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Earlier this week I wrote about cooking with Fall flavours beyond pumpkin spice. There’s literally a world of flavours out there that we don’t associate with Fall nearly enough. Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines perfectly represent the richness and abundance of Fall. After all, what says Fall more than spices and long slow cooking methods?

This harvest biryani really brings out the tastes of the season. It’s rich and aromatic, perfect with seasoned meat or vegetables. The chickpeas and pepitas add great variety and texture, while the dried sweetened cranberries add juicy pops of sweetness and beautiful ruby tones. Don’t they look like little jewels?

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Once it’s assembled it only takes about 15 minutes to cook. I served it with ras el hanout rubbed boneless chicken thigh and I think dinner was ready in about 40 minutes total. Really quick for such an aromatic meal. Traditional accompaniments are lemon wedges and yogurt or raita. I splashed a bit of lemon juice, a dash of cumin, and some chopped cilantro into goat milk yogurt for a quick cool side. A bit of fresh chopped cilantro on the rice as a garnish provides a bright counterpoint to the spices and really brings out more complex flavours.

I think of biryani more as a cooking method than an actual dish.  Traditional ingredients used to make biryani are so varied. It can be made with a lot of different of spices, meats and vegetables and still be called biryani. At its origins biryani is simply a stewed and seasoned rice dish. I think what makes it unique is the cooking method.  Rather than being boiled the seasoned rice is steamed in a sealed container. I used a heavy bottomed pot that I sealed tightly with aluminum foil, a plate and a bowl on top of the plate (to weigh it down). I’ve made biryani before in both a pressure cooker and a dutch oven with the same results so feel free to use any of these options as long as you create a tight seal that won’t let any steam escape.

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Ingredients

1 cup of basmati rice

2 cups of water

1/2 yellow onion, sliced finely into thin rings

2-3 TBSP of oil or ghee for frying

1 can cooked chickpeas, drained

60 grams / 2 oz sweetened dried cranberries (mine were quite large so I rough chopped them into smaller bits)

1/2 tsp salt (more to taste)

60 grams / 2 oz pepitas

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cardamom

2 cups of water

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Method

Rinse rice and add to a pot of salted water

While water is coming to a boil, heat oil or ghee in a pan

Fry the sliced onion on high / medium-high heat until browned (you’re aiming for crisp brown not translucent so try not to crowd the onions in the pan)

Remove onions to a paper towel lined plate to drain

As soon as the rice comes to a boil immediately remove from heat and strain

Put rice in a bowl and mix with the chickpeas, cranberries and salt

Heat another small saucepan and quickly dry roast the pepitas, turmeric, and cardamom (this is optional but it really adds flavour)

Add the pepitas, turmeric and cardamom to the bowl and mix well

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Pour 2 cups of water into your heavy bottom pot, dutch oven, or pressure cooker

Using a large spoon gently put the rice onto the liquid

Top with the fried onion

Seal tightly and cook for 15 minutes on medium-high heat

When finished remove from heat and let sit sealed for another 10 minutes so the steam absorbs

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with yogurt or raita

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Author

My name is Cristina. For as long as I can remember I've loved food, not just eating or cooking but also the politics, history, and learning about or experiencing different culinary traditions around the world. I'm Romanian born, Toronto raised, and lived in Michigan for 3 years before relocating to Amsterdam recently with my husband and dog.

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