Few delicacies spell royalty like a fragrant medley of basmati rice, pine water, spices, vegetables, and yoghurt. Awadhi vegetable biryani has found its way into the culinary repertoire of home cooks across the country. And while it might not feature right at the centre of a spread of kebabs and korma – there’s no denying that it’s just as delicious. Our recommendation? This flavourful rendition by MasterChef India winner Pankaj Bhadouria.
The stuff of most midnight munchies and wedding feasts – biryani is an indispensable part of the Indian culinary fabric. In fact, drop by a restaurant or hole-in-the-wall in any city across India and chances are you’ll discover the delicacy on the menu – with variations in preparation styles, proteins, and a few ingredients. The most popular of these come from Hyderabad, Kashmir, Kolkata, and Lucknow (Awadhi). Originally Persian, history notes that biryani as we understand it today was a common sight across Mughal kitchens – with chefs infusing local flavours to create their own renditions.
That said, Awadhi cuisine – under the reign of nawabs – varies from its Mughlai cousin in terms of cooking techniques and other fine details. For instance, it’s known for subtle, delicate flavours as opposed to spicy and intense notes. Popular features of an Awadhi spread include chicken biryani, chicken korma, galouti kebab, mutton korma, shami kebab, and more. However, if you follow a plant-based lifestyle or are looking to cut out meat, the vegetarian version is just as scrumptious. And who better to guide you through the process of making it than the first-ever winner of Masterchef India – chef Pankaj Bhadouria.
A post shared by MasterChef Pankaj Bhadouria (@masterchefpankajbhadouria)
For successful teacher and passionate home cook Pankaj Bhadouria – creations underlined with innovation, slow cooking techniques, attention, and love could never disappoint. In part, this could be why she was wildly favoured on India’s first televised reality cooking show – MasterChef India. Even better? She went on to win it, today holding the crown for being the first MasterChef of India.
Her typical schedule features a dizzyingly large range of activities – television shows, Instagram reels, YouTube videos, restaurant openings, and more! The payoff? A whooping 1.1 million (10 lakh) followers on Instagram as well as 904K subscribers on YouTube and 5 million (50 lakh) followers on Facebook. A quick scroll and you’ll discover a range of delightfully helpful kitchen hacks and drool-worthy recipes on her social media pages, along with a set of quirky, easy-to-make delicacies crafted in kettles and other unique contraptions.
That said, classic soul foods – like vegetable upma, momos, and butter chicken – continue to draw comments and likes in scores. Her vegetable biryani is no exception – with the recipe being a product of all the time she spent living in Lucknow. “Although Awadhi cuisine is primarily non-vegetarian, there are several vegetarian dishes which are equally mouth-watering like vegetable tehri, tali bhindi ka salan, or awadhi arbi ka korma,” she notes, adding that the biryani was her all-time favourite.
The most unique factor of this delicacy, she further points out, is that it’s slow-cooked – a technique that allows for the flavours and aroma to stay locked into the dish – elevated by rose and kewra water as well as chilli flakes and black pepper. This often culminates in a heavenly aroma that will permeate through the home once the lid’s seal is lifted. It’s also the best to whip up if you’ve got entertaining friends and family on the itinerary. It takes about 40 minutes to prep and cook and serves up to six.
400 g basmati rice, 7 tbsp ghee, 2 large onions (sliced), 1 tsp black cumin seeds, 8 cloves, 2 *1-inch sticks of cinnamon, 1 whole piece of mace, ¼ tsp grated nutmeg, 3 tbsp ginger paste, 3 tbsp garlic paste, 100 g Shelled green peas, 100 g baby potatoes, 100 g small cauliflower, 100 g French beans (cut into 1-inch pieces) , 100 g carrots (sliced diagonally), salt to taste, 1 tsp black pepper powder, ½ cup yoghurt, 4 black cardamoms, 4 green cardamoms, 2 bay leaves, ½ fresh mint leaves (finely chopped), a few drops of rose water, a few drops of pine water, 2 tbsp unsalted butter, wheat flour (to seal the dish)
250 g yoghurt, 5-6 garlic cloves (crushed), ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp chilli flakes
Don’t forget to fluff up your rice with a fork and place your raita in the refrigerator to chill. Serve your aromatic biryani hot with the chilled garlic-flavoured raita for an unforgettable culinary experience. Bon appetit!
All images: Courtesy Pankaj Bhadouria/Shutterstock
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