Paneer Biryani it was for last weekend’s lunch and it was a great full family-approved dish. There are very few dishes that my entire family unanimously likes and this is one of those few along with idli, idiyappam and chicken anything. This biryani is everything a good biryani should be – fragrant, flavour packed, nice, long and fluffy rice with tender vegetables and paneer. You can cook for vegetarians. You can cook for non-vegetarians too. But cooking for a combination of vegetarians and non-vegetarians is a pain. Our already chock full fridge is even more stuffed now with a vegetarian version of everything. My Maamiyaar has turned vegetarian recently for the 3rd time in 1 year and our fridge is bearing the brunt of the change.
Everybody thankfully likes paneer and Paneer is vegetarian though not vegan. So I made this Paneer biryani for Saturday lunch and it went down really well with the entire family. Even the kids liked it. Serve this alongside cucumber or onion raita and a crispy vegetable for a complete meal. I wanted the fragrance of the wedding biryanis, so I tried adding a dash of biryani essence this time. The biryani was aromatic but I don’t know how much the essence added on top of the already fragrant whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, Kalpaasi). This Paneer biryani is an easy one-pot meal that is ready from cutting board to dining table in about 40 minutes if you exclude the soaking time of the rice and is fitting enough for a dinner party with friends.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Basmati Rice/Long grain rice – 3 cups soaked in water for 1 hour
Paneer – 200 gm cut into cubes
Cauliflower – 1 cup cut into small florets
Carrot – 2 chopped fine
Green beans – 1/2 cup chopped fine
Onions – 2 large chopped fine
Tomatoes – 2 large chopped fine
Fresh Yogurt – ½ cup
Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Kalpaasi/seaweed – ½ tsp
Cinnamon – 1 inch stick
Cloves – 3
Cardamom – 1
Bay leaf – 1
Biryani Essence – 1 tsp (optional)
Oil – 3 tbsp
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Masala Paste Ingredients
Ginger – 2 inch piece peeled and chopped roughly
Garlic – 7 cloves peeled
Green chillies – 2
Cardamom – 1
Cinnamon – 1 inch piece
Fennel seeds/Sombu/Saunf – 1/2 tsp
1. Rinse rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak in water for 1 hour.
2. Grind together the masala ingredients to a fine paste adding a little water. Set aside.
3. In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and ghee together. When hot but not smoking, add the chopped paneer and fry till the edges turn golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate. Set aside.
4. In the same pressure cooker add the whole spices – cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf and Kalpaasi. Stir around till fragrant – about half a minute.
5. Throw in the chopped onions and sauté till they turn translucent. Then add the chopped tomatoes and fry till soft. Add the ground masala paste and mix well. When the masala starts to brown and stick to the bottom, throw in the chopped vegetables – carrots, beans and cauliflower and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Stir and scrape the bottom to loosen the masala.
6. Add red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Pour in the yogurt and mix well. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or till the vegetables are tender and cooked through.
7. Drain the water from the rice but save it. Add the drained rice to the vegetables and mix. Level the rice and vegetables and add the drained water to reach just above the 1st line on your index finger. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the biryani essence. Tip in the fried paneer pieces and gently mix them up with the rice and vegetables. Cover with the pressure cooker lid and turn heat to high. When the steam starts coming out, turn heat to low and plug in the cooker weight. Make a note of the time now and switch off the stove after 12 minutes.
8. After switching off, leave the cooker aside for another 15 minutes for the pressure to subside. Slowly remove the lid. Use a fork to fluff up the rice. Close again with the pressure cooker lid till serving time. Serve hot with raita of your choice.
1. For more flavour intensive paneer, you could marinate the paneer in some of the masala marinade for an hour while the rice soaks. Fry the paneer and keep aside. Add the paneer along with rice and cook as directed above.
2. Use any combination of vegetables that you have handy – potatoes, peas, double beans, butter beans, baby corn all would be great options.