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May 28, 2020
Ruffled Pastry Vegetable Biryani
Say hello to my signature Ruffled Pastry Vegetable Biryani For me, biryani is absolutely symbolic of love. Why? Because if someone clears their busy schedule to make you this complex, multi-stage dish, you know you truly have a place in their heart.
This beautiful preparation of basmati rice and freshly-toasted spices takes serious thought, time and effort. From soaking the rice, to frying onions, and if you’re really committed, making your own glorious Biryani Masala, this is no 30-minute meal. Biryani is a food that you make for special occasions and sharing. It’s decadent, opulent and more of an emotion than it is a meal.
What is Ruffled Vegetable Biryani?
It’s a little twist on the original dough-sealed biryani with stunning golden filo pastry ruffles as the crowning glory. With each scoop of aromatic biryani, your friends and family can help themselves to a buttery pastry ruffle. These scrunched up bits of filo just melt in the mouth and they’re SO simple to make (even though it looks super fancy!). My favourite thing is that the butter from the pastry seeps down into the steamy rice to create rosy saffron steam that contrast with spices like cardamom and cloves. Indeed, this veg biryani will knock your socks clean off.
How to make Biryani Masala at home
Sure, a packet Biryani Masala mix has a place in the kitchen cupboard. It’s great for those days when you’re short of time, let’s not be snobby about it. However, there’s truly no match for a batch of homemade Biryani Masala. I toast whole spices until the oils release and become fragrant. It’s as satisfying to make as it is to eat. Plus, everything is fresh and you get to see exactly what goes in.
My all-in-one Biryani Masala
My Biryani Masala is an all-in-one recipe. I add dried chilli, garlic and ginger to the masala so you don’t need to add their fresh counterparts when you cook your biryani. I find this to be a welcome time saver since there are already so many other ingredients required.
My recipe makes approximately 75g biryani masala, which is enough to make biryani for six people three times, give or take. Of course, this depends on the amount of masala you add to your dish. My calculations are based on adding 2 tablespoons of biryani masala to a biryani for 6 people (around 225g rice and 1.5kg of vegetables or protein).
Tips for making homemade masalas
A dry frying pan is perfect for getting the spices nicely toasty. You don’t need to use oil for dry masalas.
Don’t toast the spices over a high heat. A low heat will help coax the oils from the whole spices perfectly. Patience pays off.
Keep the spices moving the whole time they’re in the pan to ensure they don’t burn. They have a tendency to catch in hotspots.
Let the spices cool completely before you grind them.
Store the homemade Biryani Masala in an airtight jar or container for up to six months. It’s okay to leave it beyond this date but the spices may lose some of their potency.
I recommend making masalas in small batches so you can use them at their best.
What kind of biryani is this?
Absolutely not traditional is the answer. While it has all the flavours of a wonderful biryani, its presentation and method of preparation is unique. I never claim authenticity in recipes because I believe recipes are in a constant metamorphosis, informed by our environments and tastes.
Purists will insist that there cannot be a vegetarian biryani as this dish has almost always been prepared with meat. My opinion is that if there can be plant-based “chicken” burgers, vegan “steak” and other no-meat meats, anything is possible. Every food has roots, or an origin of sorts. To deny the existence of something based on a belief that it shouldn’t be, doesn’t make it cease to exist. Enough chat. Let’s make biryani.
Why add pastry on top?
India’s most traditional biryanis are cooked in “Dum”. This refers to a seal of dough around the rim of a cooking pot so the food inside cooks in steam. A seal ensures steam builds up inside the pot, plumps up the rice grains and infuses them with the flavours of spiced veg, crispy onions (in the biryani layers) and saffron. Once you crack it open, the ‘Dum’, translated as “warm breath” will escape and you’ll be ready to pile mounds of biryani on your plate.
This Ruffled Pastry Vegetable Biryani takes inspiration from the dum method but isn’t wholly traditional. I sprinkle the biryani is sprinkled with saffron milk which, along with the rice and veg releases steam upwards. The crispy filo pastry sits on top and since it’s spread with butter, the entire biryani soaks up the buttery drips that fall from above. It really is the veggie biryani of dreams.
Ruffled Pastry Vegetable Biryani: Troubleshooting
Do I have to soak the rice?
Yes, I advise it. Not only does this soften up the grains for quick cooking, it also ensures the rice doesn’t release lots of starch which can result in them sticking together. Remember to wash the rice gently first and boil it in PLENTY of water.
Do I have to pre-cook the vegetables?
No all of them. I don’t pre-cook the peppers as they are relatively quick to cook and quite alright if a little crunchy. My peas are frozen so take no time at all to cook. The potatoes really are best fried for a spud that holds its shape. Frying gives cauliflower a delicious flavour. Carrots take a little longer to cook so I partially steam them before adding them in. Ultimately, all the steps in this recipe ensure all the veg cooks perfectly. You can also steam or boil all the vegetables if you prefer.
Can I use shop-bought biryani masala?
Of course. Having said this, there really isn’t anything like homemade. I encourage you to make a small batch at least once to see how you like it.
What other vegetables can I use?
Pumpkin, green beans, turnips, mushrooms, corn and courgette are also great additions to this biryani.
Do I have to use all that butter?
I would recommend it. Filo pastry needs lots of help in the crisping up department. If you reduce the butter by too much, it will remain a pale white colour or burn in places. Butter ensures even cooking as well as protects the pastry from drying out and burning in the oven. It’s a treat dish so treat yo’self.
Can I use another type of pastry?
You can. Many Indian restaurants offer a puff pastry-topped biryani. DUM London do a good one. I have not tried it myself, but savoury shortcrust may also work. I like making these filo ruffles because it’s easy to serve. Just scoop it into your plate and everyone can help themselves to a pastry ruffle or three.
Do I have to use pastry or can I make this the traditional way without?
The pastry topping isn’t essential. You can make this in a regular pan on the stove or even in a casserole dish in the oven. Be sure to have a tight-fitting lid handy. You’ll need to make sure the steam doesn’t escape. If you like, you can make a basic dough using wheat flour (atta) and water, shape it into a long snake and place it around the edge of the pot before putting the lid on for some “dum” action. This type of pastry is way less delicious to eat though!
Why don’t you season the vegetable mixture?
My biryani masala is an all-in-one mix. It contains all the seasonings required for this recipe. The rice is cooked in salt water and the butter on the pastry contains enough salt to season the dish adequately.
What does 80% cooked mean when you refer to the rice?
The rice should be cooked al dente. If you press a grain between your fingers, it shouldn’t be too soft. Strive for grains that break when you press them between your fingers, not ones that smush.
Can I add rosewater or kewra?
My homemade biryani masala already has dried rose petals in it so I don’t add any more. You can add a few drops of rosewater or kewra (screwpine leaf extract) if you like. I didn’t have any to hand today.
How can I veganise this biryani?
With ease. Swap the ghee for oil, the butter for your favourite vegan butter, the yoghurt for a plant-based alternative (or coconut milk) and the paneer for fried tofu (or skip it completely).
My biryani-making essentials (contains affiliate links)
A wet/dry grinder with a powerful motor is your best friend when it comes to grinding your own masalas. It’s an invaluable tool for this Biryani Masala. I have a Boss one which is years old but this Premier Xpress Mixer/Grinder is amazing.
Indeed, if you’re looking for a one-stop quick fix that’s suitable for lots of things, try a coffee grinder like this Bosch Coffee Grinder. You’ll probably only want to use it for spices though. Nobody wants biryani-flavoured coffee… or do they?
All the spices you need for this biryani can be found here.
Aromatic vegetable biryani hidden beneath a layer of crispy, buttery filo pastry ruffles. This show-stopping vegetarian dish is inspired by "dum" cooking where pastry is used to seal a pot so the dish cooks gently in steam.
Course: Main Course
Keyword: rice, vegetables, vegetarian
1 x 26cm (10-inch) diameter springform cake tin, 10cm (4-inch) deep or cake tin, casserole or pie dish of a similar capacity
Frying pan or pot
For the rice:
225glong-grain basmati rice
2green cardamom pods
5cmcassia bark or cinnamon stick
1tbspdried rose petals(optional)
For the vegetables:
1tbspghee or oil
2tbspBiryani masalarecipe below
350gpotatoescut into large chunks and fried until cooked and golden
200gcauliflower floretsfried until slightly golden
150gcarrotssliced into batons and steamed until 75% cooked
100gpeasI used frozen
100gpepperssliced into large pieces
200gpaneercubed and fried until golden
1large onionsliced and fried until golden and crispy
You will also need:
1large pinch saffron
1large onionsliced and fried until golden and crispy
1tbspfresh mint leaves
2tbspchopped coriander leaves
For the pastry top:
500gfilo pastry sheets
To prepare the rice:
Gently wash the rice in cold water, changing the water out 2-3 times. Soak the rice in plenty of cold water for one hour.
Heat a large pot of water (around 2L) over a medium-high heat. Add salt, cassia bark or cinnamon, 2 cardamom pods, 3 cloves and 1 tbsp optional rose petals. Bring to a boil.
Add the rice and bring to a boil again. Simmer over a medium heat until the rice is 80% cooked. It should break when you press a grain between your fingers, not smush. Drain in a colander and set aside.
To make the vegetable mixture:
Heat the ghee or oil in a large frying pan or saucepan. Allow to melt, and then add some whole cumin seeds. Sizzle for 20 seconds or so, then add tomato purée, cashews and biryani masala. Cook for a further 30 seconds, and then add plain yoghurt. Stir constantly, for about 2 minutes until the paste cooks through. You'll know it's ready when the oil separates from the paste. Turn the heat down low.
Add potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, peas, peppers, paneer and fried onions. Stir well. Pour in around 150ml water and bring to the boil. Cook for no longer than 2 minutes and then switch the heat off.
To layer the biryani:
Grease a springform cake tin, cake tin or pie dish with plenty of oil. Spread another third of the rice mixture in the bottom of the tin. Top with half of the vegetable mixture, some fresh mint leaves, fresh coriander leaves and fried onions.
Add another third of the rice and the remainder of the vegetable mixture. Flatten it gently – don't press it down too hard. Top with some fresh mint leaves, fresh coriander leaves and fried onions.
Layer in the final third of rice. Pour over the saffron milk and sprinkle some fresh coriander leave on top.
For the filo pastry ruffles:
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Take the first sheet of filo pasty and generously brush it with the melted butter. Keep the rest of the pastry covered with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Scrunch the pastry up from one end to the other, like a rough concertina. Take one end and wrap it around into a spiral or rosette. You don’t have to be neat — the more rustic, the better.
Place the scrunched pastry on top of rice, starting from the outside edge. Repeat for the remaining pastry until all of the rice is covered with ruffled pastry. This pastry top will help the rice and spices gently steam in the oven whilst the surface becomes golden and crispy.
Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes until golden and crispy.
Serve hot with your favourite biryani accompaniments. Raita and mirchi ka salan are my favourites.
Aromatic masala that's perfect for any biryani preparation. Set aside your packet of biryani masala and try this beautifully-fragrant biryani masala inspired by the flavours of north India. Just add two tablespoons of masala per 1.5kg of vegetables or protein. No need to add additional ginger, garlic, chilli or salt because this masala contains it all.
Keyword: biryani, masala
High-powered wet/dry grinder or coffee grinder
Frying pan or saucepan
Container with a tight-fitting lid for storing the masala
20cmcassia bark or cinnamon sticks
3dried bay leaves
5dried red chillies
2tbspdried rose petals
Heat a dry frying pan or saucepan over a low heat.
Add all the whole spices and toss to combine. Cook over a low heat for about a minute-90 seconds.
Add the powdered spices, salt and sugar. Toss again and cook, stirring all the time to ensure the masala doesn't burn. This shouldn't take longer than 2 minutes. Allow to cool.
Pile the spices into a spice grinder or the bowl of a mixer/grinder (recommendations for these are included in the blog post above). Blend until the mixture becomes a fine powder. You might need to stop and stir everything once or twice to ensure all the spices are getting some blade time.
Pile the mixture into an airtight container or jar. This biryani masala will keep well for a year but is best used within 6 months.
Makes approximately 75g biryani masala. This is enough to make biryani for six people three times, depending on how much masala you like in your biryani.
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If you like this, you’ll love my recipe for Saag Paneer
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