Paneer biryani

Features Food and Drink

Home-cooked curries don’t need to be difficult. This biryani is a delicious veggie (or vegan, see variations) meal which can be brought together in just half an hour. It’s made in a single pan, the rice being cooked with the curry to soak up the sweet and spicy flavours.

2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Nutmeg
3 tsp Cinnamon
1 tbsp. Balti spice paste
2 Bay leaves
2 Vegetable stock cubes
2 Onions
1 clove of garlic
400g basmati rice
100g sultanas
400g paneer

1) Soak the rice in hot water, leave it to soak for a few minutes and rinse with cold water in a sieve until the water runs clear. Set aside.
2) Cut the paneer into roughly 2cm cubes and fry in a little oil in a wok or saucepan, turning gently with a wooden spoon. Paneer is crumbly before it’s cooked and if treated roughly it will form crumbs which will quickly burn on the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the edges of the paneer are turning golden-brown. Remove the paneer from the pan and set aside.
3) Cut the onions into small cubes, finely chop a clove of garlic and fry both with two bay leaves until the onions are going soft and slightly translucent.
4) Add the spices Balti paste to the onion and stir in. Add the cooked paneer back to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stir to ensure that the paneer is coated in the spices.
5) Make up 900ml of vegetable stock and stir into the pan with the sultanas and washed rice. Bring the pan to the boil; cover and leave to simmer for around 5 minutes (the rice should look swollen and cooked by the end of this step). If you are cooking in a wok or frying pan, a baking tray can be used to cover it; stir occasionally to ensure that the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
7) Remove the pan from the heat and keep covered for a further five minutes before serving: this allows the rice and cheese to soak up the sauce.

Tips and Variations
Larger supermarkets usually stock paneer but it can sometimes be hard to find. If this is the case then this recipe works equally well with halloumi which is more widely available, though more expensive.

Tofu can also be used in place of paneer to make the dish suitable for vegans. The trick to cooking good tofu lies in pressing it thoroughly before cutting it. This can be done by wrapping it in kitchen towel, placing it between two plates and placing some heavy books on top for half an hour or so.

For a spicier or milder curry you can experiment with a different spice pastes. Balti is a good starting point because it fills the middle ground with regards to spice and it complements the sweeter spices used in the recipe really well.

PHOTO/Jamie Russell


Sign up for the newsletter!

Want to contribute? Join our contributors’ group here or email us – click here for contact details