Pulao or Biryani are terms for an Indian rice dish. In Punjab, Biryani is prepared differently than where my parents are from: Gujarat, where we call it Pulao. All in all, rice dishes are central to Indian diets and any variations are fine. I did not bake mine but one optional variation is to bake it after it cooks on the stove top. The other option is to cook it in a skillet with no pre-cooking of rice or veggies. Any variation is fine.
The one we made today was stove top and cooked separately before mixing. Honestly, it turned out very good so I wanted to share the recipe here, and add in some variations to try as well. Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment and definitely suggest alternatives if you try something different.
The starting point for my recipe today was a good recipe I found at this website: http://www.archanaskitchen.com/indian-recipes/rice/118-hyderabadi-vegetable-biriyani
Again, it was only a starting point because I tend to do my own thing and I don’t add a lot of the ingredients discussed above. Ingredients: Basmati Rice (1 cup), ginger (hubby hates it so I put very little finely cut and sauteed), Onion (I use very little b/c I do not like them but the flavor is priceless), Garlic (2 cloves), Parsley or Cilantro (for garnish) Carrots, Peas & green beans (I use a bag of frozen veggies), 1 potato (thinly sliced and diced), 5 small cauliflower florets, Spinach – fresh leafy (about 10-15 leaves), fresh Tomatoes (1-2), Olive Oil (that’s right folks, I use olive oil not ghee), Clove (about 2-3), Cinnamon sticks (1 large or 2 smaller sticks), turmeric (pinch), Mustard Seed (about 10 or so), red cayenne paper (depends on how spicy you like it- I put a teaspoon), Garam Masala (1 tsp- small), salt & pepper to taste. OPTIONAL VARIATION: You can use a pre-mixed Biryani Spice Mix from the Indian store instead of combining all the separate spices/ingredients above. MORE VARIATIONS: You can add in green chili paste, “imlee” paste (For a darker color), and/or fresh green chiles. We do not like it too spicy so we keep ours mild.
First, go ahead and wash and rinse 1 cup of the Basmati rice and boil it for about 4 minutes in olive oil and salt. Keep it crunchy. OPTIONAL VARIATION: You can cook the basmati rice in veggie broth to give your Pulao or Biryani some flavor but not necessary if you have all the spices above. Set the semi-cooked rice aside and off the heat to prevent overcooking.
Now, chop all veggies you’d like in your vegetarian Pulao or Biryani (except the Spinach – do not boil this yet), and boil them to where they are not soft or cooked but al dente (so to speak).
Third, go ahead and start your skillet or large enough stove top pan with a tablespoon of olive oil/corn oil etc… while on medium to low heat, add in onions, garlic cloves (minced or crushed or however you like it), with tomato paste, or tomatoes (I used 2 fresh tomatoes- chopped), cinnamon sticks, mustard seeds, turmeric, and garam masala. Try to brown the onions slightly and then throw in the semi-cooked veggies first with warm/boiling water; let it simmer with the spice mix for 2 mins or so on medium heat. Then, add in the semi-cooked rice. Make sure all your ingredients are in now… add the Spinach in last with any remaining salt, pepper, or spices. You can add the parsley or cilantro at this time too. Stir it all up, and let it simmer at MEDIUM TO LOW heat, covered for about 15 minutes. A lid with a small hole in it is the best for rice but it is fine to be covered too.
Check to see if the water is gone- all water should be gone and not visible. It should look like a rice dish. Remove from heat, garnish further if you need and then serve. You can see the finished the dish to the left here. Another VARIATION: You can not cook the rice or veggies at all and then put it all together as described above but then you will need more water. If you pre-cooked, use less water. I felt I used too much water and took too long. If you are going to bake it after this, put it in a dish and bake further for crispier texture.
Enjoy- you can garnish with yogurt, or raita and add mixed pickle to taste as well.