Vegetable Biryani

Description :

A celebratory meal of aromatic and spiced rice and tender braised vegetables.

Ingredient :

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk

  • 20 strands of saffron

  • 2 cups (400g) basmati rice

  • 2 large yellow or white onions, halved and sliced thinly

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons (70ml) ghee or oil such as grapeseed

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste; if using table salt use half as much by volume.

  • 12 dried apricots (125g), chopped

  • 1/2 cup (70g) whole cashews

  • 1/4 cup (35g) golden raisins

  • 10 garlic cloves, grated

  • 3- to 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 4 tablespoons; 50g)

  • 1 green chile, such as jalapeno or serrano, minced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala

  • 1 whole star anise pod

  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1/2 cup (120g) plain unsweetened yogurt

  • 1 small cauliflower, separated into 1/2-inch florets

  • 1 Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch (2.5 cm) cubes

  • 1 medium carrot, trimmed, peeled, and diced

  • 1 cup (240ml) water

  • 1/2 cup (60g) green peas, fresh or frozen

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, tender stems and leaves

  • 1 cup fresh mint, tender stems and leaves

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) lemon or lime juice

  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly cracked

  • A 2-inch (5cm) stick of cinnamon

  • 4 cloves

  • 2 large bay leaves

  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) rosewater

  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) pandan (kewra/screwpine) water

Direction :

  1. Warm the milk up in a small saucepan set over medium heat until steaming hot, or around 110°F (43°C) as registered on an instant-read thermometer, about 1-2 minutes. (Alternatively, place milk in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high until steaming hot, about 30 seconds to 1 minute). Grind half of the saffron strands to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Add the ground saffron and remaining saffron strands to the hot milk, cover, and let steep until ready to use.
  2. Clean the rice of any debris. Place rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it under cold running tap water until the water runs clear. Transfer rice to a medium mixing bowl, cover with fresh cold water, and let it soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Drain rice thoroughly.
  3. While the rice soaks, add 1/4 cup (60ml) ghee to a 5-quart Dutch oven and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, season with a pinch of salt, and cook until the onions caramelize and turn a dark shade of golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring with a large wooden spoon or spatula occasionally. (The browning time may vary considerably.) Reduce heat to medium low. Transfer half of the onions to a small bowl. Add apricots, cashews, and raisins to onion remaining in pan and cook until the fruit turns plump and the nuts turn light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a separate small bowl; this will be used for the garnish.
  4. Return the onions from the first small bowl to the Dutch oven; if the mixture looks dry, add up to 1 tablepsoon (15ml) oil. Add the garlic, ginger, chile, garam masala, star anise, caraway, and turmeric and sauté until fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in the yogurt, cauliflower, potato, carrot, and water, along with 1 teaspoon of salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring the contents of pot to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and cook, stirring often to prevent the sauce from scorching, until the vegetables are tender enough to be pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Once the vegetables are tender, stir in the peas and cook until heated through and tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat, taste for seasoning and season with salt, if needed. Fold in cilantro and mint, then transfer contents of pot to medium mixing bowl. Rinse and wipe Dutch oven clean.

  6. Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Combine rinsed rice with 4 cups (960 ml) water, lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, green cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon of ghee or oil in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 minutes, then strain rice and spices through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the cooking water. The rice will be partially cooked—a rice grain broken in half will reveal an outer translucent ring and a tiny, inner opaque ring.

  7. Brush the base and the sides of the Dutch oven with the remaining 1 teaspoon of ghee. Using a clean, large wooden spoon or spatula, spread out half of the rice in an even layer in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add the cooked vegetables with any liquids from the bowl over the rice and spread them carefully in a single layer. Top the vegetables with the remaining rice. Sprinkle the saffron-infused milk over the rice, followed by the rosewater and the pandan water. Garnish the top of the rice with the reserved caramelized onions, dried fruit, and cashew mixture. Cover the Dutch oven with two sheets of aluminum foil, crimp the overhang to form a tight seal, and place the lid on top. Place Dutch oven over medium-low heat and cook until the rice is fully cooked, about 15 minutes.

  8. Turn off the heat and let the Dutch oven sit for 5 minutes. Carefully, peel off the aluminum seal. There should be little to no liquid left at the bottom of the pot; to check, make a deep well in the rice all the way to the base of the pot using a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon. If there is any liquid left at the bottom, reseal the pot, return it to the stove, and cook it over medium low heat for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed.

  9. Using a fork loosen the rice a little and serve out of the Dutch oven, or transfer to a platter, and serve.

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