Biryani is a recipe that was brought to India by the Moguls. Over the centuries it has spread across the country and been modified to incorporate the flavors of the region. Some use meat, chicken, seafood or just plain vegetable. Even though there are many versions of biryani, the characteristic that carries across all of them is the rich flavor that the spices provide. The focus of the flavor is in the rice. The vegetables must be small and subtle. I use the traditional onion, green beans and carrots and make it unique by adding fresh sweet corn and edamame for their colors and textures. As in other biryani recipes, the spiced vegetables are alternately layered with rice and then steamed together in a closed pot to allow the flavors to develop. Serve this as a main dish with Onion Raita on the side.
2 cups basmati rice
5 cups water, divided
6 green cardamom pods
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
4 Tbs oil, divided
1 large red onion, cut into slivers
3 Tbs milk
1/4 tsp saffron
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, divided
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp red chile powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 dried red chiles, stems removed and seeds optionally removed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs tomato paste
3 cups cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
1 cup carrots (1 large), julienned
1 cup French green beans (about 20), cut into 1-inch pieces
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, minced
1 cup fresh sweet corn
1 cup edamame beans
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1. Rinse the rice 3 or 4 times to remove excess starch.
2. Add the rice, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves to a large pot filled with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Test the rice by pressing a piece between your fingers. If it is not fully cooked, it is ready. Rinse and drain off all excess water and set aside.
3. In a small skillet heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat. Fry the cashews for 1 minute then remove and set aside.
4. Add ½ tsp cumin seeds to the small skillet along with ¼ of the sliced onions. Fry until the onions are brown and carbonated, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
5. Warm the milk in a small bowl. Crush the saffron threads with your fingers then mix them into the milk. Allow the essence to diffuse from the saffron into the milk for a few minutes. Set aside.
6. Add the cumin seeds to the pot and let them fry for a minute. Add the turmeric, coriander, red chile powder, garam masala, salt, tomato paste and 1 cup of water. Stir to mix well. After a minute, add the cauliflower and carrots. Mix well. Let this cook for 5 minutes. Add the onions, beans, garlic, ginger. Stir to coat the vegetables in the spices. Cover and let this cook for another 8 minutes. Mix in the corn kernels and edamame. Cook for 2 more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
7. Place 3 cups of the rice in the bottom of a large pot. Spread it out evenly. Drizzle a few teaspoons of saffron milk over the rice. Layer 3 cups of the vegetables over the rice. Make another layer of rice, saffron milk and remaining vegetables. Layer the remaining rice. Drizzle the remaining saffron milk over the top of the biryani. Sprinkle the top with the and fried onions, cashews and fresh cilantro.
8. Cover the pot with the lid and place it on the stove over low heat for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.