It’s probably time that I tell you about the Indian Dinner Debacle. When I was a kid, my parents hosted a dinner party for some of our close family friends. They must have been feeling particularly ambitious when planning the menu – they set out to make several brand new Indian recipes, all having what seemed like very long lists of ingredients. We soon became frantic – there were piles of pots and pans everywhere – and even though we felt like we’d used gallons upon gallons of yogurt already, we somehow ran out. My dad raced to the grocery store just hours before our friends were set to arrive, but got into a minor accident when a pizza delivery guy’s foot slipped on his brake. He made it home just fine, but was much later than we expected (remember life before cell phones?). From what I remember, the dinner actually turned out great – but it scarred our family from cooking Indian food for a very long time.
But Indian food really doesn’t need to be complicated and messy. Take this biryani, which comes together in about 30 minutes, doesn’t require a long list of ingredients, and only necessitates one pot.
The first time I remember having biryani was in San Francisco as a kid. I think my parents and I were assuming it would simply be a vehicle to lap up all of those wonderful Indian sauces, but we quickly changed our minds: fragrant, gently spiced, and studded with plump dried fruit and nuts, it really stole the show. It has taken me way too long to recreate the dish, but I’m so glad I finally did. With a cool cucumber raita (a simple yogurt sauce) served on the side, this has become one of my favorite meals. And with the addition of chickpeas, it certainly is filling enough to be a vegetarian main dish. This is delicious with roasted cauliflower, too.
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, peanut oil or vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground)
- 2 tablespoons sweet curry powder
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1.5 cups basmati rice
- 1.5 cups water
- 1.5 cups almond milk
- 1 can cooked chickpeas, drained
- ½ cup raisins (I use a mix of yellow and red)
- ½ cup cashews, lightly toasted
- For the raita:
- 1 cup Greek plain yogurt
- ½ cup finely chopped hothouse cucumber
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ tablespoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- In a large pot, sautee the onion in the oil for about five minutes over medium heat. The onions should be transparent and softened.
- Add the ginger, curry powder, cinnamon sticks and salt. Stir for about 1 minute, or until fragrant.
- Stir in the basmati rice, ensuring it is coated in the spice mixture. Add the water and almond milk, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover.
- While the rice is cooking, combine all of the raita ingredients in a small bowl. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
- The rice will be fully cooked in about 15-20 minutes. Remove lid and add the chickpeas, raisins and cashews. Stir for about one more minute, add additional salt to taste, and serve alongside the raita.
Note: I use this sweet curry, which is comprised of turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white & black pepper, cardamom, cloves and cayenne.