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Easy and Versatile Indian Dish: Biryani!

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

Whenever I am planning my meals for the week, I am always thinking, how can I change things up? We naturally do activities that we are comfortable with, this includes cooking. So we get into ruts. We prepare what is familiar with the same ingredients over and over again. I made this Biryani and felt refreshed. New bold flavors for my family and a colorful dish to brighten up my dinner table.

Biryani is a highly spiced rice dish made in India. The original cooking method most likely came from the Persians. Muslim merchants traveling to India brought rice and introduced the use of dried fruit and nuts in their cooking. Biryani has become a staple dish in India. India’s diverse landscape offers us many regional differences in this dish. Spices vary depending on region as well as vegetables, meat, and even the type of rice used in the dish.

Biryani is often made with meat or fish; however, I was interested in a vegetarian option. I used Basmati rice, which is a long grain aromatic rice. Traditionally Biryani is made in two stages with the rice cooked separately from the meat; however, I was interested in making this an easy one-pot meal.

Vegetable Biryani

1 cup basmati rice

2 TBSP heavy cream or milk

Pinch saffron

2 TBSP ghee or oil

5 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

2 whole cloves

½ tsp mustard seed

¼ tsp caraway seeds

2 bay leaf

¼ red onion, minced

1 carrot, small dice

1 serrano chili, sliced


4 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane

1-inch ginger, grated on a microplane

¼ cup golden raisins

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 small zucchini, sliced into half moons

1 tomato, diced

½ cup yogurt

½ cup peas

¼ cup almond slivers, toasted

Cilantro for garnish

To start, soak basmati rice in an abundant amount of water for a minimum of one hour, then strain and rinse thoroughly. This will help hydrate the rice. (If you do not have time for this step or forget, add a little more cooking liquid to the pan.)

In a small bowl, combine the heavy cream and saffron threads, allowing the saffron to bloom as it sits.

Heat a wide-bottomed pan on medium-high heat; when hot, add the ghee. When the ghee has melted and is shimmering, add the cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, mustard, and caraway seeds. Toast in the hot ghee; when the spices are fragrant, and the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion, carrot and chili pepper. Sprinkle with salt and saute until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat to medium, add the garlic, ginger, and raisins. Stir until fragrant, then stir in the ground turmeric and cumin. Coat the vegetables well with the spice mix then add the sliced zucchini, tomatoes, and yogurt. Season with salt. Stir mixture then use a spatula to spread in an even layer along the base of the pan. Layer the soaked rice on top of the vegetables and add 1 ¾ cups of water. Place a cover on the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the peas to the pan by sprinkling them over the rice. Place the lid back on the pan and simmer for 7-10 more minutes or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. To serve, pour the saffron-infused cream over the rice and garnish with toasted almonds and chopped cilantro.


Chef Liza

Chef Liza Greifinger

Your Guide to Our Culinary Trip Around the World

Growing up in New York, surrounded by the flavors of the world, Liza developed a love for food and cooking. After a fulfilling career in outdoor education, she decided to explore her passion for food. Liza studied at The French Culinary Institute and then trained with some of the top chefs in New York City before being drawn to the mountains of Colorado. She joined the team at Food Lab, in Boulder, in the spring of 2016. There she teaches cooking skills and technique to all ages as well as curriculum development for the educational programs.

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