Brown rice doesn’t have to be bland and forced down one’s throat. You can make it as tasty as you want (thank you Indian spices!). What I made here is a layered biryani, Hyderabadi style, with healthy ingredients and a little less oil than usual. The process is a bit long, but you can cut it short. I will list out the whole process and in the notes section will tell you what you can skimp on if you want to quicken the whole thing. The curry (gravy) is adapted from my dad’s chicken biryani recipe, while the marinade is my own genius concoction that turned out well. No rocket science there though, just regular stuff. I sprouted the brown rice by soaking them overnight. The rice will not visibly sprout but will germinate upping the health quotient. The same recipes goes very well with white basmati rice too.
Before you start cooking, I would like to say that the rice has to be soaked, the mushrooms and sprouts have to be marinated. Soak the brown rice overnight if you would like to sprout it, if not for just 1/2 an hour. Discard the water, wash it twice again and boil it. The mushrooms and sprouts have to be marinated at least for 1 hour and maximum overnight, in the refrigerator.
There are 3 main steps to make this style of Biryani. Once you have the basic idea, there are countless possibilities and combinations to explore.
1. Preparing the rice
2. Marinating the main ingredients & making the gravy
3. Layering, garnishing and baking / steaming on the stove top.
2 cups, Brown rice (Any variety. I used organic short grain)
1 cup mung sprouts
4 cups button mushrooms, cleaned, dried and each chopped in half
For the marinade
1 cup, plain yogurt (thick curds)
3/4 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dry mango powder
1/4 tsp ajwain seeds
1/4 tsp fennel powder
2 tbsp crushed dried methi leaves, kasuri methi, optional
1/4 tsp pepper powder
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
NO SALT. Salt is to be added only after the mushrooms and sprouts have been cooked.
For the Curry (Gravy)
2 tsp Ghee , clarified butter
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste OR 5-6 cloves garlic, 1/2″ piece ginger (basically an equivalent amount)
1 or 2 green chillies, depending on spice level)
1 tsp kala jeera or regular jeera (cumin)
1/4 cup mint leaves
2 bay leaves
3 pods, cardamom
1″ stick cinnamon
1 whole star anise
1/2 tsp curry powder / garam masala
1 tsp coriander powder
3/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 cup finely chopped Cilantro
2 tbsp oil (to fry the onions)
2 large onions
1/4 cup slivered almonds, optional.
1/4 cup warm milk
A pinch of saffron strands
- Boil the rice in 10 cups of salted water till 80% done, drain and then spread out to dry on a large plate so that the grains don’t clump together
- Mix all the ingredients under the ‘For the Marinade’ list in a large bowl along with the mushrooms and sprouts. Do not add salt just yet if not the mushrooms might release water and the mixture will turn runny. Let sit for minimum 1 hour.
- In the meantime, pan fry the onions for garnishing. Slice the onions thinly. Heat a pan with 1 tbsp oil and when hot add the onion slices. Sprinkle a little salt for it to cook faster. This will take at least 15 minutes to get done. Stir now and then and fry until the onions are crisp, not too dark or black. It should be caramelized and crisp. Transfer to a plate.
- In the same pan, fry the slivered almonds till light brown. Set aside.
- Grind the poppy seeds first. Then add 1 onion, green chilli(es), ginger, garlic and cashew nuts into a fine paste.
- In the same pan, heat 2 tsp ghee, when hot, add the jeera, cardamom, cloves, anise, cinnamon, stir for 30 sec and then add the onion-cashew paste. Fry until it’s well done and oil starts separating from the gravy. Add the mint leaves, cilantro, tomato, red chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala. Add salt. Fry until it’s well done and set aside. The texture should not be very runny nor very thick. It should be a medium spreadable gravy like consistency, almost like ketchup. If it’s too thick and clumpy, add some water.
- Soak the Saffron in 1/4 cup of warm milk and set aside.
- Now, we have to pan fry the mushrooms and sprouts. If the yogurt marinade is too watery, discard most of it. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan. When hot, add the mushroom and sprout marinade. This will take sometime since the mushrooms will give out water so fry until all the water has evaporated and the mushrooms are well cooked and slightly crispy. Add salt to taste and set aside.
Now comes the layering of the Biryani
- Take a heavy dish or an oven safe dish. Spread a thick layer of rice at the bottom. Spread some of the gravy on it, not too much, a thin layer since the gravy is very strong.
- Add 1/4 of the fried onions and a layer of mushroom + sprouts on top. Spread 3/4 of the remaining rice, all of the gravy and mushrooms. Top it off with some of the rice that is left. Garnish with the fried onions and almond slivers.
- Pour the saffron milk mixture over the rice.
- If using the stove top, cover the dish with a tight fitting lid and place over a VERY low heat for 45 minutes.
- If using the oven, cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 deg F for 40 minutes.
- Gently mix and serve.
- Enjoy Biryani guilt free!
1. If you want to minimize the time spent, forget soaking the rice overnight or the marination for 4 hours. 1 hour should do.
2. If the mushrooms give out a lot of water when cooking and the marinade becomes a soup, IT’S OK. Don’t panic. Just turn off the stove and pour the liquid out into another dish. Continue frying. You can use a little of that liquid to add to the prepared gravy.
3. The biryani can be assembled and kept in the fridge upto a day in advance. Put it on the stove / oven 45 minutes before serving. It actually tastes better a day later. Or about 6 hours later after the flavors soak into the rice.
4. Brown rice is not as delicate as white so it won’t turn into mush on the stove. It’s important to boil and drain the water and not pressure cook the rice.
5. The dishes I use to bake the biryani on the stove top are these :
Calphalon heavy bottomed pot – The one I have is hard anodized and not stainless steel. I got a pretty good deal on sale last year.
Tramontina Dutch Oven – Rated pretty high up along with Le Creuset is this one, again I got a good deal on sale this thanksgiving weekend.
You can use any deep dish, just make sure it’s heavy bottomed.