If you are a regular reader of this blog (which I so hope you are!), you might know how I have had to push myself to start making rice dishes. And I am glad that I have come this far to not only making this authentic Hyderabadi Biryani but also enjoying it to the core.
I loved this Veg Biryani, I really did. Although I still have to develop the taste the strong and pungent whole spices in rice, since they tend to put me off sometimes. So personally I would keep the quantity a notch down than this recipe. But for those who love rice in any form and enjoy it on its own without Dal or any vegetable aside, this is a wonderful dish which is loved all across the world and fairly easy to make.
What is Biryani?
Biryani is a rice based Indian/Pakistani dish, popular in the areas of Muslim majority. The most common and loved form is Chicken Biryani. But with time, it has been modified to adopt other forms like Mutton Biryani, Lamb biryani and this vegetarian version- Vegetable Biryani.
An authentic Biryani is traditionally slow cooked on “dumm” which literally means choking off the steam and not allowing it to pass. This ancient technique of cooking on dumm is what that gives biryani its uniqueness and originality. And this is how the biryani gets that deeply absorbed, medley of flavours and aroma.
The rice along with vegetables (or meat) and spices is half cooked and then kept in a sealed container – usually clay pots (also known as handi in India) which are sealed tightly with wheat flour dough. This ensures the steam doesn’t get a pass. The food gets cooked in its own steam and juices on a slow fire infusing the flavors and aroma of its own herbs and spices. Nutrients are not lost in this process making this a fairly rich and nutritious dish to have.
This tradition of dum pukht has its roots in Persia where the dishes were prepared, sealed and then buried in hot sand to mature. From there it was brought to the Awadh region of India and with time, the technique got evolved and mixed with various regions and community. And now its used in variety of cuisines such as Hyderabadi, Mughlayi, Punjabi etc. In fact, it has rooted its presence in the Western Countries in the form of Slow Cooker. The slow cooking technique is becoming common day by day due to its convenience and flavourful results.
Traditionally the Hyderabadi Biryani was made with Lamb, gradually the range widened to other options like Chicken, Mutton and Vegetable as well. But the main cooking technique or process remains more or less the same. Some whole spices (as called “Khade Masale” in Hindi) and some spice powders (like Garam Masala) are used to give rice the taste everyone relishes.
The best part is that despite of the strong flavours from Garam masala, onions and yoghurt thoroughly infused in the vegetables, you could taste the unique bland taste of rice as well. The long procedure might terrify you, I understand. But once you have tried it once, it gets easier with time. And then you can play around with the recipe according to your own preferences and taste, keeping the basic process the same. I have a quick version on the blog too- low calorie vegetable biryani, which gets ready fairly quickly but with less oil and hassle.
So lets learn how to make this immensely popular and loved dish- Hyderabadi Biryani.
Serves:– 3-4 people
Accompaniments: Chilled raita like Mint raita, Spinach raita, Spring onion raita and my favourite- roasted garlic raita OR simple dal like Gujarati dal, Kacche aam ki dal, Moong dal fry or lehsuni dal etc.
Hyderabadi Vegetable Dum Biryani – On stove top and oven, both versions explained
For cooking rice:
- 2 cups Basmati rice (rinsed properly a few times and then soaked for an hour )
- 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds jeera
- 1 tbsp Oil
For the spiced vegetables:
- 3 cups of assorted veggies of your choice – chopped into cubes or sliced equally (I used carrot potatoes, green peas, broccoli and cauliflower)
- 2-3 green chillies slit opened
- 1 tbsp Ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp Biryani masala powder I used MDH Hyderabadi Biryani Masala
- 1 tsp Red chilli powder
- ½ tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 cup fresh thick Yogurt I used Greek yogurt
- 4 Green cardamoms badi elaichi
- 1 Black cardamom hari elaichi
- inch About 1 long Cinnamon stick dalchini
- 2 leaves Bay tej patta
- ½ tsp Shah jeera
- 1 Star anise chakra phool
- 4 tbsp cooking oil I used sunflower oil
- ½ tbsp Saffron strands
- ¼ cup warm milk
- ¼ cup Mint leaves chopped finely
- Few coriander sprigs cilantro/dhaniya
- ½ cup cashews + 1 tbsp ghee or oil for sauté them
To fry Onions:
- 2 medium sized Onions
- 1 tsp Corn flour
- tbsp Oil for frying – almost 4-5 only half of which will be used and you can drain the remaining and use it for the tadka paste
To cover the pot during the dumm process:
- cup A clean cotton kitchen towel OR about a of chapatti dough gundha atta
First fry the onions:
Chop the onions thin length wise and mix with corn flour in a bowl. Use your hands to coat properly.
Heat oil in a wok, and fry these coated onion slices till they turn golden brown.
Drain the excess of oil and keep the fried onions aside on a paper towel.
Fry the cashews:
Chop cashews into halves. In a small pan, heat the ghee or oil. add cashew pieces to it and fry at low gas, just till the cashews start turning light brown.
Drain onto a paper towel and keep aside.
Cook the rice:
Heat 3 ½ cups of water and add the cumin, oil and salt to it. Once the water starts boiling, add rice into the pot. Cook until the rice gets “almost” cooked. It should not be fragile enough to break within the fingers. Drain extra water if remaining and keep aside.
Cook the vegetables:
Soak the saffron strands to the warm milk and keep aside.
Heat the oil in a big kadhayi or wok. Add in all the whole spices- bay leaves, star anise, cinnamon stick, green & black cardamoms and cloves and fry until for a about a minute on low. A nice aroma would start coming out of it.
Now add the shah jeera and fry for a few seconds. Then add in the ginger garlic paste, mix and cook for about a minute.
Now, add in all the chopped vegetables, mix and cook with the lid on, stirring frequently
Once the vegetables are about half way through cooking, say after 7-8 minutes, add the ground spices- red chilli powder, biryani masala, salt, turmeric powder. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, covered, and stirring in between.
Once the vegetables are almost cooked (you can check by trying to break them, they should not be mushy at this point)- turn the gas to the lowest. Take the lid off, mix and let the excess steam evaporates from the wok.
Once it gets a bit normal (that is- no more steamy wok), pour in ½ cup of yogurt and gently mix. Do not stir it vigorously at this point. Cook without the lid for next 6-8 minutes more till the water evaporates and you are left with yoghurt coated vegetables.
Then add half of the chopped mint leaves and slit opened green chillies, mix well and cook just till the vegetables are soft enough. They should still be crunchy and in their shapes, not mushy at all.
Now add the remaining half cup of water, mix gently and turn off the flame. Check for salt, adjust if required and keep aside
Assemble the layers:
Take a large cooking pot or pressure cooker. Grease it with about a tbsp of oil from inside using your hands or a brush.
Transfer half of the vegetable mixture into the pot. Top it with a tbsp. of fried onions. Then layer half of the rice and sprinkle some fried cashews.
Repeat the above step once again. Layering from vegetables-> fried onions-> cooked rice -> fried cashews.
Finally at the top, garnish with some chopped cilantro (coriander leaves). Heat a tawa/griddle, keep our Biryani pot onto it and turn it at the lowest flame.
Pour in the saffron milk, spreading it in every corner with the help of a spoon.
Seal the pot and cook on dumm
Either use a damp kitchen towel and spread it all on top. Be careful about the length of the fabric so it doesn’t catch flames. It shouldn’t be too small to dig inside the pot either. A half a meter square piece of cloth should do. OR. Use the kneaded chapatti dough to seal the sides of the pot. So roll a thick cylinder out of the dough, using your hands on a board. Seals the sides of the pot so the lid stays on and no steam can pass through.
Finally, cover with a flat lid or maybe a plate then put a heavy object (like a steel container filled of water) on top so it gets locked away.
Cook this at the lowest possible gas setting for the next 25-35 minutes. You may check in between once to confirm that vegetables don’t get overcooked or rice doesn’t get mushy
Serve hot with raitas or any gravy of your choice.
You may prepare this biryani in oven as well instead of going for slow cooking on stove top. Follow the recipe till rice and vegetables are cooked. Then assemble/layer them in an Oven proof dish in the same manner as described above.
Cover it with a foil tightly with no loose end, and then place a heavy oven safe lid on top (or a ceramic plate would do too). Cook it in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes at 180 degrees and serve.
You could also squeeze some lemon juice once the biryani is cooked and keep it covered till you start serving.
I usually use a ratio of 1:1.5 cups for rice and water, so have given the measures accordingly. But you may use the measurement according to the variety of basmati rice you use.
Always use a heavy bottom pan or pot for slow cooking the biryani so it doesn’t get burnt or stick at the bottom. I used a my 5 ltr pressure cooker and covered it with a thick kitchen towel, and then placed a ceramic plate, and lastly a filled sauce pan on top.
To serve in style, you may assemble and layer the biryani in small ramekins individually and then keep them all in oven. Take them out after 20-25 minutes, open and serve fresh with chilled raita
Some more delicious Rice recipes that you might like: