2teaspoonskewra water (pandanus extract)or rose water
Pick and rinse basmati rice in running water till the water runs clear of starch. Soak the rice in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes drain the rice and keep aside.
When the rice is soaking prep all the veggies and other ingredients. Keep aside.
Take a deep bottomed pan. Add water and heat the water on a high flame.
When the water becomes hot, add all the salt and following spices tej patta, green cardamoms, cloves, black cardamom, cinnamon, strands of mace.
Bring the water to a boil. Then add the rice.
Just gently stir with a spoon or fork, after you add the rice.
Do not reduce the flame and continue to cook the rice.
The rice has to be ¾ᵗʰ cooked. The grains should have a slight bite to them when cooked. The rice should not be fully cooked but almost cooked.
Drain the rice in a colander. Gently fluff and keep aside.
Making vegetable curry/gravy
In a pressure cooker or a pan, heat ghee. Add the following spices - shah jeera, tej patta, green cardamoms, cloves, black cardamom and cinnamon. Sauté the whole spices till they crackle.
Now add the onions. Stir and sauté them on a low to medium flame.
Add a pinch of salt to quicken the cooking process.
When the onions are cooking, take 1 cup fresh curd (yogurt) in a bowl and whisk the curd with a spoon or wired whisk till it become smooth.
Sauté the onions till they become golden brown or caramelize.
Then add the ginger-garlic paste and sliced green chillies. You can also finely chop the ginger-garlic and add.
Sauté till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.
Add the turmeric and red chili powder. Stir and mix well.
Next add the chopped veggies. Sauté for a minute or two.
Lower the heat and add the whisked curd (yogurt). Stir and mix well as soon as you add the curd. Then add water.
Season with salt. Stir again.
Pressure cook for 1 whistle on medium flame. If cooking in a pot, then cook till the vegetables are done. Don’t over cook the vegetables.
Warm 4 to 5 tablespoons milk in a microwave or in a small pan on the stove top. Add ¼ teaspoon of saffron strands. Stir and keep aside.
When the pressure settles down on its own, remove the lid and check the gravy. If the vegetables are not cooked well, then keep the cooker on the stove top and simmer the vegetable biryani gravy without the lid, till the vegetables are cooked. If there is too much of water or stock in the gravy, then simmer till some water dries up. The veg biryani gravy should have a medium or slightly thick consistency and should not be watery.
Now add cashews, raisins and almonds (blanched or raw) to the vegetable gravy. Mix and stir. Keep aside. Do check the salt. Add more if required.
Assembling & layering
Now in a thick bottomed pan, layer half of the veg biryani gravy first.
Then layer half of the rice.
Sprinkle half of the chopped coriander leaves (cilantro), mint leaves and saffron milk.
Layer the remaining veg biryani gravy.
Layer the remainder of the rice. Sprinkle the remaining coriander leaves, mint leaves, saffron milk on the top. Sprinkle the rose water or kewra water. You can make 2 layers or 4 layers like I have done. But do note that rice should be the last layer.
Dum cooking biryani
Now seal and secure the pot with aluminium foil. Then cover with a lid. You can also seal the handi with a moist cotton cloth and then cover with the lid.
Take a tava/griddle/skillet and heat it on medium flame.
When the tawa become hot, then lower the flame. Keep the sealed veg biryani handi on the tava. Keep the flame to the lowest and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. You can also dum cook veg biryani for the first 15 minutes on direct low flame and then for the last 10 minutes, place the handi on the hot tawa/skillet and cook on a low flame.
Once done using a fork or spoon check the bottom layer of the biryani. There should be no liquids at the bottom. If there are liquids, then continue to dum cook for some more time. After dum cooking, give a standing time of 5 to 7 minutes and then serve the dum biryani.
While serving, make sure you equally serve the vegetables as well as rice.
Serve the delicious hyderabadi veg biryani with your choice of raita, onion salad, mango pickle, roasted papad. other accompaniments for this biryani are mirchi ka salan and veg shorba gravy.
For baking veg biryani
You could also preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius/356 degrees Fahrenheit and then bake the veg biryani in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
Please remember to use an oven proof glass utensil like the pyrex bowl for baking in the oven.
You will have to assemble the vegetable biryani as mentioned above in the oven proof utensil and then bake it.
Ingredients: Do try to use all the ingredients as mentioned in the recipe.
Rice: Use a good quality basmati rice – preferably aged basmati rice. You can even use Sella Basmati Rice which is parboiled basmati rice (known as sella basmati rice in Hindi and converted basmati rice outside India). For sella basmati rice, you will need to soak the rice grains for an hour. The cooking time will also increase for this variety of basmati rice.
Cooking of rice: Cook the rice grains till they are ¾ᵗʰ done. They will have a slight bite to them and will be slightly undercooked. Do not cook the rice all the way as they will become mushy by the time the biryani is dum cooked.
Spices: The lovely fragrance and aroma in a biryani comes from using whole spices. Thus the spices need to be fresh and in their shelf life.
Curd (Yogurt): Use fresh yogurt that is slightly sweet and not sour. The curd or yogurt should also be made from whole milk. Do not use fat-free yogurt or curd made from toned milk as it will split while cooking.
Biryani gravy: The curry or gravy for the biryani should have a medium to medium-thick consistency. It should not be watery like a stock or broth as this will lead to the rice becoming mushy or very soft after dum cooking.
Vegan variation: Use almond milk yogurt or cashew milk yogurt. Replace ghee (clarified butter) with oil. You could use any vegetable oil or neutral tasting oil.
Serving Suggestions: Biryani is usually accompanied with a raita (yogurt dip). The raita can be a simple onion raita or made with a mix of onion, tomatoes and cucumber. In Hyderabad, biryani is served with mirchi ka salan (green chilli curry) and raita. You can even serve biryani with a soupy gravy known as shorba gravy.