My farm-to-fork vegetable biryani

IMG_2464True to the name I have given to the recipe, this Indian vegetarian rice dish has farm-fresh vegetables which I picked up this weekend from our local farmer’s market. Married with fragrant spices from my ‘masaldaani'(the Indian phrase for my handy spice container, an absolute necessity in every Indian home kitchen!), and combined with the best quality White Basmati rice, truly a comforting treat for a weekend dinner at home. Biryani is a traditional rice dish, made with meat or vegetables. It is slow cooked in a ‘lagan’, which is a wide, heavy-bottomed Indian pot, to ensure even cooking of meat,vegetables or lentils. I am boasting of one, since I picked it up from my recent visit to India this summer. It can also be made in a Dutch oven or a Paella pan, any wide pot or pan with a heavy bottom. Back to the vegetables, I returned home from the farmer’s market with a broccoflower, baby carrots, rapini, to name a few. Broccoflower is a green cauliflower, has the physical attributes of a white cauliflower, and is lime-green in colour. Rapini or broccoli rabe is a leafy green vegetable, with a slightly bitter taste. Anything green makes me a happy girl! Wish I could say the same for my little daughter and husband, though!

Coming back to the biryani, other fragrant and appealing additions to my dish, are saffron, fried onions, tomatoes, potatoes, garbanzo beans and cashewnuts. And good ol ghee or clarified butter. A dish whose fragrance when cooking, will reach your neighbours nostrils too, and when cooked, it’s taste and flavours will not want you to put your fork down! From my Indian roots and kitchen to yours:-)

Servings 4

White basmati rice- 1 cupIMG_2442
Broccoflower florets- 3 cups
10 baby carrotsIMG_2448IMG_2444
Rapini or broccoli rabe- 2 cups, chopped
Potato- 1, dicedIMG_2443
Chopped garlic- 1 tsp.
Chopped ginger-1 tsp.
Tomato- 1, puréed
Whole garam masala or whole spices( 5-6 green cardamoms, 11/2 inch cinnamon stick, 1 black cardaIMG_2111mom, 6-8 blackpeppercorns)IMG_2147

1 bay leaf
Garam masala powder- 1tbsp.Store bought or home-made. For home made, dry roast the following spice –

IMG_22172 tbsp. corianderseeds, 1 tbsp. cumin seeds, 1 black cardamom, 4-5 green cardamoms, 4 cloves, 8-10 peppercorns, 1 inch piece cinnamon stick, mace (it is a spice similar to nutmeg, it is the dried lace-like covering of nutmeg). Be careful not to burn spices, just a couple of minutes on medium heat. When cool, grind ina spice grinder (i use a small coffeebean grinder). Store in an airtight jar. Can be used in a variety of Indian dishes. It is also easily available at any Indian grocery store.

Paprika- 1 tsp.
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp.
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp.
Thinly sliced onions- 1 cup
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro- 2 tbsp.
Canned garbanzo beans or chickpeas- 1 cup
Canola oil -1 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup
Ghee- 1 tsp.
A handful of raw cashewnuts
A pinch saffron threads, soaked in a liitle warm milk.
Salt to tasteIMG_2455

For the rice:
Soak rice in cold water for 30 mins to an hour. Bring the rice and 5-6 cups cold water to a boil. Add salt to taste. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 6-7 mins. Cook the rice till three-fourths cooked. Drain and keep aside. (The rice will cook in the end when combined with the veggies on slow fire for 10-15 mins.)

For the fried onions:
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a fry pan. Add the sliced onions and cook on medium low heat, till they turn golden brown. Keep stirring to make sure they don’t burn. I dusted the onions with a little rice flour for a crispier texture. Traditionally, the onions are deep fried till crisp.IMG_2449

For the cashewnut paste:
Soak the raw cashews in 1/4 cup hot water fir a few minute. Grind to smooth paste in a small food grinder. Set aside.


Forthe veggies:

Heat remaining oil in a lagan, or a heavy bottomed pan or Dutch oven, on medium high heat. Add the whole garam masala and bay leaf. Add the cumin seeds. When they start to crackle add the ginger and garlic, sauté for a minute. Add the tomato pIMG_2451urée. Add turmeric, paprika and garam masala powIMG_2457IMG_2452der. Sauté on low heat for 5-7


minutes. Add the potatoes, broccoflower florets and baby carrots. Cover and cook on low heat till veggies arenearly cooked,


still have acrisp texture. Add the cashewnut paste. Add the rapini or broccoli rabe and garbanzo beans and cook for an additional 5 minute.

Add the rice to the vegetable mixture. Add the saffron-milk and ghee.Mix well. Before serving, let the

IMG_2466biryani cook for 10 minutes on very lowheat. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro, fried onions and squeeze a little lemon juice. Biryani is eaten best with a side of cucumber yoghurt or raita

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