Subzi Cheese Biryani (Vegetable Cheese Biryani)

“Can vegetarian food be made interesting as well?” wrote a reader recently. “Yes, of course”, was my enthusiastic answer. With a little bit of creativity and innovation, even a vegetarian meal can be an absolute delight. Though, I am a hardcore non vegetarian, I always opt for a vegetarian meal whenever I require a change from the regular stuff. Ever since the “Aloo Saunfiyana” recipe was well received on the blog, I have decided to start posting all vegetarian recipes that have been lying in my folder for eons now.

One such interesting recipe is the Subzi Cheese Biryani, which was the outcome of my sisters creative thought process. This dish was the outcome of a very healthy debate between my sister and me as what’s the best thing to make when you have almost every vegetable at your disposal. Since the two of us are the greatest biryani fans on the planet, we decided that biryani it would be, but hero of the dish would not be the veggies but a very special ingredient “cheese”. That decided, my sister, pen and paper in tow, sat conceptualizing the biryani while her brother went on and got into executing the dish.

When we decided to make this biryani, it was planned like the way a usual biryani was to be made, and we weren’t too sure of how the final product would turn up but wanted to go ahead with it nevertheless. I tried and kept the oil and fats to a minimum considering that there is a generous amount of cheese, enough to cause the mild hearted a few jitters. I must say it is time consuming but worth every bit of the effort

We had it with Butter-Garlic Prawns. The verdict?  Awesome. The joy of cooking a meal together is priceless. Try doing it sometimes, I promise it will leave a smile on your face and memories in your heart.

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Subzi Cheese Biryani
Ingredients:
       2 cups long grained basmati rice
·     100 grams mixed vegetables (I used French beans, cauliflowers, green capsicum & green peas)
·         2 medium onions- finely chopped
·         2 medium tomatoes- finely chopped
·         200 grams thick curd- beaten well
·         3 tablespoons cashew paste
·         100 grams processed cheese – for grating
·         3 cheese cubes- sliced for garnishing
·     Assortment of whole spices (2 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon stick, 1 small bay leaf)
·         1 ½ tablespoon ginger—garlic paste
·         1 teaspoon coriander powder
·         1 teaspoon red chili powder
·         1 teaspoon turmeric  powder
·         1 teaspoon garam masala powder (all spice powder)
·         4 large tablespoons oil or ghee (clarified butter)
·         Salt to taste
·         Juice of half a lime
·         Some milk
·         Few leaves of coriander and mint for garnishing.

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Procedure:
For the rice:
·  Soak the rice for atleast 20-25 minutes in water before you begin working with it.
·  In a large pan heat water equivalent to double the quantity of rice. When the water starts boiling, add in the rice.
·   Add some ghee to the rice. This will ensure that the grains don’t stick to each other. Also, add some salt.
·          When the rice is about ¾th  done, take out from heat drain it on a colander and let it cool for a while.
·         Take out a large spoonful of the rice and keep aside.
·          Add ½ teaspoon of the turmeric powder to the milk and stir well. Pour this milk on the rice that has been kept aside and mix well. This will give the rice a nice yellow colour.
For the gravy:
·         In a deep pan add the oil or ghee and let it heat. Once the oil is hot add in the whole masalas and let them crackle.
·         Once the masalas are done, add the onions and cook till the onions are nicely browned. Add in the ginger garlic paste and cook well.
·         Add in the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes are pulpy. This is important since if the tomatoes are not well cooked; the gravy will separate.
·         When the tomatoes are pulpy, add in all the spice powders (coriander, red chili, turmeric& the garam masala  powder) and cook well. Add a little water if required.
·         Now add the cashew paste and cook till the oil leaves the sides and the mixture has thickened a bit. Add in the curd and let it simmer for about 7 minutes
·         Add in the vegetables, salt and cook for 5 more minutes.
·         Finally, add in the juice of lime and mix.
·
For the assembling:
·         Line a heavy deep bottom vessel with ghee and pour in half of the gravy.
·         Now , on top of this add a layer of half the rice; grate half the cheese on top the rice. Also, add some of the coloured rice to this
·         Repeat the layering process with the other half of the gravy, rice and cheese
·         Slice the cubes into fine squares and layer on the top.
      Seal the vessel tightly and cook for about 30* minutes on medium flame and for another 10 minutes on a low flame.
     Once done take out from the heat and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.
      Serve with refreshing raita.

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Prawns Biryani- Need I say more!

Being a South Indian, it would be criminal if I don’t put a post on rice anytime soon; and what better rice dish than the emperor of all dishes “The Biryani”.

The Biryani and the Taj Mahal are the two best things left behind by the Mughal rulers. We will cover the Taj in another post on Mughlai food; this time we’ll cover the all- time favorite “Biryani”. Having a biryani means you don’t need anything else since it is a complete meal in itself.  Layered with fats, carbs and proteins it is not one of the healthier options but come on, who ever heard of a diet biryani or a low calorie biryani hmm….  Indulgence has its own pleasures right? J

Not much is written about the history of this dish, but legend has it that the Persian soldiers (when going on longer journeys) carried with them a dish that was meat gravy topped with a layer of rice. Although there are many varieties of the biryani available world over, in India almost trace their roots to the kitchens of the Nawabs in Hyderabad and Lucknow. It is said that a particular Nawab boasted of 49 varieties in his kitchen. Essentially, biryanis are of two types, “Kachchi (raw) Biryani” as the marinated rice and meat are cooked together & the “Pakki (cooked) Biryani” this is where the rice and meat are cooked separately and then layered.

Preparing a biryani is a long drawn, elaborate and tedious task. But believe me; it will be worth the effort. I guess with some planning and preparation, the task will be simpler and less strenuous.

I had initially planned doing a either a chicken or mutton one; but there were some large prawns in the fridge & my mum felt that the best way to use them was in a biryani. You could replace the prawns with either mutton or chicken. Purists believe that the ratio of rice to meat should be 1:1 that is 1 kg rice for 1 kg of meat. However, I tried 1:0.7 that is 1 kg rice and 700 grams meat and it came out decent. A good biryani is only as good as the quality of rice used. So, make sure to use good quality and long grained rice. Needless to say, no being miserly on the use of ghee and spices.

Well, get set for the grind of making the yummy Prawns Biryani. My suggestion is make a little extra, the aroma will draw all your neighbours and I’m sure they will not leave till they’ve had some.

Prawns Biryani.

Main Ingredients

  • Long grained Basmati rice                                                       800 grams
  • Prawns (approx)*                                                                        550 grams
  • Large Onions                                                                                 3
  • Lime                                                                                                  1
  • Desi Ghee                                                                                        4 Tablespoons
  • Milk                                                                                                    ¼ cup
  • Salt                                                                                                    To taste
  • Oil                                                                                                      for frying the onions

For the Marinade

  • Thick curd                                                                                   350 grams
  • Ginger Paste                                                                                1 ½ tablespoon
  • Garlic Paste                                                                                  1 ½ tablespoon
  • Green Chillies (finely chopped)                                          3
  • Kashmiri Chilli Powder*                                                        2 tablespoons
  • Turmeric Powder                                                                      1 ½ tablespoon
  • Garam Masala Powder                                                            1 tablespoon
  • Jeera (Cummin) Powder                                                        1 tablespoon

Whole Masala’s

  • Cinnamon Stick                                                                      1
  • Green Cardamom                                                                  4-5
  • Cummin Seeds                                                                       1 teaspoon
  • Bay Leaf                                                                                    1 Large
  • Star Aniseed                                                                           1

Procedure:

We shall begin by making the marinade:

  • Clean, De-shell and de-vein the prawns.
  • Heat oil in a deep frying pan
  • Slice the onions finely. Fry them in the oil till they turn golden brown; be careful since if they burn they will taste bitter. Once done place them on an absorbent paper to drain the excess oil. Let them rest for a while and allow them to get crisp.
  • Beat the curd well add in prawns and coat them well with the curd. To this add a little salt, ginger garlic pastes and all the other masalas mentioned under the marinade heading.
  • Crush the onions and add to the curd mixture. Remember to keep some aside for garnishing.
  • Add the juice of half a lime to it, finely chopped coriander and tear in a few mint leaves.
  • Mix well (take care not to damage the prawns) and keep aside for at least 2 hours.

For the rice:

  • Soak the rice for atleast 20-25 minutes in water before you begin working with it.
  • In a large pan heat water equivalent to double the quantity of rice. When the water starts boiling, add in the rice.
  • Add some ghee to the rice. This will ensure that the grains don’t stick to each other. Add in the all the ingredients mentioned under the whole masalas heading and some salt.
  • You will need to make sure that you constantly keep watch on the rice to make sure that it doesn’t get over cooked.
  • When the rice is about ¾ done, drain it on a colander and let it cool for a while.
  • Take out a large spoonful of the rice and keep aside.
  • Add ½ teaspoon of the turmeric powder to the milk and stir well. Pour this milk on the rice that has been kept aside. This will give the rice a nice yellow colour. Personally, I don’t like using artificial colouring.

For the assembling:

  • Line a heavy bottomed vessel with ghee.
  • Add in the prawn marinade and spread well. Top this with a few mint leaves and half the coloured rice.
  • Top this with some of the fried onion
  • Now layer this with the white rice. Cover it with the remainder of the coloured rice and top it with the remaining fried onions and the mint.
  • Seal the vessel tightly and cook for about 30* minutes on medium flame and for another 10 minutes on a low flame.
  • Once done take out from the heat and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve with refreshing raita.

Notes:

  • The Prawns I used were of the large variety. So approximately I used about 12 prawns.
  • Kashmir Chilies are not spicy. But the powder gives a nice, bright red colour.
  • I used prawns so I have mentioned 30 minutes. Chicken or mutton should take about 45 minutes.

Phew!!!! That was long… I’m rushing to enjoy the biryani…