A Taste of Home: Reshma Gurnani Cooks Veg Dum Biryani

  28th Sep 21


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Introducing Reshma

A young homemaker who relocated to Hong Kong in 2019, Reshma originates from the eclectic and colourful state of Rajasthan, India, a land famous for its tourist attractions, handicrafts and, of course, its mouth-watering variety of food.

Initially pursuing a career as a chartered accountant, Reshma soon discovered her passion for cooking when her colleagues would comment on her daily lunch boxes, admiring her talent for preparing simple and delicious home cooked food.

Reshma loves to replicate restaurant-style food at home, adding her own unique and healthy twist to her dishes. Being a lifelong foodie herself, she is motivated to explore a wide variety of cuisines through her cooking.

One dish Reshma thoroughly enjoys cooking is veg dum biryani, the meat-free version of an Indian classic. But to her disappointment, she fi nds that veg biryani is often shunned in favour of chicken or mutton biryani, due to the common misconception that the veg version is no different from veg pulao (a simpler Indian veg rice recipe).

To break this myth, Reshma walks us through the authentic and traditional process of cooking veg biryani, to prove that when prepared properly, it can easily hold its own against its non-veg counterparts.

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Brief History of Biryani

Biryani has a rich history dating to the 16th century, when it was served in the royal kitchens during the Mughal dynasty. Now a popular dish throughout India (and around the world), in many households it is often prepared for special occasions and takes several hours to prepare in the traditional way.

Generally consisting of layers of meat or vegetables, rice and spices, it is prepared in an earthen pot called handi and cooked on low fl ame for hours. The medley of spices, including saff ron, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf, alongside golden crispy curls of onion known as birista, results in an aromatic dish bursting with flavours.

Biryani is a meal in itself and usually served with raita (a savoury yoghurt-based side dish), salan (a gravy made out of peanut, sesame and coconut), salad and papadum (thin, crispy fl atbread). Today, numerous variations of the dish exist throughout India, including Hyderabadi Biryani, Awadhi Biryani, Sindh Biryani and Kolkata Biryani, to name but a few.

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Veg Dum Biryani Recipe

Ingredients for rice

  • 1.5 cups basmati rice (soaked in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cups of water (for boiling)

Ingredients for marination

  • 1 cup thick curd
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 4 tsp biryani masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger garlic green chilli paste
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • A few crispy, fried onions (birista)
  • Handful of coriander leaves
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • 1 big onion, sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1/2 cup caulifl ower florets
  • 1/2 cup paneer cubes
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 capsicum, diced
  • 5-6 green beans
  • Handful of green peas

Ingredients for assembly/layering

  • A few saffron strands, soaked in a quarter cup of milk
  • Handful of coriander leaves
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • 1 cup fried onion
  • 1 tsp biryani masala
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • A few fried cashews

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Preparation Steps

Making the seal for the pot:

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 5 tbsp water

Mix both well to make a dough and roll into a chapati (tortilla).

Making fried, caramelised onions (birista):

  • 2 thinly sliced onions
  • Enough oil for deep frying

In a pan, fry thinly sliced onions on low to medium fl ame until golden brown, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

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What is dum cooking?

Making a seal over the cooking pot creates pressure, allowing the dish to cook in its own juices and aromas, resulting in deeper and more complex flavours.

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Method

Add the curd, ginger garlic green chilli paste and other spices in the Ingredients for marination list in a bowl. Give it a good mix, add the remaining ingredients, along with the vegetables, then coat everything well in the marinade. Leave aside for 20 mins while you prepare the rice.

Boil water and add everything in the Ingredients for rice list, except the rice itself. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add soaked rice to it and let it cook. Don’t want to cook the rice completely here; just strain and keep aside when it is 80% done.

Now take a thick bottomed pan or handi and heat it with 2 – 3 tbsp ghee. Once heated, add the marinated mixture, mix well, cover and cook for 10 – 15 mins. Keep checking at regular intervals; you can adjust the salt and spice during this step, as required. Here again, cook the veggies until they are 80% done and all the moisture is absorbed.

Set aside half the vegetable mix in a separate bowl, then spread one layer of rice over the remaining mix, together with the fried onions, mint and coriander leaves, and saff ron milk from the Ingredients for assembly/layering list.

Repeat this step again by making another layer of vegetables, rice, fried onions, mint and coriander leaves, and saff ron milk. Keep adding 2 to 3 layers, depending on the depth of the vessel and the quantity of rice and veggies.

Once done, fi nish the last layer by adding the remaining fried onions, mint and coriander leaves, saffron milk, fried cashews, 1 tsp ghee and sprinkle some biryani masala on top.

Roll the chapati and use it to seal the pot, then leave it on dum for 20 mins on a low fl ame. After that, turn off the heat and let the biryani rest for another 10 mins before opening the seal. Alternatively, it can also be sealed with aluminium foil. Once done, simply remove the seal and serve the biryani hot with raita on the side.


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