October 20, 2011

Smoked Vegetable Biryani


I have to admit that when I’m cooking something new, I aim to post the recipe here. But luck doesn’t always favor. Either the picture is not satisfactory or we are too impatient to wait for the photo session to get over or the dish itself disappoints me. I have to admire the food bloggers, who are so regular in posting new recipes with beautiful looking pictures.

Anyway, I’m glad to post a new recipe here after getting convinced that this biryani is the best that I have ever made.  The biryani features many of the same ingredients that I have used all these years but the end result is entirely different. I thought it would be fun to show that with the simple addition of charcoal, you can take the recipe to an entirely new direction.



This recipe is my aunt’s, who learnt it ages ago while doing her home science course. She then passed the recipe to all her sisters and that’s how I got to learn how to cook vegetable biryani.

The only change/ addition that I made was the use of charcoal smoke and that’s the secret of the restaurant style biryani. The smoke makes a huge difference and gives this intriguing flavor to any dish.  You can even smoke your Indian curries to take them to the next level!

You'll need to plan ahead to make this biryani. It’s always easy when you have all the ingredients in a row and ready to be tossed. Cut the vegetables diagonally, keep the biryani paste ready, soak your basmati rice for at least ½ hr and heat the charcoal piece. But I promise it's well worth the effort.


Core Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 cups basmati rice (soaked in water for ½ hr)
2 cups thinly sliced onions
2 cups mixed vegetables
1 cup paneer (cottage cheese) cubes
7-8 cashew nuts
½ cup whole milk yoghurt
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste


Whole Spices 

2 Cardamom pods
1 inch Cinnamon stick
 3 Cloves
1 Bay leaf

Grind to a wet paste

5 Garlic cloves
1 cup Mint leaves (Chopped)
1 cup coriander leaves (Chopped)
1/2 inch Ginger piece
4 Green chilies
1 tsp Poppy seeds (soaked in warm water for ½ hr)
½ cup onion



 Cook the presoaked rice with 1 tsp of oil till just done. Each grain of the cooked rice should be separate. Allow it cool.


Make a wet coarse paste of all the ingredients mentioned above using very little water.

On a high heat, pour the ghee in a heavy bottom pot and fry the cashew nuts, remove and set aside. Add the whole spices to the pot and cook for ½ minute. 

Add the wet paste to the pot once you smell the fragrance of the whole spices.





Cook the paste till the water is evaporated and the raw smell goes away. At this point, you will see the ghee appearing on the sides.

Add the sliced onions to the pot, fry until they are done.

Turn the heat to low. Add red chili powder and turmeric powder. Mix well.

 Add the yogurt, the vegetables, salt and cook for few minutes till the veggies are half done.

Add paneer cubes. Give a good stir and cover the pot with a lid.






Once the veggies are done, add the rice and give a good stir. Cook further on low heat for 10 minutes keeping the lid on.

Once the biryani is all done, heat charcoal till it’s red. Put it in a small bowl, and place it over the biryani.




Pour a little ghee over the hot coal. The coal will now give out smoke that will flavor the biryani.





Cover the pot to shut the smoke in. Let it sit for a few minutes so that the smoke infuses the rice.


Garnish the biryani with fried onions and cashews. Serve it with raita.

Note: When choosing charcoal, make sure you buy all natural charcoal. Don’t use the one that has petroleum added to it.
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