This vegetable biryani recipe is a decadent treat

This vegetable biryani recipe is a decadent treat

Last weekend, as I was strolling through the farmers’ market, a young lady came up to me, pulled at my sleeve, and whispered in my ear, “Please! Take a biryani class or teach us how to make one!”

I was surprised – I thought biryani was too complicated for most people. Maybe it still does, but pandemic nesting has certainly expanded our cooking. Anyway, I’m excited to share with you a roadmap to a biryani, a luxurious layered rice dish created by Persian and Indian gourmets during India’s decadent Mughal era.

First, the hallmark of a biryani, which is usually consumed during weekend lunches or late-night celebratory dinners, is that each part is cooked separately and brought together at the end.

In a country where recipes for the same food change every few miles, there are countless variations of biryani. Often topped with fried onions, the North Indian ones tend to be decadent, with meat and rich in ghee, aromatic spices, caramelized onions, nuts and dried fruits. South Indian biryanis smell like coconut, curry leaves, black pepper and cardamom, which grow wild in that region.

Biryani usually starts with marinated meat, chicken, vegetables or beans, slow cooked with hot spices, onions, garlic, ginger to make a basic masala. Tomatoes, yogurt or coconut can then be added. On the lighter side, one can forego the onion masala and make a vibrant fragrant green herb masala such as a salsa verde or pesto (minus the cheese) for quick-cooking seafood or vegetable biryanis.

Rice is usually prepared separately and can be cooked in stock or water – saffron and/or warm spices such as a large cinnamon stick, mace flowers or bay leaves can be added. I usually cook the rice with oil instead of ghee or butter, as the oil promotes flaking of the rice and prevents it from becoming sticky. It is best to let the rice last as freshly cooked hot rice is placed over the base masala, garnished with nuts and dry fruit, sealed tightly and allowed to rest for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes to allow all the flavors to meld.

Here’s a recipe for a simple garbanzo and vegetable biryani that can be easily adapted to the addition of meat.


vegetable masala

½ cup garbanzo or other large bean of your choice

½ cup ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon each, ground black peppercorns and green cardamom seeds

2 cups finely chopped red onions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons red chili powder

1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

2 tablespoons finely chopped or grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon garam masala

2 cups sugar snap peas, cut in half diagonally

½ bunch of asparagus

6 to 8 dried apricots, sliced

¼ cup sliced ​​toasted almonds

Small handful of fried onions (optional)

Small handful of fresh herbs, such as coriander or mint

Saffron rice

1½ cups long grain basmati

Generous pinch of saffron threads

Zest of 1 orange

1 long stick of cinnamon

3 to 4 black cardamom pods

1½ teaspoon salt

Instructions: To make vegetable masala: Rinse the beans 2 to 3 times in tap water, then soak them for at least 6 hours or overnight. draining. Combine with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. If foam comes up, discard it with a slotted spoon. Cover and simmer for an hour or more until the beans are tender. Set them aside.

Heat the ghee in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot and fry the ground spices for 2 to 3 seconds. Immediately add the onions and cook over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes until sweaty and translucent. Reduce the heat and fry the onions until they are golden brown.

Add the minced garlic and cook for a few more seconds. Then add the drained beans, chili powder, paprika, tomatoes and ginger. Reduce the heat and continue cooking until the peppers and tomatoes soften and the masala is fairly dry, then add the salt and garam masala.

Discard the bottom 2 inches of the asparagus and cut them into small wheels, leaving the spears intact.

Add the sugar snap peas and asparagus to the masala, cook for a minute or two and turn off the heat. When the saffron rice is ready, pour it over the vegetable mixture, top with the apricots and almonds, cover and let the biryani rest for 20 minutes before adding the spices and fried onions. Pick, fold and serve the biryani.

To make saffron rice: Rinse the rice 2 to 3 times in tap water, then soak for 2 to 3 hours (or let it sit overnight in the refrigerator). draining. Soak the saffron separately in 2 tablespoons of water for a few hours or overnight.

In a stockpot, combine the drained rice with 3 cups of water, saffron (with water), orange zest, cinnamon stick, black cardamom pods and salt and bring to a boil.

Immediately cover the stockpot and let the rice simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour over the hot vegetable masala.

Notes & Variations

To add meat to this biryani, add 8 to 10 ounces of diced lamb, beef or chicken (use dark meat so it doesn’t dry out) after the onions are golden brown, and cook for a few more minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. Or replace the beans with the meat. In that case, use stock to cook the rice.

Instead of tomatoes, add a cup of yogurt or coconut milk and cook it slowly until the masala is mostly dry.

Any nuts or dry fruit will work, including dried raisins, dates, pistachios, pecans, and cashews.

Fried onions are purely optional and can be purchased at any Indian grocer.

Serves 4 to 6

From Chef Anita Jaisinghani

Anita Jaisinghani is the chef-owner of restaurant Pondicheri in Houston. Her website is Her first cookbook, “Masala” (Ten Speed ​​Press), will be released in August. Email: [email protected]