Biryanis are these wonderful casseroles of layers of rice and vegetable (or meat) with a heavenly blend of spices . This is more of a communal meal where there is main dish is the star with coterie of pickles, chutneys and sauces . There are umpteen variations , regional as well as cultural . These were a big deal during the family gatherings of our childhood . There will be one aunt cleaning and prepping the rice , one taking care of the spices and making the paste , and another taking care of the meat or veggies going into it . The uncles handled the market runs and us, the unruly kids ..
As tantalizing as this dish is it is not something that I attempt to recreate on a week night . Rice is partially cooked on the stove top , the vegetables or meats are seasoned and par cooked and finally assembled and baked . This multi step slow cooking process yields the perfectly cooked flavorful casserole . Here is my way of capturing some of the magic . It is not really a recipe , but more of a process .
What I had in hand was Chickpeas (Chana) and some beautiful orange cauliflower. Look how pretty it is . I wanted to make something that preserved its color . So while the oven was preheating , I got to work on the veggies . Soak the rice in double the amount of water. Gather your spices , and slice some onions , ginger and garlic .
Lightly oil an oven safe dish that is large enough to hold the finished casserole . Spread the spices and sliced ginger garlic and onions in a single layer. Transfer it to the oven . This gives the spices a head s tart and they begin to release their wonderful aromas .While the spices are in the oven heat the required quantity of water , and add any additional spices to it . I have used diluted chickpea water and some garam masala . This is the prefect place to add tomato paste or your favorite spice mix . Bring it to a boil .
After about 10 minutes take out the dish from the oven carefully . Use Mittens … Add the veggies and chickpeas on top of the onions .
Drain and spread the rice evenly over the vegetables. Pour the boiled water on top and add the cilantro and raisins. I like to cook my cilantro , especially after I read about recent food borne infections caused by cilantro . But it is totally a matter of choice .
Cover tightly with aluminium foil , or a lid and return to oven . Usually the rice is done in 30 to 40 minutes . Here I have garnished the top with fried onions . Store bought fried onions are a good option . Spread the friend onions in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place on the lower rack of the oven during the last 5 minutes of cooking for an evenly brown , crunchy texture.
Serve with raita , pickle , chutney of your choice .
- Use any aromatic rice that is not very starchy like Jasmine , Basmati , Jeera .
- Follow the package instructions on rice cooking ratios , chances are the rice merchants “know” what they are talking about .
- The recipe given makes a mildly flavored casserole .