Recipe #22 OPOS Cookbook Project: Rice
Next recipe in the Lunch box favorites series is Ambur Biriyani for Vegetarians. I am one of those forlorn vegetarians who have experienced the pain of watching my non-vegetarian friends make deliberate stops (sometimes trips) at/to Ambur to hog on the glorious Chicken/Mutton Biriyani that is served at Star Hotel. Vegetarians have no or very little choice (if you are ready to eat Kuska) at Star Biriyani hotel ! When the Ambur Biriyani recipe was originally published by Chef RK, it had a choice to substitute Chicken/Mutton with vegetarian protein choices and I was thrilled beyond words. I jumped at the prospect and made it immediately. Oh ! first let me talk about the aroma…my neighbors need no word to be sent…the aroma whiffs along, hits their nostrils hard and makes a loudspeaker announcement on what’s cooking at my place. Next, the taste – my parent’s driver, Akbar best described it once – “edhu bhai veetu biriyani” which loosely translates as typical Muslim household biriyani ! Now no one argues with Akbar !!
So lets see how to make this bhai veetu biriyani for vegetarians…
We will be using the Seeraga Samba variety of rice grain for making this Biriyani just like they do in Star Hotel. I love Seeraga Samba as it compliments the Indian spices and condiments beautifully. This is very similar to the Marathi Mogra rice variety.
Second, you will need to decide on the vegetarian protein of your choice. We will need 400-500 gms of vegetarian protein. Here, I will be using a mixture of Soya Chunks and Mushrooms. You can also chose to use Paneer. Soya Chunks come closest to the texture of meat and is a great meat substitute for vegetarians.
After soaking the soya chunks for required time, squeeze out the water as much as you can with bare hands. They will resemble a sponge. If the soya chunks are big, cut them into half. This way they absorb the masalas better.
Drain the water from red chilies and grind to a smooth paste with very little water and set aside.
Now, we will marinate the proteins –
In a large mixing bowl, take the chopped soya chunks and chopped mushrooms (combined weight of 430 grams). Add 1/2 cup of yogurt (no sour curds, please), ground red chili paste, 1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of biriyani masala and 2 teaspoons of salt. Combine well and let it rest for 30 minutes. You can also chose to prepare this in advance (previous night) and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure to cover it with a cling film or a tight lid.
Now, we will start the layering process –
In a 2 or 3 liter pressure cooker, add 3 teaspoons of water and 5 teaspoons of groundnut oil. Add 2 small bay leaves. On top, layer 1 each of finely chopped onion and tomato.
Next, add half the quantity of the marinated proteins making sure you are spreading them evenly. Next, add all of the rice (after draining soaked water) and spread evenly. As the last layer, add the rest of the marinated protein and make sure it covers the rice layer completely. Add 1/2 cup of water. Please take a leap of faith here …it does not need more water !
Close the pressure cooker with the lid and fix the weight and cook at medium flame (600-700w in induction) for 2 whistles or 20 minutes max. Let the pressure settle by itself and open –
What I do next, I just empty the cooker contents at one go into a big vessel. I don’t use the spatula/spoon much to stir up the biriyani making sure not to mush up the rice . Serve Biriyani hot !