May 2, 2009

* Vegetable Biryani *

2 1/2 cups long-grained rice (preferably Basmati)
1 tbsp ghee
4 tbsp oil
6 bay leaves
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
2 pinches caraway seeds
5 cloves
5 cinammon pieces
3 green cardamons
1 black cardamon
1 star anise, broken into florets
4 onions, finely chopped
6 tomatoes, pureed
2 cups cubed mixed vegetables (green peas, carrots, french beans, cauliflower, potatoes)
1 tbsp butter
3 tsp chopped coriander leaves
Grind for the green masala:
4-5 green chillies
8-9 cloves garlic
1-inch piece ginger
For the biryani masala:
2 cups fresh whole-milk curds
3 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp poppy seed powder
1/2 tsp fennel seed powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 to 1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cashewnut powder or 1 tsp almond meal
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
Salt to taste
For the saffron paste: (optional)
5-6 strands saffron
3 tbsp hot milk
1/4 tsp green cardamon powder or 4-5 drops kewda water
For the garnish:
Fried onion rings, tomato and cucumber slices, fresh coriander leaves

Grind the ingrediants for green masala to a fine paste. Mix all the ingrediants for biryani masala together, and add the green masala. Keep aside to soak for 1 hour, preferably for 2-3 hours.
Wash and drain the rice. Keep aside on a muslin cloth for 15 minutes.
In a nonstick saucepan, heat 1 tbsp ghee. Add the rice and stir gently for 2 minutes on low heat, till the rice is coated with ghee. Add 3 1/2 to 4 cups hot water and salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes without covering.
Then turn to low heat, cover and cook for about 7 to 10 minutes till the water dries up. Be careful that the rice does not burn. Remove the cover and keep aside to cool slightly. Divide into 4 portions.
Steam the vegetables lightly for about 2-3 minutes. Quickly immerse the vegetables in ice-cold water and drain on a sieve.
Heat a non-stick saucepan and add 2 tbsp oil. Fry 2 chopped onions till brown and crisp. Remove, divide into 3 portions, and keep aside.
Re-heat the saucepan, add the remaining 2 tbsp oil. Add the bay leaves, cumin, shahjeera, cloves, cinammon, cardamons, and star anise. Fry for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 chopped onions and stir-fry till golden brown. Add the tomato puree and fry well till the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
Add the biryani masala and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or till you get a nice aroma. Remove from heat. Add the vegetables and mix gently. Divide into 3 portions.
Dissolve the saffron in the milk. Cool the milk and add the cardamon or kewda water.
Take a deep bake-n-serve dish and coat with 1 tbsp butter. Spread 1 portion of the rice. Cover with 1 portion of the vegetable masala, then 1 portion of the fried onion and 1 tsp coriander leaves. Cover with 1 portion of rice.
Similarly repeat the layers twice, ending with the portion of rice. Sprinkle with the saffron paste. Cover and seal the dish with baking foil.
Pre-heat oven to 400 deg F. Bake the biryani for 15-20 minutes or till done. Remove and garnish. Serve hot with raita and pickle.

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