Biryani is a Prashad family Christmas special. The name comes from the Persian and means ‘fried’ or ‘roasted’
The fried vegetables, rice and dhal for this dish are cooked separately then layered together to form a dish of contrasting flavours and textures. Whole masoor dhal, used in this dish, has a speckled greenish-brown skin and a reddish-orange centre. The whole lentils have a chewier texture and a stronger flavour than when in red split lentil form, and also take longer to cook, so I precook them separately from the rice.
½ teaspoon garam masala
¾ teaspoon salt
10 dried Indian bay leaves
70g unsalted butter
For the dhal:
200g whole masoor dhal (whole red lentils)
1 teaspoon sunflower oil
For the fried vegetables:
sunflower oil, for frying
2 medium red-skinned (or other waxy) potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes
2 medium carrots, cut into 2cm cubes
1 small red pepper, deseeded and cut into 3cm cubes
1 small green pepper, deseeded and cut into 3cm cubes
1 small yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into 3cm cubes
2 medium onions, cut into 1cm strips
For the masala:
4–6 fresh green chillies, seeds left in
2–4 cloves of garlic
5cm root ginger, peeled and roughly
pinch of salt
For the rice:
200g basmati rice
100ml sunflower oil
¾ teaspoon salt
Rinse the masoor dhal at least 3 times in warm water, then drain and place in a large pan with 650ml of boiling water. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until it starts to foam. Skim the froth from the surface, add the teaspoon of oil and simmer three-quarters covered for 18–20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the dhal is soft and cooked through. Remove from the heat, drain and set aside.
Heat the frying oil – about 20cm deep – in a large pan (or deep fat fryer, if you have one). Test the temperature by dropping a potato cube into the oil – when it is hot enough, the potato will immediately start to sizzle and bubble. Reduce to the heat to medium.
Carefully lower the potatoes into the oil and use a wooden spoon to move them around so that they cook evenly all over. Fry for 4–5 minutes, or until golden brown and just becoming crisp. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and leave to rest on kitchen paper while you fry the other vegetables.
Fry the carrots for 2 minutes, moving them around so that they cook evenly, then remove and leave to rest on kitchen paper. Next fry the pepper pieces for 2–3 minutes, then remove and leave to rest with the potatoes and carrots. Finally, fry the onions for 7–8 minutes and add to the other fried vegetables.
Crush the chillies, garlic and ginger together with a pinch of salt using a pestle and mortar (or a blender), to make a fine masala paste.
Rinse the rice twice in warm water, then drain. Heat the 100ml of oil for the rice in a large pan over a high heat for 30 seconds. Add the rice, salt and masala paste and stir gently. Fry together for a minute, then pour in 650ml of boiling water.
Boil the rice uncovered over a high heat for 10–11 minutes, until almost all the water has evaporated and it starts to look dry. Put a large square of foil on top,
tucking it round the sides, then put a lid on the pan, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and leave to cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Tip the dhal into a large bowl. Add the garam masala, salt and bay leaves and mix gently. Add the rice and butter and gently mix again to combine.
Spoon about a third of the rice / dhal mixture back into the rice cooking pan to form a layer roughly 2cm thick, followed by half the fried vegetables. Add another layer of rice / dhal mixture (about half of what’s left), followed by the rest of the fried vegetables. Use the remaining rice / dhal to create a final layer.
Put a large square of foil on top, tucking it round the sides, then put a lid on the pan and place it over a high heat for 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and leave to cook for 18–20 minutes or so, then remove from the heat and set aside to rest, covered, for at least 10 minutes.
Serve piping hot, spooning up from the bottom of the pan to make sure each serving contains all the different layers (removing the bay leaves as you come across them). Enjoy it with a glass of chilled mango lassi.
• This recipe is taken from Prashad: Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Kaushy Patel (Hodder & Stoughton, £25). Order a copy for £20 from the Guardian bookshop
via Life and style: Indian food and drink | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/oct/23/vegetable-biryani-recipe