Vegetable Biryani

Recipes by Nancy Johnson | Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

Biryani is a warmly-spiced rice dish, popular throughout much of India. Nearly every region boasts its own version of Biryani, but in the tropical areas of India, coconut milk is often a tasty ingredient. Here, cumin, coriander, garam masala, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne and whole cloves add layers of flavor. You may also add a bit of saffron, if desired. Garam masala is an aromatic blend of spices, readily available at most grocery stores.

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp coriander

2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne

2 TBS unrefined (virgin) coconut oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 TBS ginger root

1 can (13.5-oz) coconut milk

1/2 tsp saffron (optional)

3 whole cloves

4 peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes

1/2 cup water

2 cups cauliflower florets

1 cup frozen peas

2 TBS raisins

2 TBS lemon juice

Salt, to taste

2 TBS toasted chopped unsalted almonds or cashews, for garnish

2 TBS minced cilantro, for garnish

4 cups cooked Basmati rice

Raita (recipe follows)

Naan (flatbread)

Make Biryani spice mix: In a small bowl, stir together cumin, coriander, garam masala, cardamom, cinnamon and cayenne. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium low heat. Add onions and sauté until softened. Add garlic and ginger. Sauté 1 minute. Add spice mix. Stir to coat onion mixture. Sauté 1 minute until fragrant. Add coconut milk, saffron (if using), cloves and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are nearly cooked through. Add water and cauliflower florets.  Increase heat, bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 7-10 minutes or until potatoes and cauliflower are tender. Add peas, raisins and lemon juice. Cover and simmer 2 minutes longer or until peas are heated through. Remove whole cloves. Add salt to taste. Serve over Basmati rice, garnished with almonds or cashews and cilantro. Serve Raita in small individual bowls accompanied by plenty of naan. Serves 4.

Gary: With the sweetness of the coconut milk a softly-sweet or lightly-dry white would be a pleasant match. Austrian Gruner-Veltliner or the cool-climate new-world examples, such as those from Ohio, would pair nicely, and the citrusy, fruity notes of a Torrontes would work. Riesling again is a very versatile white with acidity and a hint of sweetness that comes in dry to softly-dry styles. Sparkling wines would be a pleasant foil. For Champagne look for the Extra Dry designation, which is less dry than Brut. Prosecco Extra Dry would be a light and crisp value choice.

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