali, and Karanjis for Diwali. Shrikhand-Puri for Gudi Padva, the Maharashtrian new year (while most dishes were usually made at home, the Shrikhand was always bought “ready-made” from the bustling, family-owned Vijay Store in Vile Parle which made, unarguably, the best shrikhand ever).
When there was nothing to celebrate, the food alone would sometimes lift a day above mere ordinariness.In my home too, where celebrations don’t necessarily follow the beaten path, a number of traditions have evolved around food and, sometimes, its availability. And many of these delicious celebrations happen in summer.
When I planted my zucchini, for instance, I waited eagerly for the day I could collect enough of its flashy yellow blooms to make my favorite zucchini flower pakoras (I did, earlier this week). Light as gossamer, these have to be eaten to be believed, and they made the day one to cherish and remember.
Also in summer, I wait for the tomatoes to start forming on their delicate green vines so I can make Green Tomato Masial, one of Desi’s favorite foods that I usually cannot cook during the long months of winter because the only tomatoes I can buy here are already ripe. And when else but in summer can I make tons of different dishes featuring eggplants in every hue (you know it’s my favorite veggie)?
One more dish that’s like a tiny celebration in itself is a biryani.
A biryani, in an Indian home, has always evoked the special. There is just something about this dish, with its addictive fragrance and flavors, that drives every foodie to raptures.
There are some ingredients in this biryani that are essential, like the vegan yogurt and the spices, including the biryani masala. Biryani masala is really not interchangeable with garam masala, so if you plan to make that substitution, be warned. As much as I love garam masala, I don’t think it does full justice to a biryani. You can easily buy biryani masala online — I’ve linked to the one I use — so take the trouble to find it for a truly delicious experience.
Try these recipes next:
- 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, soaked for about half an hour, then drained
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp shah jeera (black cumin seeds. You can substitute with regular cumin)
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1/2 cauliflower, separated into florets
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 small potatoes, cut into a 1-inch dice
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 4 cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks (about an inch each)
- 1/2 cup fried onions (use storebought or caramelize them yourself by thinly slicing a large onion, then cooking it with 1 tsp oil over medium-low heat until brown. Add a pinch of salt to help the onions brown)
- 1 cup vegan yogurt (use storebought or my cashew yogurt recipe linked here)
- 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
- 2 green chilies, slit down the middle
- 2 heaping tbsp biryani masala
- 1/4 cup raw cashews (chopped coarsely)
- 2 tbsp golden raisins
- A generous pinch saffron (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Heat 2 cups of water and add to it some salt.
- When the water comes to a boil, add the rice. Bring the rice back to a boil, lower the heat, and cook about 4-5 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Be careful not to let the rice stick to the bottom of the saucepan. You want the rice to be mostly -- not all the way-- cooked. Set aside.
- Heat the oil
- Add to it the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves and saute for a few seconds. Add the shah jeera or cumin seeds and the ginger-garlic paste and then the veggies-- potatoes, carrots and cauliflower florets.
- Saute the veggies for about five minutes, stirring frequently, so they take on a golden-brown sheen.
- Add the biryani masala, mint leaves, coriander or cilantro leaves, green chilies and yogurt.
- Mix well and cover the saucepan. Allow the veggies to cook until they are almost tender. Add salt to taste and take off the fire.
- Spray a thin coat of oil in the base of a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Now take half the cooked veggie mixture and spread it in the bottom of the pan.
- Pour out half the cooked rice and spread it on top of the veggies.
- Sprinkle the cashewnuts and raisins evenly over the rice.
- Add another layer of the remaining veggie mixture, and then the remaining rice.
- Sprinkle the saffron water on top, cover the pot with a lid, and place in a preheated, 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.
- After taking the biryani out of the oven, let it stand, covered, for at least 10 minutes.
- Serve piping hot!
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