An authentic Persian Biryani with curried vegetables and a thick, baked yoghurt topping with pistachios
For the Biryani
Pre heat oven to 190C
30g butter or Ghee
200ml light olive oil
350g onion, diced
4 cardamom pods, seeds pounded
1 tbs ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp Mace, optional
1/4tsp mustard seeds
3 – 4 cloves
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
750 ml water
250g potatoes, diced
250g carrots, cut into half moons
3 medium tomatoes, quartered
500g cauliflower, separated into small florets
A large pinch saffron threads, macerating in 100ml boiling water
250g small courgettes, cut into half moons
4 tbs creamed coconut
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped, divided
For the Rice
380 ml water
25ml sunflower oil, or 25g Ghee
100g onion, diced
1 tbs mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods, seeds pounded
½ tbs rose water
50g almonds, slivered
90g Raisins, soaked in a little hot water
60g whole pistachios, slivered
A pinch of saffron threads, steeped in 30 ml of boiling water
1 piece of red chilli, finely chopped
90g flaked coconut
500 ml Greek Yoghurt, really good and thick
Silver leaf, optional
In a large pan, heat the butter or Ghee and half the light olive oil over a medium heat, add the diced onion and fry for 8 – 10 minutes till golden.
Add the cardamom seeds, the cumin, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace if using, mustard seeds, cloves and chilli.
Fry for a few seconds to bring out the aromas, then add the garlic and continue to fry for a couple of minutes, adding a little water to stop the spices from burning and turn them to paste like consistency.
Add the potatoes and a little salt and fry for about 8 minutes, so that they are coated in the spice mixture and starting to brown, regularly stirring the whole thing, then add the carrots and shortly after, half the tomatoes which will break down to make a sauce.
Add the rest of the oil, little by little from now on, as you continue to cook the curry. Add the cauliflower florets and cook, tossing the pan about for another five minutes, all the time adding water or stock, to keep the curry moving, but making sure the liquid is absorbed, before further additions. The curry must remain full - bodied and rich.
Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt as necessary.
Finally add the courgettes, the saffron, creamed coconut and tamarind.
Simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring frequently, then add the rest of the tomatoes and three quarters of the fresh coriander and fold in gently.
Meanwhile, cook the basmati rice in about 380ml water. Lid, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 14 – 15 minutes, until cooked and fluffy; wholes appearing all over the surface indicates rice that is perfectly cooked.
In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the onion until translucent.
Add the mustard seeds and crushed cardamom seeds and continue to fry for about 8 minutes until pale golden brown.
Add the raisins, almonds, diluted saffron threads, finely chopped chilli and half the flaked coconut and fry for a further 5 – 6 minutes, stirring regularly, till richly hued and deeply, aromatically scented.
Finally and carefully stir in the cooked rice, so that the flavours mingle and the rice is coloured by the orange hue of the saffron.
Transfer the rice to an oven - proof dish that you’ll be able to take straight to the table and pour the curried vegetables over it.
Finish off with 500 ml Greek yoghurt, spread all over and sprinkle the tablespoon of slivered pistachios, the remaining flaked coconut, zest of 1 lime and a tablespoon of plumped raisins.
Bake gently for 15 – 20 minutes, so that the yoghurt sets gently on top. Scatter with the remaining coriander and serve.
PS A Persian tradition requires silver leaf with which to gild the nuts.