Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe has been doing a series of posts on her versions of staple dishes like lasagne and shepherd's pie. I like finding out how other people cook their favourites, so here is my take on another veggie staple - vegetable biryani. I never even tasted curry until I was 18, when Munchkin Gramps visited me at university and took me to an Indian restaurant. He had learnt his curry preferences the hard way, when his rugby team at college told him to go for a vindaloo 'because it's mild'. He was much kinder to me and recommended a korma. I like the more lentily tomatoey ones now, but I have to admit to not moving much further down the spice scale since my debut.
This curry is so darn easy because you make it in an oven-proof pot on the hob and then stick it all in the oven. The rice gets pre-cooked with stock, cardamom and cloves, but is then put in with the veggies to finish cooking - in fact, that is the definition of a biryani - a casserole with spiced rice. It's not my favourite curry for showcasing particular vegetables, but when you want a good mixed dish that's extremely healthy, this is the one I go for. It's got no oil in it at all which is somewhat unorthodox - in fact this is a very Anglo take on a curry in general - but it doesn't lose out on spice or taste. I got the base recipe from a low fat cookbook and vary the veggies according to season. This time I used parsnip, squash, green beans (grown by Vicki's carshare partner, whom I have never met, but can vouch for his beany credentials), new potatoes and a couple of bits of carrot I had left over from something else. We like it with naan, mango chutney and (for me, the yogurt fiend) plain yogurt. It's pretty filling and very satisfying.
Vegetable biryani (from Low Fat Cooking by Anne Sheasby) [I can't find a link to this book anywhere - weird. It's published by Hermes House)
175g/1 cup long grain rice [I use wholegrain]
2 whole cloves
seeds of 2 cardamom pods
450ml/scant 2 cups vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
3 new potatoes, chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
handful green beans, topped and tailed, and chopped
Half a squash, peeled and chopped
Or any other selection of vegetables - the original recipe suggests carrots, cauliflower and potato)
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper
sprig of fresh coriander, to garnish [obviously I left this out as I never seem to have the right fresh herbs for anything]
Put the rice, cloves and cardamom seeds into a large, heavy-based saucepan. Pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until all the stock has been absorbed. For wholegrain rice I found this took 35 mins or so - nearer 20 for white.
Meanwhile, put the garlic cloves, onion, cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and seasoning into a blender or coffee grinder together with 2 tbsp water. Blend to a smooth puree.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Spoon the spicy paste into a flameproof casserole and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables and 6 tbsps water. Cover and cook over a low heat for a further 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped coriander.
Remove the cloves and spoon the rice over the vegetables. Sprinkle over the lime juice. Cover and cook in the oven for 25 mins. Fluff up the rice with a fork before serving, and garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander if you are more organised than me.