A biryani is a rice based dish prepared with either spiced vegetables, meat or poultry. The difference between a biryani and a pulao which is also a rice based dish is that the pulao may be made cooking the meat and rice together, while the biryani denotes a dish where the rice is cooked separately from the thick sauce (a greatly reduced curry of meat or vegetables). The curry and the rice are then brought together and layered, resulting in a dish of the contrasting flavours of rice and the intensely flavoured sauce and meat.
3 tbsp sunflower oil
3 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp peeled and grated root ginger
3 tsp biryani spice blend known as biryani masala (shop bought -Rajah) or curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sea salt
500g mixed vegetables, thawed if frozen or leftover roast chicken pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice
250ml coconut milk
8-10 saffron strands (optional)
Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry the onions for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Remove a couple of tablespoons of the onions for garnish. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for a minute. Mix in the spice blend along with the cumin and salt. Add the vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes until tender. Sprinkle in the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, rinse the rice thoroughly in cold running water and place in a pan with 400ml boiling water. Cover and boil for 8 minutes or until the rice is half cooked. The grains should be soft on the outside but still a little hard in the centre. Gently warm the milk and soak the saffron strands for a few minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Add the coconut milk to the vegetable mixture and simmer for 3-4 minutes. If the mixture is too dry, add a little water to create a sauce the consistency of custard. Grease with oil the base of a large heavy-based casserole (which also has a lid). Add the vegetable mixture followed by the parboiled rice. Pack the rice firmly into the casserole. Spread some fried onions on top. Add the saffron, if using, over the rice. Cover tightly and bake for 40-45 minutes. Serve hot with a yogurt raita. It’s good with extra fried onions, sultanas and roasted cashew nuts, too.
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