Vegetable Biriyani

I am very very very fond of Biriyanis. There is a magic when rice is cooked right with a bunch of aromatic spices and loads of fat.  Amma's Chicken Biriyani happens to be my favorite along with the ones at Hanumanthu's in Mysore.A word about Hanumanthu's. It is an iconic place in Mysore. It is also one of my earliest memories related to food. I remember my father taking me there when I was a little kid. I stood in the narrow passage waiting for our to to-go biriyani packed in pieces of old news paper and Mutukada yele while people concentrated on the pile of biriyani in front of them. It is still the same small place in the by-lanes of Old Mysore. No fancy lights or boards, no fancy chairs or tables. It is no-nonsense-eat-and-leave place. Well if the food is so great, they can forget about the chairs, tables, light and focus on making the food as great each day. If you eat chicken and happen to be in Mysore, try their Biriyani. Their mutton biriyani is suppose to be even better but I have not tried it.

Other than that I did enjoy Biriyanis in Lucknow and Delhi. I don't care for most other biriyanis. Chettinad style had everything but kitchen sink and too much going on for me.  Malabar style was not enough spicy and most other biriyanis don't seem to hit the spot for me. There happens to be so many varieties of Biriyani that I could just keep trying one each day of the year , perhaps even more.
Here in New Jersey chicken Biriyani at Hoysala  (Kannada style) and Gongura  (Hydrabadi) are good.

While Chicken and meat Biriyanis are very popular, vegetable biriyani seem to be their poor cousin, not celebrated and thought of only when there are no other options.  Recently I have fallen in love with this version and I will be making it quite often going forward. It is an elaborate process, but then what is a biriyani that is not elaborate. This version is rich and satisfying with loads of vegetables (which I love)

 In most vegetable Biriyanis I do not see as many vegetables as I would like. So I bumped up the veggies quotient and this one is choke full of vegetables. While I eat chiken biriyani for the rice, I eat the vegegie biriyani for the vegetables. So here we go cook up some virtual Veggie Biriyani

We will need, (serves 4)

Basmati Rice 2 cups
Green Beans 2 cups (trimmed , washed and cut into 1" long pieces)
Carrot 1 cup (trimmed, washed and cut into 1" pieces)
Mushrooms 2 cups (chopped if too big)
Butter 4 tbsp
Fennel Seeds 1/2 tsp
Black Cardamon 2
Green Cardamon 4
Mace a generous pinch
Bay leaf 2
Star Anise 1
Shahi Jeera 1/2 +1/4 tsp
Tomatoes 3 medium chopped fine
Yogurt 4 tbsp beaten
Salt to taste

For the Masala paste
Ginger 1" piece chopped
Garlic 8 cloves
Cloves 10
Cinnamon 1" piece
Green Chillies 5 (adjust according to taste)
Dried Red Chillies (Byadagi) 5-6
Turmeric 1/4 tsp

Saffron a few strands
Milk 2 tbsp (warm)
Corinader chopped a big handful
Mint chopped a big handful
Fired Onions 1/2 cup
Kewra water (2 drops) optional
Gulab Jal (1/2 tsp) optional

  • Wash the rice in several changes of water and soak it in clean water.  Combine the cut beans and carrots with 10 cups of water in a big pot and set it on medium heat. Cook till the beans are slightly tender but still very crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Reserve the stock
  • Into the stock, throw in 1/4 tsp shahi Jeera, 1 bay leaf, 1 crushed black cardomon and 2 crushed green cardamon.  Drain the rice and throw it into the pot. Cook it the mixture comes to a boil. Then drain the rice and set it aside. The rice at this point is not fully cooked and that is alright.
  • Meantime combine all the ingredients for the Masala paste and blend it with as little water as possible. Soak the saffron in warm milk.
  • Heat butter in a pan. Crush 1 black cardamon, 2  green cardamon, mace, fennel seeds and star anise roughly. Once the butter has melted, throw in these crushed spices along with bay leaf and 1/2 tsp of shahi jeera. Once the spices crackle and are aromatic, pour in the masala paste. Stir to mix and cook on medium low heat making sure the masala mixture does not burn. 
  • Throw in the tomaotes into the masala mixture and cover. Sprinkle some salt and cover. Cook till the tomatoes are mushy and the fat starts to separate.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in the beaten yogurt. Once the mixture comes to a gentle boil, throw in the cooked beans, carrots and mushrooms. Immeidately remove from heat. Mushrooms are not cooked at this point. But it will cook when we layer the Biriyani and finish cooking.
  • Once all the above steps are done, biriyani can be layered. In a Handi, place half the vegetable mixture. Cover it with half the rice. Top the first layer of rice with half of the corinader, mint, fried onions. Cover it with the remaining vegetable mixture followed by rice. Top it with the remaining corainder, mint, fried onions. Pour the saffron mixture over. A splash of Kewra and Gulab jal can also be added at this point. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and set it on low heat. Cook for about 20-30 minutes till steam starts escaping from the edges of the aluminum foil. Remove from heat and serve piping hot. 
Phew!! such a long one. But for a foodie like me, it is more than worth my effort and time. Have fun.

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