Category Archives: Rice & more


Potato & French bean biryani

Potato & beans biryani

Here is a simpler variation on the traditional biryani I have posted earlier, with fewer spices and easier to put together. Remember to use good quality Basmati rice and boil for a few minutes only until el dente and don’t forget to soak it for at least 1 hour – I usually soak my rice for 2 hours


2 cups Basmati rice (200-225 grams) soaked for 1 hour at least
Approximately 300 grams French beans, chopped into half inch pieces
4 medium waxy potatoes (approx. 500 grams), cut into large chunks
2 medium onions, sliced
4 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced (can use ½ teaspoon powder or paste)
2 inch piece ginger, finely minced (can use ½ teaspoon powder or paste)
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons natural yogurt unsweetened (I like Sojade best available at As Nature Intended and Wholefoods)
2 tablespoons tomato puree (you can do omit the tomato puree, just add more yogurt)
Salt to taste

Potato & French bean biryani(1)


  1. Fry the onion in 3 tablespoons oil until golden
  2. Add all the spices, yogurt and tomato puree and a little water
  3. Fry spices for about 5 minutes, adding tiny splashes of water to keep it from burning
  4. Add potatoes and beans and about 200ml of water
  5. Bring to boil, lower heat to lowest, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked but firm
  6. In a large saucepan, bring the rinsed rice to boil in lots of water – about 2 inches above the level of the rice. Boil for about 3-4 minutes checking to ensure the rice doesn’t overcook
  7. Strain the rice. In the saucepan add 1 tablespoon oil and about ¼ cup of water. Put half of the rice back into the pan
  8. Pour the potato and bean curry on to this and then top it with the remaining rice
  9. Cover the lid with a teacloth and steam on medium heat for 5 minutes, and then lower heat to lowest and steam for a further 20 minutes until the rice is steaming
  10. For more pictures and a step-by-step guide click here

Serve with either fried or baked tofu (use firm tofu). It’s all in the marinade with tofu and you can make a spicy one by mixing a little curry powder with yogurt, tomato puree and soya sauce or add a little something to sweeten it and some lemon juice  – bake and/or fry. If baking, put a little oil in a tray and coat the tofu by turning it over in the tray – bake for 20 minutes at 200C. Here is a link for crispy fried tofu.

All rice freezes very well – so make a large pot!


Crispy potato based rice

Rice with roast potatoes


This is a variation of one of many Iranian rice dishes and this crispy potato based rice is simple to prepare and delicious with salad or a light curry.

So we just boil the rice as usual, pop it on a layer of sliced potatoes and steam to create a fabulous dish of crunchy and moist potatoes with rice – a simple, appetising dish of rich to be served with either a salad or a light curry – we had it with aubergine with chana dal cooked with soya mince and it was a huge success!  Click here for the aubergine recipe

Aubergine, chana dal & mince

4 good servings


300 grams Basmati rice, soaked for 1 hour at least
4 large waxy potatoes, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt


  • Rinse rice, add salt and boil in a large deep pan with lots of water
  • Good quality basmati rice will take about 3 minutes from boiling to cook – keep it al dente
  • Strain rice in colander and add the peas and gently stir to mix
  • In the same pan, put the oil and 4 tablespoons of water
  • Layer the potatoes on the base of the pan
  • Top it with rice, cover the lid with a clean tea cloth and steam on med/high for 5 minutes, reduce heat to low and steam for further 15 minutes.
  • To loosen the potatoes, place the saucepan in an inch of cold water in the sink for 3 minutes

Brown rice, Puy lentils & French beans

Brown rice green beans(4)

Rushing off to Cornwall for a long weekend so no time to write much about this except that it is simple and very quick to put together.  The flash fry cherry tomatoes make a perfect addition and complete the meal.


300 grams brown Basmati rice
100 grams Puy lentils
200 grams French green beans, cut in two
2 medium onions, sliced (I used red onions)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 inch stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
700ml water
Approx. 300 grams cherry or baby plum tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fruit vinegar (I used Bickerton’s Blackberry fruit vinegar)
2 tablespoons Aspall’s White Wine Vinegar
OR if you don’t have wine and fruit vinegar, you could substitute with 2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar
Handful of fresh mint leaves, torn (or 1 teaspoon dried mint)


  • In a large, wide saucepan, fry the onions and cinnamon stick in oil for about 5 minutes until translucent and the edges just turning brown
  • Add turmeric and beans and fry for a minute or so

Brown rice green beans

  • Add rice, Puy lentils, salt and 700ml water

Brown rice green beans(3)

  • Bring to boil on high, lower heat and cover and simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes, stirring a couple of times to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan


  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add tomatoes
  • Fry for 2 minutes on high, add white wine vinegar and fruit vinegar and mint
  • Give it a stir or two and serve with rice

Rice, leeks, chanda dal with roast courgettes

Rice, leeks, chana dal with roast courgettes(6)

Of all the grains available to us, rice and wheat are the most commonly used and most versatile of all.  With a little creativity you can go a long way with rice and produce some amazing and healthy meals. Rice freezes well and any leftover can be produced another day for a quick meal with a side dish of veggies! In addition, there are many different types of rice available; Basmati rice, long grain, brown, black, red etc etc… In countries where rice is a staple, white rice is the most commonly used type, but most dishes can be adapted to brown rice, bearing in mind that the cooking time for brown rice is longer.

A while back I posted rice with chana dal.  This is a variation with leeks which I prefer, not only for the sweetness of the leeks but also because it makes the rice a complete all in one meal.  Roasted some courgettes while the rice was steaming ….roast aubergines also go very well with this rice.  Rustle up a simple salad and you have a meal friends and family will love.  In fact, it is a perfect dish to serve if you are having friends over as the chana dal can be cooked the day before and if you fried the leeks too, all you would need to do on the day is boil the rice and layer with dal and leeks – Voila, dinner is served!

4-5 servings


100 grams chana dal (soak for an hour if possible)
3 cups water
¼ teaspoon baking soda
300 grams Basmati rice (soaked for an hour)
2 large or 3 medium leeks, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon kala zeera (black zeera available from Asian stores or online)
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons natural soya yogurt (I use Sojade available from health food shops and Planet Organic)


  • Cook the chana dal in 3 cups of water with baking soda until cooked but whole (keeps it shape) – set aside
  • Fry the leeks in 2 tablespoons oil until translucent – about 10 minutes (remove the leeks and set aside)
  • In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and add kala zeera, after 30 seconds add curry powder, turmeric, garlic, ginger, yogurt and quarter teaspoon salt
  • Fry these on low heat for 5 minutes – you may need to add a small splash of water while frying
  • Add chana dal (having drained the water) and gently stir into the spices

Rice, leeks, chana dal with roast courgettes(3)

  • Rinse the rice and bring to boil in a large, deep pan with lots of water and 1 teaspoon salt
  • When it comes to the boil, lower heat to medium and cook for about 3-4 minutes until cooked but not soft – al dente
  • Strain the rice in a colander
  • In a large, deep saucepan put 3 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon oil
  • Put one-third of the rice into the pan, spoon the chana dal and spice mixture and lay the leeks on top
  • Place cherry tomatoes on the leeks and cover this with the remaining rice

Rice, leeks, chana dal with roast courgettes(4)

  • Cover the lid with a tea cloth and steam rice on low heat for about 15-20 minutes
  • Serve with roast courgettes

Roast courgettes

  • Thinly slice two courgettes (keep the skin on)
  • Drizzle a little olive oil and some sea salt and roast in a hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, turning once
  • You could grill the courgettes if you prefer

Rice, broad beans & braised tofu

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(6)

It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which rice lends itself to variation with good results and how well it marries with most vegetables, tofu, seitan, lentils, beans dry fruit and nuts.

Rice makes a vital contribution to our diet and specially vegans and vegetarians are very fortunate to have this humble, unassuming grain as part of their culinary repertoire. It cheerfully accommodates and adjusts to suit tastes and palates all round the world – I feel blessed…….

Layering rice with a central layer of some sort of stew or spicy mixture is known as biryani as opposed to rice cooked in broth with vegetables, which is called pilau or pilaf. Biryani was traditionally prepared for feasts or special occasions and as such good quality Basmati rice was used.  However, these days most families will have it once a week – Sunday lunch perhaps?

For this recipe I made a mild stew with lots of fried onions to add sweetness, broad beans and flat leaf parsley and replaced tomatoes with soya yogurt.  It turned out to be a delicious and very satisfying meal and required very little besides a simple salad of onion, tomatoes and cucumber.

Serves 4


2 small cups (about 300 grams) Basmati rice, soaked for 1 hour
3 medium onions, sliced
5 tablespoons oil
2 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
5 tablespoons natural soya yogurt (I use Sojade)
1 good cup broad beans (I used frozen)
200 grams button mushrooms
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tin Marigold braised tofu, cut into 1 inch pieces + good pinch of turmeric


  • In 1 tablespoon oil fry the button mushrooms, remove and set aside
  • Fry onion in 3 tablespoons oil until golden
  • Add spices, yogurt, beans, a little salt and half cup of water
  • Cover and cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes until broad beans are cooked
  • Add fried mushrooms and parsley to the beans, cook for a further 2 minutes

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(2)

  • Rinse the rice and bring to a boil in plenty of water with 1 teaspoon salt
  • Boil for about 3-4 minutes until the rice is almost cooked but still slightly al dente and strain in a colander
  • Put about ¼ cup of water in the pan and 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Lay about one-third of the rice in the pan and tip the broad beans on the rice
  • Add rest of the rice to the pan to complete the layering
  • Cover the lid with a clean tea cloth and place firmly on saucepan

Veggie biryani(8)

  • Steam rice on medium heat for 5 minutes, then lower heat to low and continue to steam for a further 15 minutes by which time the rice should be steaming

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(3)

  • Separately fry the braised tofu with a good pinch of turmeric for about 5 minutes
  • Place the fried braised tofu on the rice before serving


Rice, broadbeans & parsley(4)


Step-by-step Vegetable Biryani

Veggie biryani(2)

Traditionally, biryani is a rice dish prepared for feasts or special occasions by cooks who are hired specially to cook a huge vat, often outside in the garden on an open fire or even in the street if you don’t have a garden. It is served with yogurt raita and salad and, for me, doesn’t need any other supporting dish. Most families will treat themselves to a simplified version of biryani over weekends or holidays.

Biryani is rice layered with a spicy, fragrant vegetable curry where the vegetable curry is sandwiched between two layers of rice – it is quite simple and hardly ever goes wrong.  The rice is cooked till it is al dente (almost cooked with a tiny bite to it) and you can use a whole range of vegetables or step out of line and add a tin of chickpeas or white beans. 

One would think that rice layered with a vegetable curry would taste no different to eating rice and curry, but you will be surprised how different it tastes once it is layered and steamed.  The trick with biryani is to use generous amounts of fragrant whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg and star anise – biryani cooked by professional chefs for weddings etc use an awful lot of fragrant spices and liberally sprinkle the rice with rose water and saffron prior to steaming the rice.

Here is a step-by-step vegetable biryani recipe which works for me every time with a perfectly balanced amount of fragrant spices and if you cook curries often, the chances are you have all the ingredients in your cupboard – so what are we waiting for….let’s venture forth and cook biryani like the professionals or better!

Serves 4


2 cups, about 300 grams Basmati rice (soak for an hour at least)
Half a large cauliflower, cut into large florets
400-500 grams waxy potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
1 tin of seitan, cut into bite-size pieces (I use “Mock Duck” by Marigold) – you could use soya chunks or any other substitute
Fry together
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
Few cloves, cardamom, black pepper (about 4-5 each)
2-3 small pieces of cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons oil PLUS 1 tablespoon for layering rice (see below)
Mix together in a bowl
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
2 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
4-5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato puree
3 tablespoons natural unsweetened soya yogurt
Juice of half lemon
½ teaspoon salt
Garnish – fry in a little oil for 1 minute
2 tablespoons each of cashews and raisins


  • Fry onions together with the whole spices listed above until onions are golden brown

Veggie biryani(3)

  • Mix all the other spices listed above and add to onions
  • Fry spices for about 5-7 minutes, adding small splashes of water, until the spices are cooked


  • Add potatoes, cauliflower and “mock duck”
  • Add approximately 200ml of water, cover and cook on low for about 20 minutes until veggies are cooked, but not mushy

Veggie biryani(4)

Cooking rice and layering

  • Rinse the rice, add a little salt and bring to boil in plenty of water in a large, deep saucepan
  • Boil for about 3-4 minutes in which time the rice should be almost cooked (al dente) – it is best to keep an eye on the rice at this stage as Basmati rice comes in numerous grades/varieties and the cooking time depends on the quality and type of the rice; strain in colander
  • Put about ¼ cup of water in the pan and 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Spoon about one-third of the rice in the pan and tip all the vegetables on top of the rice
  • Add rest of the rice to the pan to complete the layering

Veggie biryani(7)

  • Cover lid with a clean tea cloth and place firmly on the pan

Veggie biryani(8)

  • Steam rice on medium heat for 5 minutes, then lower heat to lowest and continue to steam for a further 20 minutes by which time the rice should be steaming
  • Serve garnished with cashews, raisins and the fried onion you set aside earlier

Brown rice with fresh herbs & aubergine stack

Brown rice with fresh herbs & aubergine stack

Of all the carbs we are blessed with, I love rice and potatoes best.  For me, life in the kitchen wouldn’t be the same without rice or potatoes – these are the two most versatile foods in the pantry and can be adapted, messed around with, fried, steamed or boiled and served with just about any other veg, bean or legume.

Iranians are experts at putting together a huge variety and combinations of rice with various herbs and vegetables.  My mother being of Iranian origin and my father Indian, we were lucky to have two of the major cuisines of the world served to us effortlessly (at least it seemed that way!).  Iranians food resembles Indian/Pakistani cuisine in many ways;  rice and bread served with stews and curries but they use very few spices and chilli and an awful lot of herbs in their cooking which makes their dishes so supremely fragrant.

Here I have adapted a rice dish and used brown rice (normally good quality white Basmati rice would be used) and chosen parsley and dill to flavour the rice.  Served with a stack of aubergines and tomatoes, you can easily win the hearts of friends and family and, as always, it is a simple, easy meal to prepare.

4 servings

Ingredients for herb rice

300 grams brown rice (I used brown Basmati)
2 medium onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 inch stick of cinnamon
2 tablespoons tomato puree
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons olive oil (the cheaper cooking variety)
1½ cup fresh chopped dill
1½ cup fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
650-700ml water
½ teaspoon salt


  • Fry the onion and cinnamon stick in oil until golden
  • Add garlic, turmeric, chopped herbs and salt – fry for 2-3 minutes to release flavours
  • Add tomato puree, salt, rice and water (add 650ml and add a little more hot water if required)
  • Bring to boil and lower heat. Cover and cook for about 25 minutes or so, stirring intermittently, until rice is cooked and all the liquid absorbed

Ingredients & method for aubergine stack

2 medium size aubergines, sliced thinly (about 0.5 cm)
2 large beef tomatoes, sliced thinly
Pesto (see below)

  • Put 1 good tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy frying pan and fry aubergines on low heat for 5 minutes
  • Turn over the aubergines, add another tablespoon of olive oil and fry for 5 minutes until both sides are golden
  • Place a slice of tomato on a plate topped with a slice of aubergine; spread half teaspoon of pesto. Continue layering this way and hold the stack together with either a twig from a rosemary bush if you have one growing or a toothpick. You should get 4 good stacks

Ingredients & method for Pesto

½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup chopped dill
1 large clove garlic
1 tablespoon pistachios, pine kernels or cashews (I used pistachios)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water to thin the pesto
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt

  • Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth
  • Adjust consistency by adding a little water or olive oil

Brown rice & chickpeas

Rice with chickpeas(4)

What could be simpler than this awesome brown rice & chickpeas dish…..serve with a salad of your choice or like I did with some cauliflower bhaji and you will surely have this on your list of weekly must-haves – I do!

Serves 3-4


300 grams brown Basmati rice
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons kala zeera (black zeera looks much like cumin but smaller – see here)
2 teaspoons lightly crushed whole coriander seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
650-700ml water


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add kala zeera
  2. Give it a minute and add coriander seeds, followed by chickpeas, turmeric, onion powder and salt
  3. Fry for a minute or two and add the rice and 650ml of water
  4. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover and cook for about 20-22 minutes
  5. Stir the rice intermittently until the broth has been absorbed and rice cooked (add a little more hot water if required)

Rice with chickpeas(3)
We  had ours with some cauliflower bhaji – click here for the recipe!


Brown rice with green lentils

Brown rice, green lentils & celery(4)

Brown rice goes nicely with green lentils….both have a nutty taste and as brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice, they cook well together. You could of course use Puy lentils or brown lentils instead.  This is a one pot rice which can be eaten on its own or as I did, serve with fried aubergine and a nice salad (I made do with red onions).

3-4 servings


300 grams Basmati or long grain brown rice
100 grams green lentils
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
3 sticks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (or dill, up to you)
1 large cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon soya sauce
Half teaspoon salt
700ml water

Brown rice, green lentils & celery(2)

Vegetables fried and ready for rice and lentils to go in!

Brown rice, green lentils & celery(3)

All in and ready to go!


  1. Fry onions and cinnamon in oil until onion is a nice golden brown (always use a large pan for rice)
  2. Add celery, carrots and garlic and fry for a few minutes
  3. Add parsley and fry for another 2 minutes
  4. Add lentils, rice, soya sauce, salt and 700ml water (I usually eye ball the water – it should be about an inch above the level of the rice)
  5. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover the pan and let the rice and lentils cook for about 20 minutes
  6. Add peas, give a stir and cook for a further 2 minutes
  7. Make sure you stir the rice intermittently. If you need to add a little more water, always use hot water

Fried aubergines

Slice the aubergine thinly. Fry in hot oil until a dark golden brown.


Tomato rice with roast vegetables & braised tofu

Tomato rice with roast veggies

Asian and Persian rice dishes almost always use white rice – in countries where rice is a staple, white, polished rice is the preferred choice.  The better the quality of rice, the longer the grain with a wonderful aroma – you can smell rice boiling in the kitchen throughout the house. Most people wouldn’t dream of replacing this long grain white Basmati with brown…despite the health advantages and I will admit I am one of those. One reason for this is that you get the best result with superior quality white Basmati if you are cooking pilau rice or biryani – the grains are long and fluffy and, cooked properly, stay separate.

However, brown rice has a lovely nutty flavour and texture and, moreover, is better for you – with that in mind, for this tomato rice I have opted for gorgeous, long grain, brown Basmati cooked in a simple fresh tomato sauce and served with simple roast vegetables and braised tofu…. perfect for the family or a simple dish to treat your friends to!  The tomato sauce is quite plain with just a little turmeric and flavoured with cinnamon; in contrast, the veggies are roasted with a sprinkling of spices.  Feel free to use whatever combination of herbs and spices for the veggies – no rules for this one!

Please don’t let the long list of ingredients intimidate you!  I’ve just listed all the veggies I used but in fact it is a very simple recipe.  Basically a tomato sauce with rice and veggies popped into the oven! Voila, feast ready to go!

Serves 4
300 grams, brown Basmati rice
1 medium onion, sliced or chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil (not your best olive oil!)
3 large tomatoes (about 450-500 grams), chopped (you could use a tin of chopped tomatoes)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh coriander for garnish
Roast vegetables & braised tofu – these are the veggies I used – you can take your pick or add any other
Half large aubergine
1 large courgette
1 small red pepper
1 small yellow pepper
1 small sweet potato
About 10-12 button mushrooms
1 tin Marigold Braised Tofu (available from Holland & Barrett in tins – see here)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
Sea salt to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil


  • Fry the onion in olive oil until golden
  • Add turmeric, tomatoes, cinnamon stick and salt

Tomato rice with roast veggies(4)
100ml water added to tomatoes – always use a large, wide pan to cook rice

  • Add 100ml water, cover and cook tomatoes for 20 minutes until soft
  • Rinse rice and add to tomatoes with 400ml water (I usually eye ball the water – should be about an inch above the level of the rice)
  • Bring to boil, lower heat to lowest, cover and cook for about 22-25 minutes, gently stir the rice intermittently to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan
  • During this time the rice should be cooked and the liquid absorbed – if not, uncover and let it dry off
  • Roast the vegetables and tofu as below and serve with tomato rice, sprinkled with a little chopped fresh coriander

Tomato rice with roast veggies(5)
Veggies coated with spices and oil, ready to go in the oven

  • Cut all the vegetables into bite size pieces and coat with olive oil, spices and a little salt (save a small amount of spices for the tofu!)
  • Put in roasting tin and roast on 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for about 25-30 minutes, turning the vegetables once during cooking time
  • Drain the liquid in the tin, cut braised tofu into bite size pieces and drizzle with a little olive oil (I didn’t use any spices for the tofu but please sprinkle a little if you wish). Roast in a separate dish for the same time as the vegetables, turning the tofu at least once during cooking time (the tofu may need a few minutes less in the oven)