Diwali is knocking at the door and I am sure you are in the mega cleaning your house mode like me. Every corner needs to look spick and span. In between all that cleaning, cooking and loads of cooking needs to happen. And what’s more festive and royal than a Biryani. I decided to share my vegetarian twist to the classic Biryani – presenting Vegetable Paneer Biryani using the super long grains from Tilda Grand Basmati rice.
2020 has been a year that has challenged everyone more than ever. It has tested our resilience at work, personal life as well. I am glad I could spend the last 8 months everyday at home with my husband and our twin kittens. Though we both worked in separate rooms throughout the day but those mini coffee breaks, lunch breaks and brainstorming session in between work was the best. I know we don’t want 2021 to be like this year but I wish this quality time of working from home does continue.
Veg and Biryani – is it possible?
Coming to the recipe, I know a lot of you might think this is a blasphemy! Biryani and vegetarian like how? Call it a pulao or tehri. I know that feeling, I have been there with you all and I get your displeasure too. But I have literally cooked this Biryani just as how a good meat biryani has to be cooked and replaced it with vegetables and some really creamy paneer. Don’t trust me, check the recipe below! And yes I got more than 20 people taste this one after I made it and they have all decided to try making this during Diwali and Christmas this year – which I think is a huge compliment for me.
Which rice to use:
The beauty of a Biryani lies in the rice that you use. Just any rice doesn’t bring that magic like this one. You need to use long grain Basmati rice for that WOW effect. I have used the Tilda Grand Basmati which has every single grain separate from each other. In case you can’t find the Tilda Grand Basmati, you can use Tilda pure basmati as well. But please stick to basmati and not to jasmine or any other rice to make a Biryani 😉
This is one such dish that happens occasionally during festivals so I am sure you wouldn’t mind the long-ish process to get the right dish out. It is very easy to mess this dish up but if you follow my steps to the T, you won’t mess up and would only be proud of yourself.
1.Wash the rice under running water for 50 seconds and soak it in a bowl with water for 30 mins.
2. Meanwhile while the rice is resting, in a pan add oil on a medium heat and add 70% of the sliced onion. Shallow fry them for 15 mins till they turn golden brown. Drain them on a plate with kitchen paper. It will crisp up slightly after a while.
3. Heat the milk to 80C and soak the saffron strands in them. Keep it aside.
4. After 30 mins, drain the rice and transfer it to a sauce pan with water to boil the rice along with a tsp of oil, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, star anise, clove, cardamom.
5. Bring it to a good boil. Cook for 10 min till it reaches 70% of cooked consistency. Drain and keep it separately on a flat plate. This step on spreading it on a flat plate is very important as that helps the rice to stop cooking and sticking to each other. This gives that perfect looking grain of rice.
6. Meanwhile in another pan, add 3 tbsp oil (from the one used to fry onion) and remaining sliced onion. Cook the onion for 5 mins. Add the ginger garlic paste and cook for 3. Add the vegetables and stir everything well. Add salt.
7. Cook the veggies for 15 -20 mins on medium heat. Add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, biryani masala and mix everything well. Add yoghurt and cook till you see oil separating from the sides. Put a lid and let this cook for 5 more minutes.
8. Meanwhile in the pan with the oil used for frying onion, add the paneer cubes and shallow fry them for 3 mins per side. This made the paneer retain its shape when added to the biryani.
9. After 5 mins of cooking the vegetables, divide the mixture into two halves. Remove half of it in a bowl.
10. Turn off the flame and start layering the biryani. Layer the rice on top of the cooked veg mixture and top it all with fried onion and 1/3rd of the chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves.
11. Repeat this process once more and top it with fried onion and coriander, mint leaves.
12. Using a tall spoon or spatula, make three holes through the rice till the bottom. Add ghee through these holes. This helps the vegetable mixture at the bottom to not stick and get burnt.
13. Add the saffron soaked milk on top of the rice.
14. Add a cloth around the lid of the pan to soak extra moisture that comes from the rice. This helps Biryani to stay well cooked but not stick to each other. Put the lid and add some kind of a heavy weight on top of the lid (I used a pestle mortar). Cook the rice on a very low flame for 25 mins. After 25 mins, turn off the flame and don’t remove the lid. Let it rest for 5 mins.
15. Then using a fork fluff the rice. It should be cooked to perfection.
16. Serve it hot with more fried onion on top and fresh coriander and mint leaves for garnish. And with a side of raita
I hope you all have a great Diwali this year and if you give this recipe a try, don’t forget to share your feedback and photos with me here or on my Instagram @spicetripwithpaulami