Monday, 13 October 2014

Vegetable Biryani with Dahl

At the last Census in India in 2011, the population was assessed to be over 1.2 billion people. That is one hell of a lot of mouths to feed. You can understand then why the staple food is rice. A commodity which grows very well under Indian conditions, which has been helped by development in seed types that allows for multiple cropping periods. Rice is easy to cook. It takes up the many spicy flavours of cardamom, turmeric, ginger and coriander beautifully and gives rich deep flavours and piquant aromas.

There is some dispute over how a Biryani came to be in Indian cuisine, whether the name was originally from Persia and the style of cooking was brought to India or if the dish originated in the southern Indian states. Either way, thank goodness it has made its way into our lives and this Biryani is something worth taking your time to make.

One of the great things about cooking any kind of Indian food is the fantastic aroma it gives to the kitchen and of course yellow hands from turmeric and saffron : )

My good friend Gene, queen of Indian Cuisine, has recommended adding pumpkin (butternut squash) to my Dhal because it add another dimension, so that is what I have been doing recently. She is right of course, it does add an extra something.

I have used tinned chick peas to make this a faster recipe but if you have time you could use natural chickpeas soaked in water overnight, drained and used.

Vegetable Biryani

olive or vegetable oil
400g tin of chick peas drained
2 tblsp 
1 carrot chopped
a handful of green beans  trimmed and halved
2 large tomatoes chopped
1 potato peeled and chopped
200g basmati rice
1/4 cup sultanas/currants or raisons
Fresh coriander leaves for serving
3 cardamom pods, crushed
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seed
1 onion finely chopped
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbls grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
pinch of saffron soaked in 1/4 cup water

  • In a large pan heat oil, then add onions and cook slowly until they are a nice golden colour.
  • Add all spices, except for saffron and bay leaves and cook on low for about 1 minute adding a tablespoon of water if they are starting to stick.
  • Add bay leaves and saffron, all the vegetables and 3/4 cup of water. Cover and cook over a low heat for around 15 minutes. If the water evaporates quickly then add extra water. When the vegetables are just about cooked add the rice, chick peas, sultanas and salt and pepper. Add 11/2 cups of boiling water. 
  • Mix well and cover and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes. Check to see how well the rice is cooking. Keeping the lid on tightly, turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 -15 minutes. 
  • Fluff up suing a fork.
Serve with Dahl and Yoghurt. This serves 4 - 6 people


2 tbls oil
1 large onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
300g prepared pumpkin or butternut squash(peeled and chopped)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup red or orange lentils washed
350ml water
juice from 1/2 lemon

  • Take a large pan and heat oil. Add onion and cook on low heat until soft. Add garlic and all the spices. Cook 1 minute, adding a tablespoon or two of water if it starts to stick.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and pumpkin and mix well so the spices coat the vegetables. Stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the lentils and water. Bring to the boil, cover and on a low heat cook until the pumpkin is cooked. Add more water if it starts to evaporate too quickly. It should take around 25 minutes.
  • Add salt to taste and lemon juice. 
  • You can leave the pumpkin in pieces or mash it into the lentils, whichever you prefer.
Serves 4 - 6 people  Cost in total $4.50

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