Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Standardized Biryani Recipe

Biryani was a Sunday Special in my parents' home. It was a labor of love- my mother spent hours putting together the layers of Basmati rice, curry, nuts and fried onions potatoes all bathed in aromatic, warm spices. Every pot and pan, every square inch of counter space in the kitchen seemed to be involved in the process. The result was something pretty special, I can tell you.

But no matter how much I love to cook, and how irresistible the result, elaborate recipes just aren't my thing. Instead, my own streamlined biryani recipe has been evolving over the years- three different versions have made their way to the blog.

Here's the latest version, standardized to my current kitchen and my current preferences. I don't care too much about what is authentic and what it is not- I just do what works for me. There are still several steps but with practice, I can trot out a pan of biryani quite efficiently, and every time it has been a hit, both with people who love Indian food and with those new to Indian food. Also, this is a very beginner- friendly recipe (believe it or not). I've tried to write down as many details as I can.

So take the plunge and make a pan of biryani with me! It is an excellent weekend project if you're attempting it for the first time.

My Biryani Formula

The Pan: This recipe is designed for my beloved 9 x 13 Pyrex baking dish (a very common and versatile baking pan size in US kitchens). It is nice to bake and serve in the same pan. The quantity is enough for 8 main servings. And it will serve many more people if it is one of several dishes being served.

Alternatively, if I am taking a dish to a potluck but also want to leave behind some biryani for the rest of the family's dinner, I split the ingredients between two smaller baking dishes: one 11 x 7 pan and one 8 x 8 pan.

Grease the baking dish(es) with some oil/ghee/butter and set aside.

The Layers:

1. Rice: Rinse 2.5 rice-cup measures Jasmine rice. (A rice cooker comes with a plastic measure which is about 3/4 cup of a standard American cup. So this comes to a little less than 2 standard cups of rice). Soak for 15 minutes, then add 2 tsp. salt and water to the 2-level mark and cook in the rice cooker (adding a little less water keeps the rice from getting too soggy). After the rice is cooked, stir in 1 tbsp. ghee and leave the rice uncovered to cool down.

Basmati rice is the most popular choice for biryani but I like Jasmine rice even better. Use brown rice if you prefer, or even another grain altogether- like quinoa. Cook the grains in a rice cooker or stove top. 

2. Roasted vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425F. On a standard baking sheet (18 x 13 inches), mix bite-size chopped vegetables (enough to fill the sheet in a single layer), 2 tbsp. olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 15-18 minutes (on convection setting) or 25-30 minutes (standard setting) or until the veggies are tender and lightly browned.  Set aside.

I use an entire baking sheet's worth of roasted veggies in this recipe resulting in a very high ratio of vegetables to rice, just the way I like it. What vegetables to use? I typically use 1/3 head of cauliflower, 2 carrots, 2 zucchini, 1 bell pepper. But I'll change it up and use anything that I have on hand or whatever's on sale/in season, like broccoli, summer squash, sweet potato, green beans etc. 

3. Curry: 

  1. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp. oil
  2. Saute 2 sliced onions until caramelized. 
  3. Add 1 heaped tbsp. ginger garlic paste, 1 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. salt, and biryani masala powder to taste. Stir for a few seconds.
  4. Add 1.5 cups tomato puree and 1/4 cup cashew/almond powder. Simmer for 5 minutes. 
  5. Turn off heat and stir in 1/2 tsp garam masala and a handful of minced cilantro and mint leaves if you like.

I like Shaan brand Memoni biryani masala powder and I use 1 tbsp for a mild spice and up to 3 tbsp to make it more spicy. Keep in mind that this is the only component of the dish that has spice. 

An alternative is to buy Parampara brand biryani masala paste (I have no affiliation with any of these brands; they are just what I have used and liked) and to use that in place of everything in step 3- an easy short-cut.

4. The "main" ingredient: This is another hearty ingredient. Choose from any one of these to make egg biryani/ paneer biryani/ chickpea biryani and so on.
Hard-boiled eggs: Boil 6 eggs, peel and quarter.
Paneer: Cut a block of paneer into bite size pieces and pan fry until lightly browned.
Chickpeas: Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Or soak and cook a cup of dried chickpeas.
Veggie meatballs: I like the meatless meatballs from Trader Joe's- thaw them first.
  Other options are to make your own koftas or to use tofu/seitan.

5. Finally, what gives the biryani its characteristic flavor is crispy fried onions. I buy cans of fried onions (the ones used for green bean casserole) at the grocery store. You can of course make your own at home.

Assembly and Baking

In the greased casserole, add ingredients and pat down in this order:

  • 2/3 of the cooked rice
  • All of the curry
  • All of the roasted vegetables
  • All of the main ingredient of choice
  • The rest of the rice
  • A generous handful of fried onions
Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Enjoy!


Notes: 

  • If you don't own an oven, the biryani is easily assembled in a large pot/pan (or two) and finished on the stove-top. Saute the veggies instead of roasting them. 
  • Multi-tasking: I usually get the rice started first. Then I start the veggies in the oven. While both are cooking, I make the curry. While all three cool down, I prep the "main" ingredient. 
  • Make-ahead: The biryani can be assembled up to 24 hours ahead of time. Just bake and serve. 
  • Leftovers reheat beautifully and in fact the biryani tastes even better the next day. 

31 comments:

  1. Would you believe I've never had Biryani of any type. I am intrigued though!

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    1. Oh you'll have to visit me just to have a taste of biryani!

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  2. Hi Nupur,

    I will try this briyani recipe soon. I have not made a proper briyani, as I too favor simple recipes.

    Your paneer pulao and moong dhal kichadi are a standard in my home. Pav bhaji is also made with your recipe.

    Regards,
    SS

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    1. I'm so glad those recipes worked for you and made it to your standard rotation! This recipe is worth a try.

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  3. I make a variety of rices, but always stay away from making biryani as well. My mama taught me his recipe - the best biryani I've tasted hands down. It had layers of aromatic basmati rice, fried veggies, mint-yogurt based masala, and fried onion on top. I've never tried it by myself, but you inspired me to make a short-cut version of it.

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    1. Ah, your mama's version sounds amazing. This one is worth trying and not a huge investment of time and effort.

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  4. I've started making biryanis about 2~3 years ago and now I love trying various flavorings and mixings. Thanks for sharing your biryani recipe -- it sounds like a perfect fusion dish with roasted veggies, jasmine rice and meatballs. Will definitely try your version out soon.

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  5. I love the idea of roasting the veggies in oven. I have one question though about adding the yogurt. I saw the recipes where they add yogurt also....Can you tell me your thoughts on this?

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    1. Some people add yogurt- for tang and richness I suppose. I add cashew powder for richness and tomato for tang. All the variations are tasty.

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  6. I absolutely love biryani. All your versions look so amazing! I'd love to share my family recipe as well, if you don't mind.
    The veggies, rice and fried goodies are constant. We also add one layer of chopped cilantro and mint in the middle. For the curry - we make a paste out of ginger, garlic, freshly grated coconut, cashews, turmeric powder, red chilli powder. We cook the veggies in this "vaatan" and then add yogurt for a bit of tang and moisture. That's it. No garam masala, no tomato and no onion in the biryani! It probably doesn't sound appetizing but it is beyond delicious. It is amazing how something so simple can taste so good. Do try our version when you get a chance :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your family recipe and I'd love to try it one of these days!

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  7. If the rice, the curry and roasted veggies are assembled when they are piping hot it helps lock the flavours even better. You need to get the timing right though so that all the three are ready at the same time for assembling.

    Deepti

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    1. It works even if you don't get the timing right, the flavors meld while baking.

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  8. This is a wonderfully much simpler way to make Biryani, and I'm sure the technique adds in immense flavor. I LOVE the idea of adding roast veggies Nupur, need to try this out soon!

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    1. Roast veggies add so much flavor and I love that you can make a large tray all at once!

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  9. hello Nupur,
    This biryani looks tempting; I've never tried biryani before. This is a simple recipe and I'll try this soon :-)


    Thanks,
    Meena.

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  10. I very fondly remember your Vegetable Biryani for a Crowd -- soooo good. And now that you’ve moved away on us (boo hoo!) I’ll have to try it for myself! This looks much more approachable -- thanks for streamlining the recipe for beginners!

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    1. Well, come visit and we can have round two of vegetable biryani :)

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  11. I loveee biryani (who doesn't, right?!) ..But, apparently having an infant and making biryani are mutually exclusive! I have been planning on making it for months(or years i think)..even bought saffron from the indian store for that purpose many months ago, and it got over by use in random stuff, and biryani never happened :D. And now that its summer and so hot, I have zero tolerance to standing near stove/oven to cook. Sigh! I think I will make do with the pics in post, and cook it in winter! haha :) Happy summer.

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    1. I know, this recipe would be more suitable for fall/winter but honestly my guests love it year round! You'll have plenty of time for biryani once the baby is older.

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  12. I make Biryani once in a while but never a baked version. This looks tempting Nupur. Will try this.How's Lila?

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    1. Lila is well and enjoying water activities now that it is summer. How are your kids doing?!

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  13. This looks delicious Nupur. Makes me realize I haven't made biryani in a while. Have to make it now. How's Lila's summer going?

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    1. Lila's summer is going really well, thanks for asking- lots of fun in the sun, bet it is the same with your boys.

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  14. I am making Biryani tomorrow. A slightly different version. I also peel and cut, slightly thick, potato rounds and lay them at the bottom ,sprinkle very little salt and layer the other ingredients on top, We all love the hash brown like potato.

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    1. That's so clever, Manasi- I'll going to try that!

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  15. I can't tell you how happy I am with this detailed post. Thanks Nupur. I am making this real soon. Yay!

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    1. Let me know if it works for you :)

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  16. Hi nupur,

    How long and at what temperature I have to bake it before serving if I prepared it the night before?

    Thanks,
    Tulasi

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