Vegetable Biryani is a one pot meal that that is fit for company . Even the die hard carnivores in the family do not refuse this dish . Vegatable Biryani in Hydrabadi Dum way is a very fragrant , aromatic and rich dish . Aromatic basmati rice and vegetables cooked in spices and yogurt and garnished with fried raisins and cashews , this dish is the vegetarian version of the biryani from the Mugal royal kitchens . My version is for the calorie conscious as well , without compromising the flavor .
This is a time consuming recipe and by no means low calorie . I know a few aficionados who will take me to task if they ever discover that I have been cutting down on the substantial amount of ghee (clarified butter) called for in most authentic recipes . It is a little time consuming recipe and involves a bit of planning . But all you need as accompaniments are raita /yogurt , papad or few chips and a pickle for a wholesome meal .
Wash the rice in plenty of water . Place in bowl and pour enough water over it to cover it by about 1 inch . Set aside for 30 minutes .
Slice one medium onion thinly . Take a sheet pan and spray or lightly brush oil on the bottom . Spread the sliced onions in a single layer . Bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes . The Onions would have died and some would be turning brown by then . The onions can be dried in the sun too , that will take a lot longer , but on the plus side it is much more energy efficient
While the onions are browning , finish the prep work . Chop the vegetables into bite size pieces . Here I have used carrots , peas, beans and bell pepper . Other commonly used options are potatoes , mushrooms , and cauliflower. I prefer to add vegetables that hold its shape when cooked and those that gives good color contrast . Take One cup yogurt and mix it up till it is smooth .
The next step is to make the Biryani Masala . Take the spices listed for the masala and powder it.
A quick note on the spices : Do not worry about making a fine powder , a little coarse texture is perfectly acceptable as long as there are no large chunks . If you are satisfied about the quality of your whole spices , there is no need to dry roast it . Roasting brings out the essential oils and turns the kitchen very fragrant , but the rather long cooking process captures the essence of the spices subtly without this step . If you choose to roast , do so over low flame and one spice at a time . It is easy to burn these so do keep a hawk’s eye on these while roasting . Lastly the spice mix varies by cooks, each family has its own mix , but at a minimum include cloves , cinnamon , bay leaf and cardamom .
Chop the ginger, garlic and green chilies (if using) . Coarsely grind these . Warm 1/4 cup of milk and add a few strands of saffron to it and keep aside . You could choose to omit this step , or use turmeric or annato or food coloring . Each of these choices alters the flavor profile slightly. For me this particular dish has either saffron or nothing at all .
Drain the rice from the soaking water and set aside .
Add 1/4 C oil/ghee to a skillet and roast the cashew nuts till it begins to turn brown . Add the raisins to it and stir fry till the raisins puff up . Tilt the skillet and remove the nuts and raisins leaving the oil in the pan . To this oil add the dried onions and fry till golden brown . The dried onions will take just a minute or two to reach the desired color . Remove from the oil and set aside on a paper towel .
Take 8 to 10 cups water in a large pot . Add the spices listed under rice along with salt and bring to boil . If necessary add a couple tablespoons more of the oil to the skillet. Fry the ground paste for a couple of minutes till the raw smell goes away . Add chili powder, coriander powder , salt and the ground Biryani Masala. Fry for a about a minute , till the aromas develop fully . Take care not to burn the powders , lower the heat if necessary.
Crush half of the fried onions and add as well . Stir in the blended yogurt . Mix well . Add the vegetables and stir. Place the lid on and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on medium heat .
By this time the water would have come to a vigorous boil . Add the drained rice to water . Let it come back to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes . By this time the rise is halfway done , It should still have a tiny bite at the center . Drain the rice in a colander . Remove any whole spice pieces that you see.
Lightly coat the bottom of casserole dish with ghee and spread a thin layer of rice on it . Place half the vegetable mix over the rice , followed by a third of the onions , nuts and raisins and the chopped herbs . Create one more layer of rice followed by vegetables onions , herbs and nuts and raisins .
Finish with a layer of rice . Drizzle the saffron milk on top . Drizzle 1 tablespoon of warm ghee on top . This is optional , but helps create a nicer aroma . Scatter raisins, cashews , and a few tablespoons of the herbs on top. Cover with a foil and bake for 45 minutes in 350°F (175°C)oven.
Alternately this can be layered in a thick bottomed vessel with lid. Cover with aluminum foil and top with the lid for a tight seal. Traditionally a thick unleavened dough made with wheat flour is placed on the rim of the dish and the lid placed on it to create a tight seal . I haven’t had much success with it , and I suspect it is because I was not using a thick enough dough strip. Heat a thick cast iron pan on the stove top and place the vessel on top of it. This reduces chance of the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan and getting burnt . . Reduce the heat and cook for 30 to 45 minutes .
Gently mix the layers just before serving .