Biriyani derives its name from the Persian word “berya”. It means “fried before cooking” which is exactly how biryaniis made. Traditionally an Arabian recipe, it came to India by way of Persia in the hands of the Mughals. It was in India that it later became world renowned. A standard biryani is started by sautéing unwashed long-grain rice in ghee (clarified butter) to give the rice a nutty flavour and to gelatinise the outer layer of the grain. It would then be mixed with water, herbs and spices (amongst others, cumin,mint, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, ginger, onions and garlic). The meat (any type) is usually marinated in a paste of papaya, whole-milk yoghurt and spices, and sautéed. The meat and rice are then laid in earthenware called handiin alternating layers. The handi is then sealed and placed on coal chamber to cook.
Vegetable biryani (four servings)
- 50g basmati rice
- Peas, carrots, beans, tomato cut into small pieces (each 75g)
- 100g butter or ghee
- 4 green cardamoms
- 7 cloves
- 4 pieces of cinnamon 1in long
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp sliced ginger and garlic
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 300ml hot water
- 75g onions (chopped)
In a heavy bottomed vessel or a non-stick vessel heat the butter and let it melt.
Put in the cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon and cumin seeds and heat for a minute.
Now put in chopped onions, ginger and let them slightly brown on low fire. Add the washed rice and fry the rice. Add water and cover with a lid. Cook slowly until all the water has evaporated. Then add the vegetables and fry for some more time. Add the hot water and lemon juice. Cover the mixture and let it cook on lowest fire for 10 minutes or until the water has been absorbed by the rice (better to use a thick bottom vessel). Serve it with yogurt salad and pickles.