Vegetable Biryani


Biryani is a vegetarian curry from India. The important part to this recipe is the spice mixture.

6 Portions
Prep: 20-30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes


Spice Mixture

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 1/2 tsp chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp maldon salt
  • 4 tbsp yoghurt


  • 350g Cauliflower, broken up into small florets 350g
  • Okra, trimmed and cut in 3
  • 300g Sweet Potato, chopped into 3 cm dice
  • 350g celeriac or potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
  • 2 large onions, sliced finely
  • 4 tbsp ghee or peanut oil
  • 400ml water or vegetable stock

Pumpkin (optional)

  • 6 small pumpkins or 3 medium, tops chopped off and reserved and seeds scooped out and discarded
  • 100 ml milk
  • 100g butter


  • 3 tbps ghee or oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced finely
  • 2 tbsp raw cashew nuts
  • 2 tbsp blanched almonds
  • 3 tbsp currants
  • Coriander leaves
  • 6 papadums, cut each one into 3 before frying in oil


  • 600g basmati rice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 12 cloves
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads

Yoghurt & Mint Sauce

  • 500g yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves shredded
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp lime juice


  1. Spice Mixture: Grind the garlic with the ginger, coriander seeds, cloves, cumin, peppercorns, salt and cardamom in a pestle and mortar or a food processor, until well ground. Add the chili, turmeric and yoghurt and mix well.
  2. Vegetables: Place the spice mixture in a bowl and coat all the vegetable except the onions with the spice mixture, and set aside.
  3. Heat ghee or oil in a large saucepan or wok, add the onions and cook over medium to high heat until golden brown. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add the celeriac or potato and sweet potato to the pan and sauté for 3 minutes.
  5. Add the salt, water and cauliflower and simmer for 20 minutes, halfway through adding the okra.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the onion and lemon juice. ( This mixture can be stored in the refrigerator overnight, this will help develop the flavours).
  7. Pumpkin: (optional) Pierce the inside of the pumpkin with a knife, rub a little butter into the flesh of the pumpkins and pour a little milk in each one and season. Place the pumpkins in a moderately hot oven for 20 with their lids on. This can be done while the curry mixture is cooking. (This step can be done a day in advance and refrigerated until required).
  8. Rice: Wash the rice and soak in cold water for 30 minutes, then drain. Bring 1.2 litres of water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add whole spices, bay leaves and rice. Boil for 7 minutes. Drain the rice and remove the whole spices and bay leaves. (This can be made a day in advance and refrigerated until required). You may wish to tie the spices in a little piece of muslim or cloth.
  9. Spread half the rice over the base of a very a large ovenproof dish or distribute it among the pumpkins. Top with vegetable mixture and then the remaining rice.*The dish can be prepared up to this dish up to a day in advance if stored in the refrigerator. (Make sure you have reserved the pumpkin tops). Add a further 15-20 minutes to the cooking time, if cooking from cold.
  10. Preheat an oven to 200°C.
  11. Heat the milk with the saffron in a saucepan until warm. Pour the milk infused with the saffron over the rice and pour around 200ml of boiling water around the rice or distribute it among the individual pumpkin servings. Seal the dish with buttered foil and then a tight fitting lid or return the pumpkin tops.
  12. Place the biryani or biryani's on the centre shelf of the preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 170C and cook for 8-15 minutes longer (8-10 minutes for the individual biryani's).( if cooking from the refrigerator you will need to increase this time to 30-40 minutes dependent on their size).
  13. Garnishes: Heat ghee or oil in a large frying pan and cook onion over medium to high heat until golden. Remove from pan and drain on absorbent paper. Add nuts to the pan and fry until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add currants to the pan and fry until they puff. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.
  14. Yoghurt and Mint Sauce: Mix all the ingredients until well combined. Place in storage container in fridge until ready to serve.
  15. To Serve: Arrange Biryani on the centre of 6 or 3 plates (turning out if in ramekins). Garnish the top of the rice with onion rings, almonds, cashews, sultanas and coriander leaves. Serve with yoghurt and mint sauce, poured around the birayani or around the edge of the plates. Arrange the papadums around the edge of the pumpkins or plates.