Hyderabadi biryani is of two types based on the type of cooking. Kachha and Pakka. Different types of meat are used mutton, lamb or chicken. Vegetable biryani is the less famous biryani. Like one of my colleagues said, there is no vegetable biryani, biryani means mutton or chicken. Usually people mistake vegetable biryani with vegetable pulav. And rarely, I have seen vegetable biryani really spicy and tasty. I got the basic recipe for this vegetable pakka biryani off the net and improved it over years. And believe me I have compliments for this dish every time I make it, from everyone who have it, followed by a request for recipe. I have never actually written recipes and this is my first time. Like any Indian cook, I go by approximations. Here is an attempt to write an exact recipe for the best vegetable biryani you can ever make. You would, like me, get it perfect in a couple of attempts. Also, I would not say this is an authentic Hyderabadi biryani recipe but it is definitely very close to the authentic one and also the best tasting Hyderabadi biryani that can be made at home. Frankly, lot of famous places in Hyderabad serve awesome non-veg biryani but not very good veg biryani. Some places in hyderabad where you can find good chicken or lamb biryani are Paradise, Bawarchi, Hyderabad house, Niagara, Madina hotel
Preparation and Cooking time: 2 hours
For the gravy:
Vegetables diced: 4 cups (Potato (Aloo), Carrot (preferably orange carrot and not Indian gajar, cauliflower (Phool Gobi), beans, peas, capsicum (Green bell pepper)
Oil - 1 1/2 cup
Frying pan (kadhai) - 1 big
Turmeric (haldi) - 3 tsp (no harm in using more)
Bay leaf (Tej patta) - 1
Tomatoes - 2 big or Tomato puree/paste - 4 table spoons
Onions -1 big
Dry coconut powder or dessicated coconut - 1 cup (there is a difference between dry coconut powder and dessicated coconut. Dry coconut powder is made out of dried coconut by grinding it. Dessciated coconut is grated first and then ground. Hyderabadi style recipes use dry coconut powder. But it is not always easy to find dry coconut powder outside India)
Green Chillis - 4 (you can add more or less depending on how spicy you want it)
Ginger Garlic paste - 2 tsp
Corainder (Dhaniya) leaves - 1 cup (you can add more if you like the flavor of coriander)
Mint (Pudina) paste - 2 tsp or Mint (Pudina) leaves - 1/2 cup
salt - atleast 1 1/2 tsp (can add more depending on how salty you like it)
Lemon juice of 1 lemon
curd - 1/2 cup (preferably sour curd)
Paprika powder (Red chilli powder) - 1 tsp
The below spices are also the ingredients for garam masala. You can instead add 1tsp of garam masala but the flavour of the biryani is because of the freshly ground spices. And i am not sure all the garam masalas available in the market have these ingredients.
Cardamom (Elaichi) - 4 nos
Black pepper - 10 nos
Cloves (Lawang) - 5 nos
Cinnamon (Dalchini) - 2 inch stick
Caraway Seeds (Shah jeera) - 1 tsp (shah jeera is different from jeera or cumin seeds. It is a spice typical to Andhra style or Hyderabadi style recipes. I feel this is what gives a unique flavour to the garam masala prepared for Hyderabadi style recipes)
Basmati Rice - 3 cups
Coriander (Dhaniya) leaves minced - 3 tsp
Mint (Pudina) paste - 1 1/2 tsp or Mint (Pudina) leaves minced - 3 tsp
Lemon - 1
Oil - 3 Tbsp
Ghee - 3Tbsp
Pot or Vessel to cook rice
For final baking:
Any oven safe dish
Onion - 1big (cut in circular rings)
saffron (kesar) - 1 pinch (soak it in warm milk)
Aluminium foil to cover the dish
Before you begin with the preparation, soak the saffron in warm milk. Have the diced vegetables ready. Soak the rice in 4 cups of water.
Pour the oil in the frying pan. after the oil is heated toss the separated onion rings in to the oil. Fry them till they are golden brown. keep them aside as they will be required for the final baking. Toss teh bay leaf in to the frying pan. after 15 sec, toss the vegetables in the oil. Fry them in the oil for about 15 minutes on medium flame. Meanwhile blend into a smooth paste all the remaining ingredients required for the gravy in a blender. After the vegetables are fried for 15 minutes, add the paste to the frying pan. Cook till oil separates from the gravy. There should be at least 2 to 3 tea spoons of oil separated from the gravy, as this oil has a lot of flavour and will make the rice flavourful when baked. Usually dum biryani is very tasty because the rice cooks in the flavour of the marinated vegetables or meat. Since we are not doing dum style biryani but pakka style, the flavoured oil is important. Check the salt and spice level in the gravy once it is done. The salt and spice levels should be slightly more than what it would be for a usual gravy, as the gravy will be finally layered with rice. If you feel spice is a bit less, add a few pinches of garam masala to the gravy.
Heat the oven to 400 deg Farenheit or 205 deg Centigrade. Now place a pot or vessel to cook rice on the stove. add 8 cups of water to the vessel. and add the coriander, pudina paste and juice from the lemon. Drain the water from the rice. When the water is boiling, add the rice to it. You should not cook the rice completely. Usually basmati rice takes about 15 minutes to cook to the desired level. The rice will cook a little bit more in the oven, so make sure when you feel that the rice in the vessel is almost cooked and would require about 5 or 7 minutes, take the vessel off the stove and drain the water using a colander. After you feel the rice is dry enough spread it on a wide plate and add the ghee to it and gently mix it.
In the oven safe dish, grease the bottom with oil. Spread a layer of rice, top it with the fried onions, add a layer of the gravy and pour some saffron milk on the top in a few places. again top it with rice and continue the process by ending with a layer of rice. Usually three layers of rice and two layers of gravy is good. the top and bottom layers of rice should be thinner than the middle layer of rice. the saffron milk lets the flavour from the gravy creep into the rice layers. This is where the oil also helps. Cover it with an aluminium foil. make some holes with a fork on the top in a few places. Bake it for about 25 minutes. If it is a glass dish, you can see the oil on the sides and bottom of the vessel simmering. Let it stand for 2 to 3 hours to get the best flavoured biryani and place it in the oven for 15 minutes before eating or in the microwave for 3 minutes. Biryani always tastes better the next day because rice absorbs more of the flavour.