Layered Vegetable Biryani

Colourful layers of vegetables are met with cardamom, cinnamon and mint rice for this vibrant veggie dish. Serve simply with cooling Indian raita and a salad.

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Introduction

Serves 4

Ingredients

25ml sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
20g ginger, finely chopped
2 green chillies, sliced
1 tsp roasted cumin seeds (see method below)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red chilli powder
¼ tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp yoghurt
4 medium carrots, chopped into 2 cm pieces
1 medium cauliflower, separated into florets
100g frozen peas
20 button mushrooms
For the rice:
400g basmati rice
3 green cardamom pods
2 sticks cinnamon
4 cloves
A few sprigs of fresh mint
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sunflower oil
To finish:
Crispy onions (see method below)
25g chilled butter

Essential kit

You will need an ovenproof dish about 23cm x 23cm x 10cm.

Instructions

Soak the rice in lukewarm water for 30 minutes, then drain.

While the rice is soaking, roast the cumin seeds. To do this, place them in a small pan and put them over a gentle heat for about 1 - 1½ minutes. They will take on a slightly darker colour. You've got to be very careful here, as if they're roasted too long they will burn and this will produce a bitter taste. When they are ready, take the pan off the heat and allow the cumin to cool.

Next, prepare the crispy onions. Heat 350ml of vegetable oil in a heavy-based pan and deep-fry 4 small, thinly sliced white onions until golden in colour. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, then drain and spread them out on kitchen paper so that any excess oil can be absorbed.

Now for the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large pan. Once hot, add the onion and cook gently for 3 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger, green chillies and cumin seeds and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, chilli powder and turmeric and let everything simmer for a couple of minutes. Whip the yoghurt in a small dish using a whisk to get rid of any lumps and to make it smooth, then add it to the pan and stir well. After 3 minutes of simmering add the carrots and cauliflower, stirring well, then cover the pan with a lid and let the vegetables simmer over a low to medium heat for 10 minutes, checking them every now and then.

Add the peas and mushrooms, stir well, and simmer for a final 2 minutes. You may need a splash of water to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. The vegetables should be about two-thirds cooked and al dente at this stage.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 6. Pour 2.5 litres of water into a large pan and add the cardamoms, cinnamon stick, cloves, mint, salt and oil. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rice, bring to a simmer for 3 minutes (we want the rice al dente), then drain.

Put a layer of rice into an ovenproof dish about 23cm x 23cm x 10cm. Add a layer of vegetables, then some crispy onions. Repeat the process, finishing with rice as the final layer. Place the butter on top and cover with a lid or tin foil. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Serve with raita and a salad.

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