Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Simple Vegetarian 'Biryani'

This is a recipe that I have oversimplified over the years. I now make in one large pot--except for the one I use to cook the rice.

Before starting:

Gather and prepare all your ingredients before starting to cook to save time. This applies to all the recipes.
Cook the rice first and leave to cool. This can be done a few hours earlier if desired.

  • 2 cups basmati rice (Long grain will do if basmati is not available.)
  • 500 g green beans, stringed and cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 500 g carrots, peeled and cut same size as beans
  • 500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into approximately 1 inch cubes
  • 250 g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced in rings
  • 1 small tub natural unsweetened yogurt
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, crushed or 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • bunch of mint or 3 tsp dried mint
  • 4 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 or 5 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt
  • ground pepper
  • 2 pinches of saffron strands (can be replaced with 1/2 tsp yellow food coloring)
  • 3 long green chillies (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil (sunflower, corn or soya)
  1. Cook the rice using twice the amount of water less 1 cup. (For 2 cups of rice, use 3 cups water; for 3 cups rice, 5 cups water). Wash the rice well. Add water, the cumin seeds, the cinnamon stick and 1 tsp salt. When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick or cast iron vessel. Fry the onion slices until brown. Don't leave unattended in the last few minutes. They'll burn. Transfer to a dry bowl.
  3. Allow the oil to heat a little.
  4. Add the cloves and peppercorns.
  5. Add the potato pieces and fry until half-cooked.
  6. Add the cut vegetables and peas and mix well.
  7. Add the spices--cumin powder, cinnamon powder, mint, ginger, garlic and yogurt--and stir well to coat the vegetables. Add salt and ground pepper to taste.
  8. Turn the heat down (not off) and allow the vegetables to simmer for 15 minutes. If the mixture is too dry add a little hot or boiling water.
  9. 'Grind' the saffron in half a cup of very hot water until the color is extracted.
  10. Spread the fried onions on the layer of vegetables, keeping a little for decoration.
  11. Spread the rice in a layer over the onions.
  12. Sprinkle the saffron mixture on to the rice.
  13. Stick the chillies into the rice and sprinkle the remaining fried onions over the rice.
  14. Cover the vessel and leave on very low heat until steam comes through the rice. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand a few minutes before serving.
Before serving, mix the contents well.
This can be served with a salad and a tomato chutney or salsa.

Mango and Carrot Side Salad


1 green mango
2 carrots
1 small onion
3 or 4 small green chillies
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel and grate the mango and the carrots.
Add the thinly sliced onion and the chopped chillies.
Season with olive oil, salt and pepper.

In the absence of mangoes, use more carrots but add a little lemon juice or spirit vinegar to the seasoning.
You can also used thinly sliced cucumber in lieu of grated carrots/mango.

Tomato and Coriander chutney

Process a few ripe tomatoes and a bunch of coriander (with or without green chilly) in a wet grinder or with a stick blender.
Add salt just before serving.

Tomato Salsa

Coarsely chop and mix a few tomatoes, a small onion and green chillies. Add salt just before serving.

Bon app├ętit!

Extra Tips

To make this dish non vegetarian, you may substitute chicken or meat pieces or fried fish slices. Chicken and meat should be marinated in the spice mixture overnight in the fridge and half cooked before potatoes


  1. sounds yummy Dolly :) you sure make that salsa seem easy!

    Denise of Ingleside, PEI

  2. It's very easy to make, Denise. I think it's the easiest thing anyone can make :-)