Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Vegetable Biryani

The down side to having a really great cook for a mother is that eating out is almost always a big let down. Even worse is going out to a restaurant with her. Mine would always talk about how anything we ordered could be improved. And the great thing was that her suggestions were right on the money. There were a few places she would never complain about. Vaishali (till the cook who made the really good sambhar died.) The Oriental Room on Karve Rd. And the Durga Biryani. Mutton or Chicken Biryani is not an easy thing to make. But Vegetable Biryani is even harder to make. But the way mom made it, you wouldn't even miss the meat. My recipe comes nothing close to my my mother's recipe, but it is still pretty decent.

3 cups Basmati Rice (or Brown Rice for a healthier version)
2 large Onions finely chopped
2 large Tomatoes finely chopped
1 large Onion cut lengthwise and deep fried till crispy
1/2 cup Green Peas
1/2 cup Capsicum (Green Pepper) chopped
1/2 cup Carrots chopped
1/2 cup Cauliflower chopped
3-4 Green Chilies slit lengthwise
1 tsp Fresh Garlic Paste
1 tsp Fresh Ginger Paste
3-4 Bay Leaves
5 Cloves
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Chili Powder
3/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 cup Oil
7-8 Pistils of Saffron
Salt to taste

In a large pot pour the oil and place the pot on minimum heat.
Add Ginger, Garlic, Green Chilies, Bay Leaves and Cloves while oil is still cold
Raise heat to medium till ingredients start to sizzle
Add chopped Onion and cook till it turns translucent and brown on the edges
Add Tomato and raise heat to high and stir till most of the Tomato dissolves and it becomes a sauce
Add Salt, Turmeric, Chili Powder and Garam Masala and allow to cook for a minute
Add Cauliflower, Carrots, Capsicum and Green Peas
Add 1 cup water and allow it to boil.
Reduce the mixture till the sauce turns to a paste.
Remove the pot from heat.

Preparing Rice
In another pot, heat 1 tsp oil
Add Basmati Rice and saute it till it turns brown and releases the Basmati aroma.
Add water to cook the rice.
Do not allow to cook Rice completely.
Remove rice from heat while it still has a tiny uncooked part at the centre of each grain
Open the rice so that it releases the steam and does not continue to cook in it's own steam

The layering is very important for Biryani.
Line the bottom of the pot with some of the Fried Onion
Add a layer of rice
Then add a layer of the vegetables
Keep adding the layers till you have 2-3 sets of layers.
Always make sure that the top layer is Rice.
Then pat some fried onion on top of it.
Remember not to allow vegetables and fried onions to mix. The vegetables greatly reduce the aroma of the Fried Onion if allowed to mix. You can use a thin layer of rice to separate these.
Finish to top layer with the Saffron.
Seal the lid with a wet towel
Place on medium-low heat for 20 min.

Serve with Raita and Pappadum.

*Biryani always tastes better on the second day after all the spices have seeped into the rice.