Tag Archives: biryani

11Mar/16

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

Ingredients

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)

Method

  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

Note:
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!

25Apr/15

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

Ingredients

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
Salt

Method

  • 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)

09Apr/15

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

Ingredients

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

Method

  • 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

DSC_0096

  • 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
18Jun/14

Rice, glorious rice

Demystifying rice 

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(6)
Rice with broad beans and braised tofu

Rice is simple!  In my view Persians cook rice to perfection! The treat it with the utmost respect and some special rice dishes are prepared with great ceremony.  My mother’s side of the family is from Iran and no one cooked rice like my grandmother and her mother before her and so on……

In my experience, for those who don’t do it regularly, cooking rice is a challenge but it needn’t be.   In Pakistan where I come from people don’t cook rice using exact measurements – in fact most people don’t use exact measurements for cooking anything other than dishes prepared in huge quantities for special occasions!  For everyday cooking women mostly rely on judgment, experience and the ‘eye’ to measure ingredients.  I remember when asking my mother for a recipe she would say put in a ‘muthi’ (fistful) of this or a ‘chutki’ (pinch) of that!

I decided to jot down some facts to demystify rice for those who have either never attempted to cook rice or those who have and not got it quite right and never looked back.  If you follow some simple rules and learn to use your ‘eye’, it’s as easy as pie.

There are literally thousands of varieties of rice grown around the world but we are going to talk about white long grain rice generally known as Basmati.

Cooking methods

To confuse the newcomer, there is no one way to cook rice.  Most commonly used are the following basic methods:

  • Boiled rice: boil and strain
  • Steamed rice: boil, strain and steam
  • Biryani: boiled rice layered with vegetables, lentils or beans
  • Pilau rice: cooked in broth and requires no straining

When cooking rice which is to be strained you need to use a lot of water to keep the rice grains separate, just as you would for pasta and this is simple.

Rice cooked in stock or a sauce is slightly trickier.  This method is used when you add vegetables or stock to the rice and wish to retain the flavours of the stock, for example all pilaus are cooked in stock or sauce.

How much water should I use?

Boiled or steamed rice is best cooked in a lot of water in a large pan to give the rice room to expand and fluff out.

Biryani is rice boiled to al dente, strained and then steamed with a layer of vegetable curry, lentils or beans sandwiched in the middle

Pilau rice is not strained but cooked in a stock usually with vegetables or pulses e.g. pilau rice.   As a rule of thumb I use 1½ -2 times of water for one measure of rice which has been soaked for 1 hour.  There is no exact rule; some people use a little more water and you may find that works for you; much depends on the type of rice you are using and the soaking time – read on!

Soaking

All good quality rice should be pre-soaked in cold water for at least 1 hour.  Sometimes I have soaked rice for as much as 2-3 hours and all it does is fatten the grain and reduce the cooking time.  However, this does not mean that you can’t cook rice if you forget to soak it or simply don’t have the time – you need to use more water as it will take longer to cook and the grains won’t be as plump.   I try to buy the best long grain white rice which is generally known as Basmati (but beware, there are many grades of Basmati too)

Cooking time

Whether you are simply boiling rice or cooking in stock as in pilau rice, the cooking time will depend on:

  • quality and type of rice, and
  • soaking time

Generally, pre-soaked good quality Basmati will cook in less than 3 minutes once it has come to the boil. Brown rice takes a lot longer to cook.

Boiled rice

  • Soak the rice for at least 1 hour
  • Rinse rice 4-5 times until the water runs clear to get rid of most of the starch
  • Use a large deep pan
  • Cover the rice in cold water about 3 inches above the level of the rice – always boil rice in lots of water
  • Add a little salt and rapidly bring to the boil, stirring with a flat spatula to keep the grains separate
  • Once it comes to the boil, lower the heat a little to keep it from boiling over.  If it has been soaked and the rice is good quality, it should take about 3-4 minutes to cook
  • Strain in a colander and serve

Steamed rice

  • Soak the rice for at least 1 hour
  • Rinse rice 4-5 times until the water runs clear
  • Use a large deep pan
  • Cover the rice in cold water about 3 inches above the level of the rice – always boil rice in lots of water
  • Add a little salt and rapidly bring to the boil, stirring with a flat spatula to keep the grains separate
  • Once it comes to the boil, lower the heat a little to keep it from boiling over.  If it has been soaked and the rice is good quality, it should take no more than 2-3 minutes to get to the al dente stage with a tiny bit of bite
  • Strain in a colander
  • In the saucepan add a ‘splash’ of water, about 3-4 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon oil
  • Put the rice back in the pan
  • Cover the lid with a teacloth and place firmly on the saucepan
  • Steam for 15 minutes on lowest heat – the rice should be ready if steam pours out when you lift the lid

Biryani

Follow the steps in my Step by step Biryani and see pictures below

Veggie biryani(4)

Vegetables cooked in curry sauce ready for layering with the rice

DSC_0107

One layer of rice in the bottom of the pan topped with the vegetable curry

Veggie biryani(7)

Vegetable curry sandwiched between another layer of rice
Veggie biryani(8)

Lid covered with tea cloth, steaming on the hob

Pilau / rice cooked in broth

In this method, rice is added to vegetables or beans usually in a broth.  The broth will have been prepared and some vegetables or beans added.  In this case you will already have the liquid in the pan, either by way of stock or a sauce.  It is not possible to measure the sauce in the pan with vegetables!  Here is where  ‘eye balling’ is useful means of ensuring you don’t have too much liquid – if you do, dry it off a bit.  We are aiming to get a rough ratio of 1½  times liquid to one portion of rice.

Some points to bear in mind –

  • Soak the rice for at least 1 hour
  • For pilau rice, use a large pan to cook the vegetables/pulses – you will be adding the rice to this mixture
  • Rinse rice 4-5 times until the water runs clear
  • Add the rice to the vegetables/pulses cooked in stock or sauce
  • There should be enough liquid to just cover the rice (see picture below).  If it looks too dry add a little water so the liquid is skimming the surface of the rice and vegetables – eye ball!
  • Bring to the boil on high
  • Lower the heat to lowest.  Cover the lid with a teacloth and place firmly on the saucepan.  Steam for 15-20 minutes
  • Lift the lid carefully as it will be steaming.  There should be no liquid left and the rice should be cooked.  However, if the rice is still al dente, add a little boiling water and put the lid back on and continue to steam for a further 5 minutes

Cooking rice in broth is where people usually come unstuck.  If you follow the rule of the ‘eye’ to judge the level of the water in the saucepan, you will be fine.

Troubleshooting pilau rice

When cooking rice in stock it is all about the ratio of liquid to rice.  However, we need not panic – it is easily remedied.

If there is too much water, all you need to do is boil it rapidly to reduce the liquid before covering it with the lid to steam.  If there isn’t enough liquid, simply add a splash of boiling water – keep the kettle on.  Boiling water can be added at any stage if required.

Generally, if you don’t soak the rice or it isn’t the best quality, you will need to use more water.  Once you’ve done this a few times you will sail through it and wonder what the fuss is about.

Below is a picture of rice with broad beans in tomato sauce.  I usually use this large wide saucepan for rice with vegetables.  As you will see the liquid is skimming the surface – this rice required less water due to the tomato sauce.  Bring rapidly to the boil and then steam on lowest heat for 15-20 minutes – can’t go wrong!

Rice with broad beans Rice with broad beans(2)

Rice is a very versatile grain and a staple diet in many parts of the world. It is gluten free and perfect for those who are sensitive to gluten.   Pilau rice or rice cooked in stock can be slightly tricky but once you’ve tried it, you will get the ‘feel’ for it very quickly.  In any event, what is the worst that could happen? It would go a bit soggy maybe? a tad mushy?  it would still taste beautiful so why not give it a go.

If you get stuck or have any questions I am happy to help.  Let me know how you get on!