Hyderabadi Vegetable Biriyani

A lovely and lightly flavored rice filled with the aroma of saffron. Try it for a party platter or that special dinner.
What I used: Serves 4
2 cups basmati rice
½ cup finely diced carrots
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
2 tsp whole cashews
1 cup chopped onions
2/4 green chilies slit lengthwise
2 tsp fresh chopped mint leaves
2 tsp fresh chopped cilantro leaves
2tsp lime juice
1 tsp garam masala (1/2 inch cinnamon, 2 cardamoms, 4 cloves, 1 bay leaf)
1 tsp somph (fennel seeds)
1 cup yogurt
½ tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2tsp ghee/ oil
2tsp oil
¼ tsp saffron soaked in a little hot water or milk.
Salt to taste

Soak the raw rice in cold water. Set aside for 30 minutes. Get a large pot of water (about 5 cups) to a good boil. Add all the garam masalas, salt and 1 tsp oil. Then drain the soaked rice and add it into the water. Let it cook about 50-75 percent. This is key; test a grain with your finger, if it is a little soft and cracks, it is just right, if it is soft and mushy, it is overcooked. Drain and set aside.

Add oil into a large, hollow saucepan or skillet. Over medium-high heat, put in 2 tsp ghee; add in 1/2 cup of onions, fry to a golden brown. 

Remove them and set aside. Now, to the same pan, add the remaining onions, slit green chilies, cashews and fennel seeds. When they lightly brown, add carrots and peas. Add in the chili powder and turmeric. Turn the heat to low, add in the yogurt and salt. Let it simmer for a few minutes. 

Add half of the boiled rice as the first layer. Second layer is chopped cilantro, mint, fried onions. Then sprinkle a tsp of garam masala powder. Third layer is the remaining rice again. Final layer is the saffron milk. Pour it all over the rice. Pour the remaining melted ghee.

You may layer and cook the biriyani in an oven, or on the stovetop. My suggestion: small quantity-stove top; large quantity-bake.
          If using the stovetop, set the flame to low, use a flat pan below the cooking pot. This allows for uniform heating and keeps the biriyani from charring below. Start layering. Cover it with chapathi dough on the edges to form a ring. Then top that with a lid. Place some heavy weights on it, so the steam stays tightly inside. Cook on low for 12-15 minutes.
        If you are using the oven, set it to preheat on 375 degree F. Use a bake-safe glass/metal pan. Put in the meat and gravy as the bottom layer. After the layering is done, cover it with double aluminum foil and seal it tightly. Let it cook on bake mode for 20-25 minutes.

Test the rice. If the rice is completely cooked, the biriyani is ready. When serving, use a pancake spatula to scoop out the biriyani from the edge of the pan. Remove a chunk of rice and vegetables below and gently spread it on a plate. Some prefer the rice as a combination of all the layers, some like it all mixed. Serve as you desire. It is enjoyed with yogurt salad and eggplant curry.