Remember those days when Vegetarians(mainly the bachelors)traveling abroad carried a lot of homemade pastes,MTR ready to eats,easy to cook meals etc,often attracting the attention of the customs.This made me wonder if it was indeed difficult to survive as a veggie in the US. It’s a common misconception people have about the scarcity of Vegetarian food.Things have changed dramatically in the past few years owing to an increase in the Indian Immigrant population.Most restaurants cater to the needs of vegetarians giving them a fair deal.Two days back, P and I we went to TGIF and were bowled over seeing a customized menu card for vegetarians.

Of course there are times when we have to compromise on our likings, like am fond of Burgers and I dont find any Veggie ones in any of the Burger joints like a Mc Donalds,Wendys or even in Burger King.I cudnt care less as there are many other things to indulge on and enjoy.

I belong to school of thought that any food with the right blend of spices and timely cooking will taste as good regardless of whether it has meat or not.And I enjoy conversations with my ardent Non vegetarian friends on the same.Recently,a friend of mine argued on Biryani being the best when cooked with meat.According to him, a true Biryani is with either Mutton or Chicken and there is no such thing called Vegetable Biryani .While I can understand the tastebuds of my fellow Non Veg friends,I took it as a friendly challenge and made this spicy,aroma filled Vegetable Biryani(Basmati Rice layered with spices and vegetables).The word “Biryani” is a Persian word which means fried before cooking?.This is a very popular dish in India,Pakistan,Iraq(my recent visit to a Kurdish restaurant helped me taste some,will talk about it in my next post),Afghanistan etc.There are also different types of Biryani ,Hyderabadi Biryani being the most popular one. Needless to say this was a royal dish for the Nawabs and Nizams.

I did mention about the origin of Pulao in my earlier post on Tawa Pulao.The difference between a Pulao and Biryani is – In Pulao the vegetables and rice are stirred/mixed before cooking,where as in Biryani the vegetables and rice are layered during cooking.And also Biryani is made more spicy and colorful,thus being my fav one too!

VEGETABLE BIRYANI

Prep Time – 20min
Start to Finish – 45-50min
Servings – 5

Ingredients :

For the masala (to be grinded to a smooth paste)

Ginger  an inch
Garlic  2 large pods
Red Onion 1
Tomato  1 small
Poppy seed  2 tbsp
Mint leaves  a few leaves
Coriander leaves  2tbsp
Chilli powder  1 tbsp

Main Ingredients:

Basmati Rice  2 cups
Ghee 6 tbsp
Bay leaf 1
Red Onion  1 (sliced)
Cashewnuts and Raisins  3 tbsp (roasted in li’l bit of ghee)
Tomatoes  2 chopped (I used Roma tomatoes)
Boiled Vegetables (Carrots,French Beans,Peas,Cauliflower,Potato)  2- 3 cups chopped to an inch thickness
Black Pepper corns  1 tsp
Milk  3 tbsp
Coriander Powder  1 tbsp
Cilantro – 3 tbsp
Saffron a pinch(soak in 3 tbsp warm milk/water)
Cinnamon  2 sticks
Cardamom  4 nos
Salt to taste

Method :

1.Cook rice along with salt and ensure each and every grain is separated. Mix saffron and allow it to cool.
2.Heat Ghee (4 tbsp),add Bay leaf,Cinnamon Sticks,Cardamom,Pepper corns and Onions. Saute the Onions until translucent,add the masala paste(already grinded),turmeric powder and Coriander powder. When you see the Oil separating from the sides,add the tomatoes and saute for few minutes.
3.Now add the boiled vegetables,salt and coriander leaves.Cook for a while until you see the veggies completely coated with the masalas.If needed, you may add  cup of water.
4.Preheat the oven to 375F,on a large baking pan,smear ghee(remaining) in the bottom,spread one layer of cooked rice,cashewnuts and raisins and then spread li?l bit of the vegetable gravy on top,thus forming layers of vegetables,nuts and rice.End it with the rice,sprinkle milk and ? tsp of ghee on the top.
5.Cover and bake for 20min.Serve hot along with raita.Also, if you wish you may turn it upside down before serving.

The Rice already has salt in it,hence be careful when you add salt to the veggies.You may also add grated Paneer at the end,this would give a richer taste.And trust me,after baking the Aroma that it brings is simple mind blowing.

This is off to “Ravishing Rice” event hosted my Nags of the Edible Garden,originally started by Meeta of Monthly mingle

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