Friday, 7 November 2014

Quick Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable biriyani
( Vegans just skip the ghee )

The mad rush of the days of Durga puja and Diwali finally settle down to a sudden quiet.
I can almost hear a sigh of relief in the air.

The days are sedate now. No more rushing about, meeting deadlines, following rituals.
No more staying on our toes; keeping an ear out for the doorbell ... anticipating another batch of friends or guests. No more checking if the jars and the fridge are full ... or at least half full ... to be able to offer something to guests.
The afternoons are lazy. The sun has already shifted and the South facing windows and rooms are flooded with sunlight; making the spots delightful to sit down with a book or for a snooze with a light quilt around you. Which I eventually do these days. Both.
Catch up with my much needed rest.
A book ... a few pages through ... and I am asleep.
The evenings are quiet too. I get up to a cup of tea and my book again.

Sometimes I cook something other than the daily dal, roti, sabzis.
It might be a quick pizza in the oven ... a store bought base with loads of chopped veggies and some cheese and pizza sauce, a few minutes in the oven and done!
We take out slices from the oven and leave the rest there to stay warm ... as we munch on our slices and watch the Big B's voice resonate through the room. I love watching KBC.
On other days I make a quick stir fried noodles ... again with loads of veggies ... but cut differently.
A quick toss and done!
Now that winter is here, most nights will see hot Aloo parathas, Mooli parathas or Methi parathas off the tawa onto the plates ... with some spicy pickle on the side.

These days, I try to keep everything short and quick. Of course I have always loved to cook light and quick meals. But these days it is more out of necessity. I am not supposed to strain my hand and shoulders too much.Which I follow.
I am not going to throw care to the winds and get banished from my beloved kitchen for months together ... not any more.

Vegetable biryani

So, when in one of our after lunch addas B asked me if I remembered the vegetable biryani that we had got packed from Souza's Lobo, Goa, for our return journey home, I jumped up and said I am going to make it!
What days those were! Two vagabonds, rushing off to unknown destinations, exploring new places, new food ... all in a shoe string budget. 
We were leaving Goa just before lunch. I had my fish with me ... all packed for the journey. 
But we had no idea what to pack for B. That was when the kind onwer suggested their Veg Biryani.
He said it will stay warm and we should finish it by late noon. 

The biryani was good. In fact very good. 
It had baby corn, green peas, carrots, potatoes,paneer, etc. 
And the gravy and the fried onions on the top were to die for. 
The rice has soaked it up well.
And we had one of the best lunches that day, while our train rushed through the Konkan countryside.

I did try the recipe out later ... almost always with left over rice.
But this time I did not have any left over rice ... so made it from scratch.
I did not boil rice in a vessel and drain it ... the usual way that I cook rice. Instead I cooked it in a kadahi till half done and added to the vegetables later.

If you are looking an authentic version of cooking biryani, this is definitely not it.
But it works.
Super quick and time saving. And not too much of compromise with the flavours.

Quick vegetable biryani

Need :

Basmati rice - 1 and ½ cup, washed well
Whole garam masalas - clove + cinnamon + black cardamom (broken ) + bay leaves/tej patta + dry red chillies
Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Tomato paste / puree - 4 tbsp
Curd -  6 tbsp , beaten till smooth
Onion - 3 medium sized
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
 Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Biryani masala - 1 tbsp ( I use Everest )
Fresh coriander leaves
Mint leaves
Kasuri methi - 1 tbsp, crushed well 
Cooking oil - 6 tbsp
Ghee - 3 tbsp
Kishmish / Raisins - soaked in water
Cashew nuts / Kaju
Vegetables of your choice - chopped into small cubes
( I had beans, baby corn, cauliflower, green peas + potatoes + paneer cubes )
Water for the rice - 1 and ½ cups ( use the same cup that you have measured the rice with )
Water for gravy - as needed

How to :

The rice :

Heat 2 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp ghee in a heavy bottomed kadahi.
Add the whole garam masalas.
When they start to splutter, add the cashew nuts and fry a little.
Remove the nuts and add the washed rice.
Fry well on low heat for a while. Do not brown.
Add a little salt ... around two pinches.
Heat the water and add to the rice.
Cover and cook on low heat till all water is soaked up.
The rice should be half done.
Remove cover, fluff it up a little and keep aside.

Instant vegetable biryani
The fried onions or Beresta :

Take two of the onions and slice them up thinly.
Heat 3 tbsp oil in another kadahi or pan.
Let in the onions and fry till golden brown, on low heat.
This will take time ... so let it sit on one burner and start prepping for the vegetable curry.
Do not raise heat to brown them.
You can deep fry them too ... I did not.

Fried onions or beresta
The vegetables :

Heat the rest of the oil and 1 tbsp ghee in another heavy bottomed kadahi or pan.
Preferably a flat open pan ... and the base has to be thick as you will be arranging the biryani in it. We don't want our biryani to burn before it is cooked well.

Add the potatoes and the paneer and fry on high heat to brown the sides.
No need to wait for them to cook .... they will, once they are dunked into the gravy.
Remove and keep aside.

Chop up the third onion and add to the same oil.
When slightly brown, add the ginger + garlic pastes and fry well.
Add the haldi and red chilli quickly for it to stop spluttering too much.
Add some water if needed and fry well till cooked and dryish.

Now add the curd keep stirring on low heat.
When it has mixed well, add the tomato puree.
Cook till dry.

Now add the vegetables, the paneer, salt, sugar and a little water.
Cover and cook till the vegetables are done. 
Remove cover and add the kasuri methi, the biryani masala, the cashew nuts and raisins.
Add water if needed.
We need a thickish gravy like so.
Now spread the rice on the top of the gravy.
Sprinkle the ghee and the coriander leaves and the mint leaves.
Spread the fried onions all over.
Give one single stir to bring up some of the gravy to the top and then spread the rest of the rice on it.
Spread the rest of the onions.
Top it with the rest of the ghee.
Layered quick biriyani
Cover tightly with a well fitting lid or a heavy plate.
Let it sit on low heat, on the biggest sized burner of your stove, for 10 to 15 minutes , depending on the amount of gravy you have.
Switch off heat and let it sit for a few more minutes.
Once cover is removed, serve immediately.

Here is a closer look.
Quick vegetable biryani
This biryani is enjoyed best with the Raita on the side. Chilled, if possible. 
To make the raita, all you need to do is beat fresh curd till smooth, add salt, roasted jeera powder and some red chilli powder.
It is the perfect match to the light spice of the biryani. The caramelised onions give a slight sweet touch to every bite.

Quick vegetable biriyani

Enjoy this quick biryani on a lazy winter afternoon with friends and family.
Or as dinner on a lazy night.
Also perfect to whip up when you have sudden guests who you want to stay over for lunch.

Cheerio all !!


  1. oh i love biryanis... this looks wonderful with those fried onions on top...

  2. Love biryani and veggie biryani sounds good ..we always do chicken or fish ..may be with veggies we should try one, warming up to winter days now :-) least winters are lovely and mild in you time for afternoon siesta and lots of tele bahja :-)..hugs and smiles

    1. Jaya .. veggie for the veggie in the house. :-)
      Tele bhaja ... good reminder. Yes, winters in your part are difficult. Take care ... bhalo theko. :-)


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