Vegetarian Biryani with Stuffed Chillies

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This Vegetarian Biryani with Stuffed Chillies is definitely going to be one of the Indian main course dishes for my guests and family, in my Diwali dinner menu. The big chillies used here are of the variety, which are not “hot” at all and can be eaten even by the kids easily. I am really into one-pot meals these days, as you can see from my khichuri post. While khichuri (or khichree) has a rustic appeal to it, biryani has a royal culinary charm. In khichuri, the rice has to be a little over-cooked, whereas in a perfect biryani, each grain of rice should be separate.

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Aromatic, less starchy and long-grained rice is preferred to make biryani. Basmati rice is a common choice.

Biryani is not pilaf (pulav) either. In biryani, rice is cooked separately and then vegetables, meat, fish or even eggs are added, along with other spices and essences, and assembled in layers. After that the whole vessel is sealed with wheat-flour dough and hot charcoal pieces are traditionally added over the lid, so that the top also gets the heat. The modern household biryani setup is simple and doesn’t commonly use hot charcoal now. In my first biryani post in this blog, I had written in detail about the history, the kinds and the methods to cook biryanis. And yes, if you love chicken biryani, I have is a great recipe there.

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These chillies are so mild in their hotness that even a child can eat them!

There are so many kinds of biryanis in India itself! These taste quite different from each other, mostly owing to the spices used. Some biryanis are cooked with yogurt, whereas some have large potato pieces adding a different look and creatively increasing the volume of the regular biryani. Biryanis can range from the lightly spiced ones to heavily spiced indulgences. Some biryanis have the kewra and/or rose essences. Saffron is also commonly used in biryanis. If you have the opportunity, do try out biryanis from different states of India. The biryanis from Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kolkata, Kashmir, Konkan and Malabar are some of the popular ones to try out!

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Saffron gives a royal touch to any biryani.

I wanted to do something different than the usual vegetarian biryani with cauliflower and other vegetables. So I made this biryani. It has very less ghee (Indian clarified butter) and is very light and healthy. Before we jump on to the recipe of Vegetarian Biryani with Stuffed Chillies, let me wish you, my dear readers, a very happy and prosperous Diwali! As Diwali is a festive day, many people prefer to eat strictly vegetarian food on this occasion. Applying rangoli art at the entrance of the house, lighting diyas, wearing traditional clothes and jewelry, visiting and entertaining the guests, worshipping the goddess of prosperity, bursting firecrackers, exchanging gifts and sweets, partying and eating great food are all a part of this beautiful mega Indian festival called Diwali.

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The cooked stuffing for Vegetarian Biryani with Stuffed Chillies

Anardana powder has been used as one of the spices for the stuffing. If not available, replace it with the Mediterranean spice called sumac. In my biryani powder, I used a spice called kabab chini (or nagkeshar), also called as tailed pepper or cubeb in English. If not available, you can replace the same with whole black pepper for a different, yet satisfying taste. Shahi jeera is not the same as regular cumin seeds: these are slimmer and taste a little different too.

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These chillies are stuffed with the goodness of moong sprouts and mushrooms, mingled with my special biryani masala!

 

Vegetarian Biryani with Stuffed Chillies

[My own biryani masala for this recipe can be made by dry-roasting one big stick of cinnamon, six kabab chini, two bay leaves, ½ tsp shahi jeera (a kind of cumin seeds), six green cardamoms, one black cardamom, ¼ piece of nutmeg, 2/3 piece of mace and two dry red chillies. Cool at room temperature. Grind this to a very fine powder. Store in an airtight jar.]

 (Serves two)

 

Ingredients:

Basmati rice (long-grained aromatic rice): 1 cup

White button mushrooms (quartered): 5

Star anise (whole): 2

Saffron strands: ½ tsp

Warm milk: ¾ cup

Liquid orange colour (optional): 4 drops

Kewra (screwpine) essence: 8 drops

Ghee: 1 tsp

Fresh coriander leaves (finely chopped): 1 cup

Fresh mint leaves (finely chopped): little more than ¼ cup

Salt for the rice: 1 tsp (plus extra for sprinkling on the quartered mushrooms, later)

Water

Wheat-flour dough to seal

Crisp-fried thin onion slivers of three medium-sized onions

 

Ingredients for the chilli stuffing:

Big chillies (the ones which are not hot at all): 3 or 4

Biryani masala: 1 tsp (heaped) + ½ tsp for the assembly

White button mushrooms (finely chopped): 5

Salt for the stuffing: ½ tsp

Onion (finely chopped): 1 small

Sprouted moong: ½ cup

Almonds (roughly chopped): 10

Turmeric powder: ½ tsp

Anardana powder (dried pomegranate seed powder): ½ tsp

Tomato (medium-sized; finely chopped): 1

Garlic paste: ¾ tsp

Sugar: little less than ½ tsp

Oil: 2 tsp

 

Method:

Make the rice first. Wash the rice thrice. Soak 1 cup of basmati rice for just 10 min. Adding two star anise, parboil the rice, so that it is almost 70% cooked. The grains should not be wet, sticky or starchy at all and each grain should be separate. I spread the cooked rice in a big plate and keep it under the fan till I make the stuffing and assemble my biryani. Mix-in 1 tsp salt. Fluff up the rice two to three times during this resting period, but do this very delicately, to prevent the grains to break.

Keep the saffron solution ready. Mix the saffron strands into warm milk. Also add the kewra (screwpine) essence and liquid orange colour (optional). Allow it to rest (covered) for atleast 10 min, while you make the stuffing.

Cut the chillies into half. Remove the seeds and keep aside.

For the stuffing, heat 2 tsp oil and add the onions. When these turn brownish, add the tomatoes, garlic paste and salt. Cook until the tomatoes are very soft. Add sprouted moong, finely chopped mushrooms and turmeric powder. After 10 min of cooking on a medium flame, add 1 tsp (heaped) biryani masala, almonds, anardana powder and sugar. Cook till oil starts separating and the stuffing is dry. This will take around 10 minutes. Add 1/4th of the coriander leaves. Mix well.

Carefully (and immediately) stuff the halved chillies with this hot stuffing. Keep aside. 

Now the assembly. Choose a cooking utensil which is quite deep. I took a small degchi for this purpose. You can use a small handi or any small pan with diameter little bigger that the length of the chillies.

The utensil should be totally dry. Add melted ghee at the bottom. Mix-in the quartered mushrooms and ½ tsp biryani masala. Sprinkle a little salt over it. Spread a little coriander leaves and a lesser amount of mint leaves over this. Spread half of the rice over it now. Don’t press down. Drizzle half of the saffron liquid, ensuring that the liquid does not fall on each and every grain.

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The layers of this biryani.

Over the previous layer, spread half of the fried onions. Add some coriander and mint leaves (equal amounts) over the onions.

Place half of the chillies, stuffed side up.

Add the rest of the rice. Drizzle the rest of the saffron liquid unevenly. Scatter the rest of the fried onions over it and finally the leaves over the onions.

Arrange the rest of the chillies at the top layer.

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The biryani set-up.

The lid of the utensil should be perfectly fitting. If there is any air gap, the biryani will remain uncooked. Put heavy objects over the lid. Now seal the lid with the utensil with the help of the dough. This utensil should sit on a thick-bottomed pan (I used a traditional iron tawa). Cook on high heat for 10 min and then on medium heat for 5 min. Switch off the gas and open the seal after two minutes. The chillies should be a little crunchy in the final dish.

This can be served with a yogurt side-dish called kachumber. However, I ate it just like that!

Vegetarian Biryani with Stuffed Chillies

Yield: Good for two people.

Vegetarian Biryani with Stuffed Chillies

[My own biryani masala for this recipe can be made by dry-roasting one big stick of cinnamon, six kabab chini, two bay leaves, ½ tsp shahi jeera (a kind of cumin seeds), six green cardamoms, one black cardamom, ¼ piece of nutmeg, 2/3 piece of mace and two dry red chillies. Cool at room temperature. Grind this to a very fine powder. Store in an airtight jar.]

Ingredients

  • Basmati rice (long-grained aromatic rice): 1 cup
  • White button mushrooms (quartered): 5
  • Star anise (whole): 2
  • Saffron strands: ½ tsp
  • Warm milk: ¾ cup
  • Liquid orange colour (optional): 4 drops
  • Kewra (screwpine) essence: 8 drops
  • Ghee: 1 tsp
  • Fresh coriander leaves (finely chopped): 1 cup
  • Fresh mint leaves (finely chopped): little more than ¼ cup
  • Salt for the rice: 1 tsp (plus extra for sprinkling on the quartered mushrooms, later)
  • Water
  • Wheat-flour dough to seal
  • Crisp-fried thin onion slivers of three medium-sized onions
  • Ingredients for the chilli stuffing:
  • Big chillies (the ones which are not hot at all): 3 or 4
  • Biryani masala: 1 tsp (heaped) + ½ tsp for the assembly
  • White button mushrooms (finely chopped): 5
  • Salt for the stuffing: ½ tsp
  • Onion (finely chopped): 1 small
  • Sprouted moong: ½ cup
  • Almonds (roughly chopped): 10
  • Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
  • Anardana powder (dried pomegranate seed powder): ½ tsp
  • Tomato (medium-sized; finely chopped): 1
  • Garlic paste: ¾ tsp
  • Sugar: little less than ½ tsp
  • Oil: 2 tsp

Instructions

  1. Make the rice first. Wash the rice thrice. Soak 1 cup of basmati rice for just 10 min. Adding two star anise, parboil the rice, so that it is almost 70% cooked. The grains should not be wet, sticky or starchy at all and each grain should be separate. I spread the cooked rice in a big plate and keep it under the fan till I make the stuffing and assemble my biryani. Mix-in 1 tsp salt. Fluff up the rice two to three times during this resting period, but do this very delicately, to prevent the grains to break.
  2. Keep the saffron solution ready. Mix the saffron strands into warm milk. Also add the kewra (screwpine) essence and liquid orange colour (optional). Allow it to rest (covered) for atleast 10 min, while you make the stuffing.
  3. Cut the chillies into half. Remove the seeds and keep aside.
  4. For the stuffing, heat 2 tsp oil and add the onions. When these turn brownish, add the tomatoes, garlic paste and salt. Cook until the tomatoes are very soft. Add sprouted moong, finely chopped mushrooms and turmeric powder. After 10 min of cooking on a medium flame, add 1 tsp (heaped) biryani masala, almonds, anardana powder and sugar. Cook till oil starts separating and the stuffing is dry. This will take around 10 minutes. Add 1/4th of the coriander leaves. Mix well.
  5. Carefully (and immediately) stuff the halved chillies with this hot stuffing. Keep aside.
  6. Now the assembly. Choose a cooking utensil which is quite deep. I took a small degchi for this purpose. You can use a small handi or any small pan with diameter little bigger that the length of the chillies.
  7. The utensil should be totally dry. Add melted ghee at the bottom. Mix-in the quartered mushrooms and ½ tsp biryani masala. Sprinkle a little salt over it. Spread a little coriander leaves and a lesser amount of mint leaves over this. Spread half of the rice over it now. Don’t press down. Drizzle half of the saffron liquid, ensuring that the liquid does not fall on each and every grain.
  8. Over the previous layer, spread half of the fried onions. Add some coriander and mint leaves (equal amounts) over the onions.
  9. Place half of the chillies, stuffed side up.
  10. Add the rest of the rice. Drizzle the rest of the saffron liquid unevenly. Scatter the rest of the fried onions over it and finally the leaves over the onions.
  11. Arrange the rest of the chillies at the top layer.
  12. The lid of the utensil should be perfectly fitting. If there is any air gap, the biryani will remain uncooked. Put heavy objects over the lid. Now seal the lid with the utensil with the help of the dough. This utensil should sit on a thick-bottomed pan (I used a traditional iron tawa). Cook on high heat for 10 min and then on medium heat for 5 min. Switch off the gas and open the seal after two minutes. The chillies should be a little crunchy in the final dish.
  13. This can be served with a yogurt side-dish called kachumber. However, I ate it just like that!
http://www.cosmopolitancurrymania.com/vegetarian-biryani-with-stuffed-chillies/

  • Belinda @zomppa

    I am drooling over this – I would eat the ENTIRE pot!

  • Asha Shivakumar

    Love a good biryani, and this looks yummy. The completely sealed method is awesome.

  • kitchenriffs

    Excellent post! I love a good biryani, and with your instructions it’s impossible to fail. Great picture of the biryani set-up! In fact, really nice pictures all around. Good stuff – thanks.

  • http://curryandcomfort.blogspot.com/ Curry and Comfort

    Wow!! This biryani is simply gorgeous. I love the idea of the stuffed peppers. I would eat this and have a very happy mouth and tummy. :)

  • Kim | a little lunch

    Purabi, this most definitely has “royal culinary charm” as you said. It’s like a treasure box with layer upon layer of edible gems! Hope you had a lovely celebration with your family. xo

  • http://mjskitchen.com/ mjskit

    What a dish and what a wonderful post! I’ve never had a biryani, so thanks so much for the great instruction!

  • AlchemyInTheKitchen

    I have a horrible cold at the moment and this dish really appeals to me because it is light and has layer upon layer of flavour. Just what the doctor ordered, Purabi !

  • http://justonecookbook.com/blog/ Nami | Just One Cookbook

    What a flavorful biryani! Happy belated Diwali to you and your family, Purabi!

  • Support

    Hi Purabi,
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  • dedy oktavianus

    wow, saffron infused biryani, i guess i can even barely top to diggin into it…
    btw, stuffing jalapeno, belpeppet etc was my sisters obsession when we were a child..
    thx for the memories Purabi!
    Dedy@Dentist Chef

  • Kari Peters

    Love your site! I’ve been wanting to learn more Indian dishes and everything looks so wonderful!