Sunday, April 3, 2016

Quinoa Cauliflower Biryani

I got introduced to quinoa sometime last year, as a great substitute to rice. Its gluten-free, high in fiber and is a complete protein that provides all nine essential amino acids for good health. Its not technically a grain but still counts as a 'whole grain' food. After learning all its benefits, the only question was how best to use it in recipes. Biryani is my favorite dish in the world, but I always make a meat-based biryani. So this time I tried a vegetarian biryani using cauliflower and peas, and substituted the rice for quinoa. Turns out its pretty good! Has all the flavors of a good biryani, and you won't die of guilt.

For quinoa:
Rainbow Quinoa - 1 and 1/2 cup
Green Cardamom seeds - 1/2 tsp
Black cardamom - 1
Cloves - 3-5 pcs
Cinnamon stick - 1 inch piece
Bay leaf - 1
Water - 2 and 1/4 cups
Salt to taste

For cauliflower:
Cauliflower florets - 2 cups (from one head)
Green peas (fresh or frozen) - 1/2 cup
Ghee/oil - 1 tbsp.
Onion - 1 large, thinly sliced
Green chilli - 3 or 4, thinly sliced
Ginger - 2 tbsp, minced fine
Garlic - 3-4 cloves, minced fine
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Green Cardamom seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cloves - 3-5 pcs
Cinnamon stick - 1 inch piece
Bay leaf - 1
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Yogurt - 1 and 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Cilantro and mint leaves - a handful each, chopped coarsely

For garnish:
Cashews, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, thinly sliced onion - a handful or as per your liking
Ghee - 2 tbsp
Milk - 1/2 cup
Safrron strands - a good pinch
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Cilantro and mint leaves

First fry all the ingredients for garnish, one at a time in some ghee. First the almonds, then the cashews, then raisins, then cranberries and finally finely sliced onions. Collect them all in a bowl and mix.

For the Quinoa:

Wash the quinoa thoroughly and drain. In a large saucepan, add a teaspoon of oil or ghee. Add cardamom seeds, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. When you get a good aroma, add the washed quinoa and fry for 2-3 minutes. Then add some salt (about a teaspoon) and water. Cover and cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, until most of the water has been absorbed. Then turn the heat off and let sit for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork.

For the Cauliflower:
In a dutch oven, add oil or ghee and heat on medium. Add cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. When you get a good aroma, add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chilies. Saute on medium heat until onion turns golden. Add coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric and garam masala. Fry for a few minutes until the raw smell dissipates. Add about half a cup of water, salt and mix. Add cauliflower and peas. Also add the cilantro and mint (save some for final garnish). Give it a good mix. Cover and cook until cauliflower turns tender but still has a slight crunch, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low, and add the yogurt and gently stir it in. Keep stirring so the yogurt doesn't split, and cook for about 5 minutes.

Final assembly:
Heat the milk in a bowl and add turmeric powder and saffron strands.
In a deep pan or dutch oven, first add a layer of quinoa. Sprinkle some saffron turmeric milk and garam masala. Then add a layer of the cauliflower gravy. Sprinkle with the nut mixture. Repeat the process until you have a final layer of quinoa. Add the last of the saffron turmeric milk and nuts. Finally garnish with mint and cilantro. Cover tightly with a lid. You can bake this at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle some lemon juice on top for added flavor, but its optional.
Serve hot with raita, pickle and pappadums!