Punjabi Vegetable Biryani

By Meeta K. Wolff

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 70 minutes

Serves: 4


  • 220g basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
  • 1.5 liters warm water
  • 3 + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 350g white onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 + 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 30 ml warm milk
  • generous pinch of saffron
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 tablesppons finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 1/2 green cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • 1” cinnamon stick
  • 6 green cardamom
  • 250g onions, thinly sliced
  • 2” ginger, coarsely grated
  • 200g tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 450g cauliflower, cut to bitesized florets
  • 220g mushrooms quartered
  • 150g carrots, sliced
  • 100g sweetcorn
  • 50ml water
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • Salt


  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil on medium heat in a frying pan. Add 350g sliced onions and sautè stirring every few minutes. The onions will go crisp and turn golden brown - this can take anywhere between 15 to 25 minutes. Take them off the heat and drain access oil on kitchen paper and set aside.
  2. Soak the saffron strands in the warm water and allow the milk to infuse. Keep aside.
  3. Heat a heavy bottom pot and bring the 1.5ml water to a boil. Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water. Season generously with salt. Cook the rice for 7-8 minutes. The rice should only be half cooked as it will cook further in the oven. Drain the rice, keep warm and set aside.
  4. Set up a large metal bowl filled with cold water. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, reduce heat and blanch the cauliflower in for about 7-8 minutes. Drain and plunge in cold water and set aside.
  5. In a grinder add all the whole spices: cumin seeds, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Grind to a coarse mix and set aside.
  6. In a heavy bottom pan heat 2 tablesppons oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onions and fry for roughly 10 to 15 minutes until fragrant and translucent. Add the coarsely ground spices, stir well and continue to fry for a minute. Add the grated ginger and fry for a furhter 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and the tomato puree and continue to sauté until the tomatoes have soften - about 3 minutes. Lower the heat and sprinkle the chilli powder, turmeric and coriander powder. Stir well for 30 seconds. Add the vegetables, lower the heat, stiring well to make sure to coat the vegetables in the spices. Pour the 50 ml water, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower, garam masala and season to taste. Cover and cook for a further 2 minutes. Turn the heat off and set aside.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180 C degrees. In a heavy cast iron casserole or a Römertopf start to layer the biryani. Add a tablespoon of ghee to the bottom of the casserole then layer with some of the spiced vegetables and top with a layer of rice. Sprinkle with some of the saffron milk, chopped mint and coriander and a pinch of cardamom powder. Finally add some of the fried onions.
  8. Repeat the process with more spiced vegetables followed by an even layer of rice. Top with remaining ghee, saffron milk, mint, coriander and a pinch cardamom powder. Top with a little more of the fried onion, saving some to serve. Tightly seal with a layer of foil and put a tight fitting lid on. Put the casserole in the oven on a middle rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave to rest until ready to serve. Serve the vegetable biryani with the legumes fry.

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2017 Meeta K. Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | If you are interested in using my texts or photographs please contact me | You may not use my work for commercial purposes without my permission | You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work in any form | Please Ask First