52 week project – Sri Lankan Cookbook – Vegetable Biriyani

This week I made a vegetable biriyani which is a favourite meal of mine. It has varied over the years especially when we bought it from families who sold it as a special dish packaged in alfoil and frozen, to be eaten as a family treat. This recipe is from a cookbook called Great Vegetarian Dishes by Kurma Dasa who is one of the Hare Krishna movement’s most celebrated chefs. I love a lot of the recipes in this book but this Biriyani recipe takes me back to Melbourne when I first made it when I was a student and had to ration my funds. Going to the Indian grocer and buying spices was a bit out of my budget at the time – but I must have made quite a bit of Indian food after buying all the spices! This is an excellent meal for student living as you can eat it for days! It is also a perfect dish for guests as it does go a long way and can serve up to 6 people. We just ate it for dinner as is as there are nuts and beans for the protein with the rice and vegetables. The recipe calls for eggplant which is just divine but I cannot find any this time of year. I substituted zucchini which made their way from Mexico so if I looked harder maybe the eggplant was there too??

Biriyani served with fresh coriander

Vegetable Biriyani

 2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
3 teaspoons salt
2.5 teaspoons turmeric
4 tablespoons ghee or oil
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 zucchini
4 mushrooms
2 cups tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar\
1 cup cooked lima beans\
2/3 cup slivered raw almonds
2/3 cup broken or halved cashews
2/3 cup raisins
Fresh coriander

1. Wash, drain and dry the rice.

2. Boil the water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric in a 4 litre saucepan over moderate heat.

3. Heat half the ghee or oil in a skillet over moderately-low heat. Saute the cardamom seeds and the rice in the hot ghee for 2 minutes or until the grains turn whitish. Add the boiling water. Stir, raise the heat, and bring the water to a full boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and gently simmer without stirring, for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat, allowing the grains to become firm.

4. Heat the remaining ghee or oil in a smaller skillet over moderately high heat. Saute the mustard seeds in the hot ghee and when they crackle, add the poppy seeds, the cayenne pepper, garam masala, coriander, zucchini and mushroom pieces, and half the butter. Stir fry the vegetables for about 3 minutes.

5. Add the tomato, remaining salt and sugar. Simmer the vegetables until just tender. Add the lima beans and remove from the heat.

6. Spoon half the rice into a large buttered 9×12″ casserole dish and spread evenly. Spread the vegetable mixture on top.

7. Heat the remaining butter in a small pan over moderate heat. Saute the nuts in the hot butter until they turn pale golden brown. Add the raisins and stir-fry until they swell and the nuts are golden brown.

8. Combine this mixture with the remaining rice and spread on top of the vegetable layer. Place a lid or alfoil on the casserole dish and bake in a preheated moderate over (180ºC/355ºF) for 30 minutes. Serve hot with fresh coriander.

Vege Biriyani straight from the oven

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