Vegetable biryani

Vegetable biryani

Spice Kitchen
Jana Liebenstein

Biryani is essentially a special rice dish flavoured with saffron and spices, and cooked with meat. Biryani has its origins in Persia (present-day Iran). Eleventh-century Mughals loved their rice pilafs, and these evolved into the more elaborate biryani with the addition of spices and distinctive regional ingredients. Vegetable versions are popular in India and may be served on their own, with nothing more than Boondi Raita.


Quantity Ingredient
60g Ghee
or 60ml vegetable or canola oil
2 green chillies
1 teaspoon whole mace
5 cloves
5 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
1 small onion, sliced
225g basmati rice or other long-grain rice, washed and drained

150 g diced mixed seasonal vegetables, choosing 4–6 of the following:

Quantity Ingredient
1/2 small eggplant
2 swiss brown or feld mushrooms, cleaned
2 cauliflower
1 carrot, peeled
40g frozen peas
6 green beans, trimmed
1 large potato, peeled
1 tomato
60g plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon Saffron infusion
unsalted roasted cashew nuts, to garnish
sultanas, to garnish


  1. Heat the ghee or oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the chillies, mace, cloves, cardamom pods and black cumin seeds and cook for 5 seconds. Immediately add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
  2. Add the rice and stir until each grain is coated with the mixture. Add the mixed vegetables of your choice and the yoghurt, coriander and mint and stir to mix through.
  3. Stir in 625 ml boiling water plus the salt, then cover and cook over a high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is almost cooked.
  4. Carefully pour the saffron infusion in one place on top of the almost-cooked rice but do not stir. Cover and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are tender.
  5. If you wish, gently stir the biryani just before serving – this is done to produce the trademark yellow and white grains of a biryani, but you must do it very carefully to avoid breaking up the rice grains. Garnish with the cashew nuts and sultanas and serve.
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