Let me start writing this recipe by stating that I personally don’t believe that there is anything like a vegetable biryani that can exist. As the word biryani comes from the Persian work Birian which means roasting/frying the meat and that’s how the rice and meat are cooked in layers under pressure for extra flavor. But in India there are various versions of biryani that can be found – from egg, to paneer to veg, lamb, fish, chicken all kinds of biryani. And thus I decided to give this Vegetable Biryani a try using some great long grain rice I recently got here and it tasted good sans the meat but nevermind.
The biggest difference between a biryani and pulao/pilaf is that biryani is slow cooked and is a meal by itself whereas pulao/pilaf is often a side dish and is enjoyed with a curry on the side. And the time taken to cook a pulao is quite less when compared to a biryani. In this recipe I avoided the entire step of adding smoke through charcoal but made something which can be replicated easily at home.
The long grain rice, the crispyness of the onion and flavor from whole spices makes it a warm, hearty dish to be enjoyed with family and friends over a weekend.
Wash the basmati rice well and keep it soaked for atleast 10-15 mins. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, add a tsp of oil, 1 each of whole spices (check the whole spices section in the ingredient list). Saute the spices on medium flame for a minute. Add the washed rice and along with it add 2 cups of water. Bring the rice and water to a good boil. Cook it al dente or till it reaches 70% of cooked consistency. Drain and keep it seperately. In a small bowl take 3-4 strains of saffron, add warm milk to it (1 tbsp) and mix it well. Add this to the rice on top to add some orange color to the rice.
Meanwhile in another pan, add the remaining oil and all the remaining whole spices once the oil is hot enough. Saute it for a min before adding sliced onion. Cook the onion till it is little more than golden brown. Add a tbsp of fried onion (I use store bought ones for the convenience). Add the ginger garlic paste and saute till the raw smell disappears. Then add the vegetables and stir everything well. Add salt as per your taste.
Cook the veggies for 10-15 mins on medium heat. Add the spices mentioned under 'Spices for Biryani' and mix everything well. Add yoghurt and cook till you see oil separating from the sides.
Now layer the rice on top of the cooked veggie and top it all with shallow fried dry fruits (cashew nuts, almonds, raisins) and few chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves.
Make small holes in between the rice and add few drops of ghee and cover it well with some weight on top for it to be cooked on low flame for 10-15 mins more. Using a fork check the rice. It should be cooked to perfection.
Serve it hot with more fried onion on top and fresh coriander leaves for garnish. And with a side of raita 🙂