When researching for this recipe I was surprised to find that a vegetable biryani is not common. I found this surprising because when I backpacked through Rajasthan (nearly 20 years ago!) this was my staple dinner. Much of Rajasthan is vegetarian but the real reason I enjoyed a regular biryani was because this tasty dish also lacked any ingredients likely to give me ‘Delhi belly’. What I thought was a biryani was possibly more a pilau. A traditional biryani begins with a curry that has par-cooked rice layered on top or between it and more often than not this curry is chicken or lamb based. I’ve used the same principle just used baby carrots. You can, of course, use various other vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, potato, kumara, mushrooms, capsicums all work well.

Marinade
1 cup plain yoghurt
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp garam marsala
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp salt

2 bunches (or about 4 cups) baby carrots, scrubbed and trimmed
1 cup basmati rice
2 onions
½ cup oil
1 tbsp salt
2 dried bay leaves
1 star anise
6 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon quill
1 tsp saffron threads (loosely packed)
2 tbsp warm water
fresh coriander
raisins (optional)

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ovenproof dish. Mix in the carrots, ensuring they are well coasted, and allow to marinade for at least an hour.

Soak the rice in a big bowl of water.

Peel and slice the onions. Heat a ¼ cup of the oil in a large pan over medium high heat and add half the onions. Cook until golden brown (but not burnt) then remove from the pan, placing on a paper towel. Repeat with remaining onion.

Place the carrots in the oven and cook at 180°C for 35 minutes.

Drain the soaked rice and rinse a couple of times. Bring a large pot of water (at least 1.5 litres) to the boil with the salt, bay leaves, star anise, cardamom pods and cinnamon quill. When the water is boiling add the rice and cook for 4 minutes before draining.

Crush the saffron then immerse in 2 tbsp hot water.

Place the par cooked rice over the carrots and drizzle with the saffron water. Top with the golden onions, place the lid on and bake for a further 25 minutes.

To serve, garnish with fresh coriander and a few raisins.

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