Vegetable Biryani

While not exactly a one-pot-wonder, this dish is substantial enough to be a complete meal in itself.  It’s delicately perfumed, rather than spicy and is very wallet-friendly.  If you’re up to it, you can make your own paneer, otherwise, it is available in many Asian supermarkets. Ricotta or mozzarella (which can be had for fifty-nine cents in German supermarket) will do the job if you can’t get your hands on paneer. For a dinner party once, I used Halloumi (but that particular cheese has increased in price so much recently that I can’t afford it any more).

Whichever cheese you choose, this is a lovely, wholesome meal. Do remember, though, that bacteria on rice multiples at a ferocious rate – making it inedible after 24 hours. It is just as good for breakfast as for lunch or dinner, though, so there’s no need for any of it to go to waste.

Vegetable Biryani

1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil

2 Teaspoons of Ground Cumin

2 Teaspoons of Ground Coriander

1 Teaspoon of Ground Nutmeg

1 Teaspoon of Ground Cloves

1 ½ Teaspoon of Mango Powder

250g of Cauliflower (roughly one head)/Carrots/Broccoli/Whatever vegetables you have

125g Frozen Peas

½ Teaspoon of Ground Turmeric

50mls Water

½ Teaspoon of Cumin Seeds

1 Large Onion450g Rice

1.2 Litres of Boiling Water

200g Paneer/Ricotta (or Mozzarella or Halloumi)

Spice Bag

4 Whole Cloves

1 Stick of Cinnamon

5 Green Cardamom Pods

3 Dried Red Chillies

2 Bay Leaves

1 Teaspoon of Coriander Seeds

1 Teaspoon of Cumin Seeds

½ Teaspoon of Black Peppercorns

A 15cm Square of Muslin

Drain the cheese first. If you can, place it between two boards with a weight on the top board to squish as much of the moisture out of the cheese as possible.

Now, make the spice bag: Put all the ingredients necessary in the centre of your square of muslin and draw the corners of the fabric up. Tie securely. If you don’t have any muslin, don’t despair – just mix the ingredients for the spice bag in a small bowl and add them loosely. When serving, warn your guests to watch out for the whole spices!


Mix the spice powders (cumin, coriander, mango powder, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves) in a small bowl.

Remove the leaves from the head of cauliflower/ broccoli and separate it into large-ish florets. Wash and drain. If using carrots, peel and cut them in half. Then cut each half, lengthways, in three.

Peel and chop the onion.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan (use a size bigger than you think you need – everything gets added in at the end, so you will want it to fit, with room to mix).

Add cumin seeds, onion and salt to taste.

Cook, over a medium heat until the onion is soft and golden.

Stir in the rice and cook for about 3 minutes – being sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t burn.

Add the spice bag (or loose whole spices).

Pour the boiling water into the pot – being careful to keep your body parts away from the pot as much as possible – it will bubble up and you don’t want to scald yourself.

When the bubbling has stopped, mix well, then put the lid on the pot.

Bring the rice to the boil.

Turn the heat down, and simmer the rice for another 10 minutes.

Remove the spice bag and discard.

Heat a little oil in another saucepan, add the spice powders and cook, over a medium heat, until they release their fragrance, taking care not to burn them.

Add the peas, cauliflower and water.

Bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer for about 7 minutes – until the cauliflower is cooked but not soggy.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil on a medium heat in a wok or heavy-based frying pan.

Add the cheese (if you’re using Halloumi or ricotta, but not Mozzarella – it doesn’t fry well), and cook until brown on both sides.

Remove the cheese from the pan and keep to one side.

Once the rice is cooked, add the vegetables and cheese and mix.



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