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How to cook… Mauritian Vegetable Biryani

Serves 4-6 as a main dish

Biryani is a popular dish all over the sub-continent and among the Indian disapora. Rice and the other ingredients are mixed together with whole and ground spices and slow cooked to create a fragrant, rich dish. Biryani is a celebration dish and this vegetable version from Mauritius and party pre-cooks ingredients before layering them and leaving covered so all the flavours infuse. You can cook the rice while the vegetables are cooking but keep an eye on it as you don’t want to overcook it.

What you need
• 7 Tablespoons oil
• 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips of 5cm-long pieces
• Salt to taste
• 100g runner beans, topped and tailed, split and cut into thin 5cm-long pieces
• 2 big potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm-sized chunks and mixed with a drop of yellow food colouring and a pinch of salt
• 2 onions, thinly sliced
• 2 teaspoons fresh mint, finely chopped
• 2 Tablespoons coriander leaves, finely chopped (keep a couple for garnish)
• 2 Tablespoons yoghurt
• 100g peas (frozen are good)
• 3 chillies, chopped
• Salt to taste
• 2 Tablespoons ghee
• pinch of yellow food colouring
• 300ml water
• 300g rice
• 3 cardamons, cracked open
• 3 cloves
• 1 cinnamon, 5cm long

Biryani Mix
• 1 teaspoon cumin powder
• 0.5 teaspoon coriander powder
• 0.5 garam masala
• 0.5 pepper
• 0.5 paprika

How you make it
1.Heat 3 Tablespoons oil to a medium heat and fry the carrots with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes. Remove the carrots and set aside.
2. Add the runner beans to the same oil and fry with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes. Remove the runner beans and set aside.
3. Add another 1 Tablespoon oil to the pan and once heated add the soya beans and fry with a pinch of salt and fry until they brown (about 5–7 minutes). Remove the soya beans and set aside.
4. Add 3 Tablespoons oil and once heated add the potatoes and fry until the edges are crisp and they are nearly cooked through (about 10 minutes). Don’t crowd them in the pan. You may need to cook them in two batches depending on the size of your pan. Remove the potatoes and set aside.
5. Add the onions and fry until they brown (5–7 minutes).
6. Meanwhile mix the carrots, runner beans and soya bean in a bowl and add the mint, coriander, yoghurt, garlic and ginger pastes and mix well. When the onions are ready add them and mix everything together.
7. Add 1 Tablespoon ghee to the pan to a medium heat then add the Biryani Mix with a splash of water and cook for 2 minutes.
8. Add the vegetables, the peas and the chillies, mix well and remove from the heat.
9. In another large pot (it will need to be large enough for all the ingredients and leave plenty of space on top) layer the uncooked rice evenly along the bottom. Add a layer of vegetables, then a layer of potatoes, then a layer of partly cooked rice, adding a pinch of salt every so often to taste. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up.
10. Add the water, spread the rest of the ghee and the food colouring on the top, cover with a tight lid (you can seal with some tin foil and put something fairly heavy on top to keep it down) and cook on a low-medium heat for 30 minutes. Don’t remove the lid during this time.
11. Remove the lid, garnish with coriander leaves, enjoy the aromas and serve.

To make the rice…
1. Wash the rice well to remove the starch. This may take 7 or 8 rinses. Soak the water for 30 minutes.
2. Remove a third of the rice and put to one side (this will be added to the bottom of the biryani).
3. Cover the rest of the rice with water by about 2cm, add the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and bring to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil turn off the heat and drain the rice. You do not want the rice fully cooked.

CHEF’S TIP
A Biryani is a meal in itself but if it’s too dry for you then eat it with a small vegetable curry.
Make your next celebration dish a Mauritian Vegetable Biryani.

If you like this you should try our
Medium Chicken CurryChicken MadrasChicken VindalooChicken BhoonaChicken Feet Curry (Africa)

If this dish is too hot for you just add a rice cube.

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