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Take ? cup warm water or milk in a small bowl. Add 15-20 strands of saffron and leave it aside to soak. Take 2 cups of Basmati rice in a large pot. Rinse it three times to wash off the excess starch. Add 3 and a half cups of water and bring the rice to a boil, then simmer until rice is just tender. Turn the rice out into one or two large platters. Sprinkle with salt to taste, and mix in the saffron milk. Leave the rice to cool down, then cover and set aside.
Peel one large or two medium potatoes, and cut into small cubes. Heat some oil in a non-stick skillet, and fry the potatoes until golden, then drain and set aside. To the same pan, add more oil if necessary, and then fry 3 onions, sliced thinly, until golden-brown. Then fry 1/4 cup each of halved cashew nuts and golden raisins.
Prepare about 4-5 cups of mixed vegetables of your choice and steam them until barely tender. Then, make the masala paste by grinding together 2 onions, 2-3 green chilies, a few stalks of cilantro, 1/4 cup of mint and 2 tbsp poppy seeds. In a pan, fry the masala paste until fragrant, and then add 1/2 cup tomato puree, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1 tbsp of a nice aromatic garam masala. Add salt to taste. Stir in the steamed vegetables and fry for a couple of minutes.
4. Cilantro: Mince 8-10 stalks of cilantro and set aside.
5. Layering the Biryani:Take a 9x13 baking dish (or equivalent) and grease it with some ghee or butter or oil. Start with half the rice, followed by some fried onions, nuts, raisins and potatoes, and half the cilantro. Then the whole of the vegetable curry, spread out as evenly as possible followed by the rest of the rice, fried goodies and cilantro. Drizzle with some ghee if desired
6. Cover the pan tightly with foil, then bake at about 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, until steaming hot, or store in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.
7. Biryani can be served by itself, or with a simple raita or some yogurt on the side.
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