Vegetable Biryani

Several of my readers have requested that I do a vegetarian dish so my recipe of the week is a Vegetarian Biryani.

Biryani originated in Persia and might of taken a couple of different routes to arrive in North India. Biryani is derived from the Farsi word' Birian' which means fried before cooking. In the olden days rice was fried without washing) in Ghee (clarified butter). It did two things it gave the rice a nutty flavour, it burnt the outside starch layer gelatinizing it. I could of come from Persia via Afghanistan to northern India.

Besides the historical facts the story gets a little fuzzy with legions. An interesting story that traces the origins of the dish to Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1691) Shah Jahan's Queen that inspired the Taj mahal. It is said that she once visited army barracks and she found the army personnel undernourished She asked the chef to prepare a special dish which provided balanced nutrition, and thus the Biryini was created.

Another legend say the nomads would bury an earthen pot full of meat, rice and spices in a pit eventually the pot was dug up and there was the Biryani.

The Nawabs and the Naizams hired vegetarian book keepers who developed a new style of the dish, as the dish evolved and travelled to more parts of the subcontinents people of different regions adapted as per their preferences.

Once a dish for royalty Biryani today reflects the tastes and traditions of the different people and regions within south east Asia.


4 people

1 onion

225g waxy potatoes

125g French beans

2 carrots

225g cauliflower florets

350g basmati rice

60ml ghee or oil

25g unsalted pistachio nuts

25g slivered blanched almonds

25g raisins

2 large pinches of saffron strands

1 cinnamon stick

6 black pepper corns

6 cloves

4 cardamoms

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

3 galic cloves peeled and crushed

75g peas

150 thick yoghurt

garamsala to taste

to serve a plain omelette with chopped coriander


1. Peel and half the onion and cut into thin semi circular slices. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks, trim and half the beans, peel and slice the carrots, break the cauliflower into small florets, wash the rice in a sieve under cold running water.

2. Heat the oil or guee in a heavy based sauce pan or flamed proof casserole dish. Add the onion and cook over a high heat until golden brown, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, and drain on kitchen paper set aside for the garnish.

3. Add the nuts and raisins to the oil remaining in the pan cook for 1 minute until the nuts a slightly browned remove and drain on kitchen paper.

4. Add the spices and garlic to the pan adding a little extra oil to the pan if necessary. Add the prepared vegetables and the peas stirring for 2 minutes add the yoghurt a spoonful at a time stirring thoroughly after each addition. Add 60mls water cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

5. Meanwhile put the rice in another saucepan with 600 ml boiling water and salt to taste, bring it back to the boil and lower the heat partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes until tender and the liquid is absorbed.

6. Add the rice to the vegetables, re-cover and simmer gently for 5- 10 minutes or until the rice and vegetables are tender. Season with salt pepper and garam masala.

7. Pile onto a warmed serving platter and top with the nuts, raisins, fried onions and the omelette and chopped coriander.

Best served immediately with naan bread and a selection of chutneys.