Introduction :

Rice and lentils combine to create this distinctive vegetarian biryani. Almost a meal in itself, it tastes just as good with nothing but raita and papad as accompaniments. For coconut cream, simply refrigerate a can of coconut milk for an hour or freeze for half an hour. The thick cream will rise to the top and can be skimmed off easily.


Ingredients :

1 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup whole brown lentils (masoor dal)
6 cups water
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 inch piece ginger
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup shredded carrots
Salt to taste

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
6 canned plum tomatoes, drained and pureed
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut cream
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, thinly slivered

For the garnish (optional):
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced into thin half rings
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp raw cashews or almonds


Wash rice well under running water. Cover with water and soak for half an hour. Drain in fine- mesh sieve and set aside. Wash lentils well, cover with water and soak at least 1 hour or longer. Drain lentils, place in saucepan, add 2 cups water and bring to boil over high heat. Turn heat to medium-low and cook 20 minutes until they are slightly tender but not mushy. Drain in sieve and set aside.
Bring remaining 4 cups water to boil and add drained rice. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes until almost tender. Drain and spread rice on tray to cool.
Mince onions, garlic and ginger in food processor.
Warm oil in deep non-stick pan and add cumin seeds. When they splutter, add the minced onion mixture. Saute for about 10 minutes, then add carrots. Saute for another 4 minutes, then add all spices. Cook for 1 minute, then add tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes until they thicken slightly, then add coconut cream and chopped herbs. Add cooked rice and lentils and very gently mix them in. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring gently in between. Turn off heat and let rice rest for 10 minutes before serving.

For optional garnish: warm oil in small skillet and saute onions for about 4 to 5 minutes until lightly golden. Add raisins and cashews or almonds. Turn off heat but let them brown lightly in the skillet over the fading heat of the stove.
When biryani is done, transfer gently to a platter, fluffing and mixing it gently. Scatter garnish over top and serve.

Serves six