Classic Vegetable Biryani

Layer upon layer of mouth-watering flavours inspired by India.

  • Preparation Time70 mins
  • Cooking Time50 mins
  • Serves8
  • DifficultyMedium

For the sauce

4 inch stick cinnamon, broken in half
Pinch of ground mace (optional)
1/2-1 tsp red chilli powder
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
2 black cardamom pods, ground (optional)
5 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
400g passata
3 tbsp plain yoghurt
100ml double cream

For the rest of the biryani

255g basmati rice
Pinch saffron
1 medium onion, sliced finely
1/2 aubergine, sliced into half moons
115g baby potatoes, quartered
100g paneer, cubed into 2cm pieces
5 French beans, trimmed and sliced
100g frozen peas
60g cauliflower florets, broken
1 1/4 tsp salt
10 cashews, toasted in a dry pan
2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan
1 1/2 tbsp desiccated coconut, toasted in a dry pan
1 tbsp golden sultanas
1 tbsp dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
2 tsp salt
Ghee and sunflower oil to fry
2 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
2 tsp ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
3 cloves
1 bay leaf

Wash the rice in cold, running water to remove as much starch as possible. Allow to soak in a pan whilst you make the sauce.

Whisk together the passata, ground coriander, cardamom, cumin, chilli powder, mace, sugar, and salt. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan and add the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf tomato puree, ginger and garlic. Saute for a few moments, and then add the passata mixture. Stir and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer on a very low heat for 40-45 minutes, stirring often.

Heat the ghee and sunflower oil to shallow fry the vegetables one by one. Start with the onions, remove from the pan when golden, then in the same oil, shallow fry the aubergines (until 40% cooked), then the potatoes (until 80% cooked), and then paneer until golden all over. Set aside.

Boil the rice in plenty of hot water and 2 tsp salt until 60% cooked. Drain and set aside. Note: You could boil the rice in two batches, adding a little bit of food colour to one. This is a little frivolous and totally optional.

Place the saffron in a bowl and microwave in 5 second bursts, checking after each one until the saffron becomes lightly toasted and brittle. Add three tablespoons of hot water to the saffron and allow to steep.

Combine the dried fruits and nuts.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Remove the sauce from the heat and quickly whisk in the cream and yoghurt. Add in all of the cauliflower, potatoes, peas, French beans and paneer. Mix thoroughly.

You're now ready to layer up your biryani. Rub some ghee into your dish (I used mini Dutch ovens. Scatter in some golden onions. Layer in a few aubergines. Add a layer of rice and spoon over some of the saffron in water. Sprinkle over some fruits and nuts. Add the vegetables in sauce and onions. Layer in more rice, saffron water, fruits and nuts. Sprinkle over 3-4 tbsp water.

Make a dough using 200g flour, 3 tbsp oil and hot water to bind. Roll into a rope and place onto the edge of your dish. Lightly press down the lid. Alternatively, you can place a piece of foil over the rice and cover with a lid.

Bake the biryani for 30-35 minutes. The aim of the game is for the rice and vegetables finish cooking at the same time.

Break the bread seal and remove the lid when you’re ready to serve. For those final touches, garnish with plain yogurt and fresh coriander. This biryani is best served with cucumber raita and Peshwari Naan.

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