If you want great chicken biryani, go to my favourite blogger, The Lockdown Chef. For authentic, delicious lamb biryani, it’s Mutton biryani – East African style from my friend Chachi’s Kitchen, also available in print.
This is not them. It is a vegan biryani, the sort of thing you might have paid a pound for at the Barsham Fair in 1975. Heavy on root vegetables and low on fat, it is a very comforting mouthful on a rainy evening in July.
Ingredients: one full size raw beetroot, the same volume of potato, carrots, tomatoes, onion and celeriac. Half a yellow pepper. One or two finely sliced chillis, a small bunch of coriander, a few curry leaves or lime leaves, a few crushed cardamon pods, a couple of heaped teaspoons each of ground coriander and ground cumin, a teaspoon of dried fenugreek (or fresh), crushed garlic, the juice of one or two limes, salt and ground pepper.
For the rice: basmati rice, cinnamon stick (optional), turmeric (optional)
Method: cook the rice as usual until just about done. You can add a cinnamon stick, cardamon pods and or turmeric to the water for added fragrance and colour if you wish.
Wash and peel (if necessary) the vegetables. Cut all the root vegetables into 1cm cubes. Roughly chop the tomatoes and coriander. Add about 20ml oil to a heavy pan on a medium low heat. Add the chillies, onions, potatoes, garlic, dry spices, celeriac, and then carrots, stirring with a wooden spoon between each addition. Leave for a few minutes and then add the pepper, tomatoes and finally the leaves. Squeeze over the juice of one lime. After another 10 minutes, or when it begins to stick, add enough water to make a stew effect, probably about 3-400ml. Leave to simmer until just cooked. Check the seasoning.
Then, in a deep oven dish or casserole, make alternate layers of vegetables and rice. Pour in all the remaining liquid, shouldn’t be much but you don’t want the vegetables to dry out. Cover and put in the pre-heated oven, not too high, for about 30 minutes. When you open it up it should be steamy, with fluffy rice and soft, scented vegetables..
Serve by itself, or with home made flatbread shards, fried onions, nuts, fresh lime wedges and mango chutney.