Vegetarian Biryani with spicy paneer

(la traduction en français arrive sous peu…)
My quest for the perfect biryani recipe has started a few years ago. After tasting the best biryani ever in a restaurant in Dubai, I wanted to be able to eat in my own home the delicate and delicious taste of the spices, and the perfect texture of the rice… I tried many recipes, even bought some ready made spices-mix (a total heresy for me!) but it seems I never managed to get it right… Eventually, I gave up, I even gave up eating biryani in restaurants here in Geneva, as they usually turned out even worse than my attempts…
However, when my dear Heavenly Housewife challenged us to prepare a biryani, I decided it was time to try once more… And I did well!
The result was beyond my expectations! Of course, it is far from the perfection of the biryani I ate in Dubai, but seriously, it is pretty close to it…
The list of ingredients is quite long, and the preparation might seem lenghty, but fear not, it can be done in… let’s say about 2 hours (not counting the cooking time in the oven) and the preparation can be spread on two days (pls see my note at the bottom of the post)
By the way, what is a biryani?

The name “biryani” come from the Persian word beryān/biryan which means “fried” or “roasted“. There are many kinds of biryanis and it is a festive dish both in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines. The origin of biryani in India comes from the Moghol dynasty (originally from Persia) who brought many delicate and eleborated dishes to the already rich Indian cuisine.  Biryani is made from a mixture of spices, basmati rice, meat or vegetables and yogurt.  Unlike pulao in which all ingredients are cooked together, the main components of biryani are cooked separately, then layered and finally slowly cooked in the oven.

And before sharing the recipe, I can only advise you to visit these talented bloggers for more biryani-love:

Vegetarian Biryani with spicy paneer

Recipe adapted from IndiaCurry (here)
ingredients for 4-5 servings:
  • Spiced water
8dl water
2 cm fresh ginger, chopped
6 black cardamom pods, crushed
10 black peppercorn
4 cm cinnamon stick, broken in half
4 whole cloves
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 Bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Spiced milk

2 dl milk
2 cardamom pods, crushed
a pinch of Saffron strands
1 teaspoon rose water

  • Rice

150g (1cup) Basmati rice
2 cups spiced water
a few saffron strands
1/2 teaspon salt

  • Vegetable Layer

1 tablespoon Ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
1 medium onions,chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
½ cup green peas
salt to taste
¼ cup yogurt
½ cup spiced water

  • Paneer Layer

200g paneer, cubed
1 tablespoon Ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
1 medium onion,chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1cm ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder

  • Garnish layer

1 tablespoon ghee (or neutral oil, such as sunflower)
2 medium onions, chopped
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
3 tablespoons cashews
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped fresh peppermint leaves

  • Chapatti dough to seal the pot

2 cups wholemeal flour
Water to knead the dough (about 1/3 cup)


1. Prepare the spiced water: put the water and the spices indicated under “spiced water” in a pot and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Drain and keep aside.

2. Prepare the spiced milk: put the milk, cardamom pods and saffron in a pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool, remove the cardamom pods and add the rosewater.

3.Prepare the paneer:Heat the ghee in a pan, add the onion. Fry for 2-3 minutes, add the spices. Fry for 2-3 more minutes. Add the paneer. Stir well to coat it with the spice and fry for a few minutes. Keep aside.

4. Prepare the vegetable: Put the ghee in a pan, add the onion. Fry for 2-3 minutes, add the spices. Fry for 2-3 more minutes. Add the vegetable, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Reduce heat to medium, add 1/2 cup of spiced water and the yogurt. Simmer until the vegetable are nearly cooked (about 10-15 minutes).

5. Prepare the garnish layer: Heat the ghee in a pan, add the onions and fry them until golden brown. Add the cashew and almonds. Fry for 2 more minutes. Keep aside and add the chopped herbs.

6. Prepare the rice: Rinse the rice until the water is clear. Put in a pot and add 2 cups of spiced water and 1/2 a teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil Reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let is stand for 10 more minutes.If there is water that has not been absorbed, drain it.

7. Prepare the chapatti dough: slowly add a little water to the flour until combined. Knead for 2 minutes. Keep aside.
8. Layering the biryani: Preheat the oven to 210°C. Spread one layer of rice in a pot. Sprinkle about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.
Add the vegetables, spreading them evenly. Cover with one thin layer of rice, sprinkling about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.
Add the paneer, spreading it evenly. Add a thin layer of rice, sprinkling about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice.

Add the garnish ingredients and finally, top it with a final layer of rice. Sprinkle with about 2-3 teaspoons of spiced water and 2-3 teaspoons of spiced milk on the rice

Take 1/3 of the dough and roll it in a 1 cm diameter log. Place it around the edge of the pot. Roll the rest of the dough in a circle, a bit bigger than the diameter of your pot. Cover the pot with it, pressing the edges on the log, so that it is well sealed.

Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.Then, reduce heat to 180°C and cook for 20 more minutes.

When serving, cut off the bread lid and stir the biryani with a spoon to combine all the flavours.


1. If you are short of time, you can prepare steps 1 to 5 the day before and keep all the items in the refrigerator.

2. It is not necessary to seal with a chapatti. You can seal the pot with a tight lid or with foil, tightly wrapped around the pot.

3. You can add cauliflower and/or other veggies. Similarly, paneer can be omitted or replaced by boiled eggs.

Baklawas with Almond and Pecan – Daring Baker Challenge – Baklawas aux amandes et noix de pécan


(en français, plus bas)

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

I was particularly looking forward to the Daring Bakers Challenge of June on baklawas.

As you might know, I am passionnate about everything Middle-Eastern: languages, culture and of course, the food. And what could be a better representative of Middle-Eastern amazing culinary traditions than baklawas? For me they are a quintessential element of the Middle-Eastern culture and biting in a baklawa is always sending me to these enchanted lands…

The first time I ate a baklawa, I very much disliked it, though.

I  found it far too sweet!

That was long ago…

Then, I travelled to the Middle-East and slowly got used to eat one, then two, or even many more of these delightful sweets, I got used to the crunchy syrup-coated crust, followed by the flavours of the nuts delicately mingling with the orange blossom or rose water… All the refinement of the Orient is found in them.

I am happy to share my very own theory about baklawas : they are indeed healthy stuff and therefore we should regularly indulge in eating them…

As you will see in the recipe below, there are only good ingredients in them: nuts (good for your magnesium, folic acid and vitamin E intake), honey (full of minerals and B-vitamins ), orange blossom (a natural anxiety reliever) and all the love that has been put into them, especially if like the Daring Bakers, you made the phyllo pastry yourself…

Making my own phyllo pastry was an adventure in itself, believe me. Rolling the dough until it is so thin that one can see through it is really not as easy as it sounds… Many times, when the desired thinness what obtained, the sheet ended up torn when I was taking from the working plan… and boy, that rolling style is taking lots of energy!! I am glad I did it once, but I do not think I will make it anymore because there was no noticeable difference in taste from the store-bought one.

I had initially thought of combining cashew and peanuts, but did not feel like shelling the peanut, so I finally opted for a simpler combination: pecan nuts and almonds.

This was a good combination, because the taste of the pecans compliments the taste of almonds in a very subtle way, both of them blending well with the orange-blossom syrup. I even had some of the baklawas tasted by my very dear Jordanian  friend, H. who found them delicious!  Her expert opinion on baklawas is giving me confidence that  I will bake baklawas again very soon …

Let’s prepare almonds and pecan baklawas:

In the challenge we were asked to make our phyllo pastry from scratch. As I had never done it, I followed the recipe given by Erica to the word (here). However for the other components of the baklawas (syrup and filling) I adapted Claudia Roden’s baklawa recipe, that is using much less sugar (she does not put sugar in the filling and given the sweetness of the syrup, I thought it would be better).

Ingredients for a 22×26 cm baking dish or about 30 baklawas (4x3cm)

For the syrup,

adapted from Claudia Roden’s  “A New Book of Middle Eastern Food”

180g brown sugar

50 ml liquid honey

150ml water

1tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons orange blossom water


In a non-stick pot, dissolve the sugar with water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil on high heat Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the syrup is thick enough to coat a spoon.

Add the orange blossom water. Stir well and simmer for 1 more minute.

Let it cool.

Pecan and almonds filling:

200g almonds

100g pecan nuts

1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

Assembling the Baklawas:

about 100g melted butter


Preheat oven to 160°C.

Combine almonds and pecan nuts with cardamom powder in a food processor and pulse briefly until coarsely chopped.

Brush you baking dish with a generous amount of butter.

Trim the phyllo sheets to the size of the baking dish.

Place the first phyllo sheet in the dish and brush with butter. Repeat the operation with about 5 phyllo sheets.

Then, spread half of the nuts mixture on top of it, making it as even as possible.

Continue layering about 5 phyllo sheets, buttering them each time.

Spread the other half of nuts.

Cover with the remaining phyllo sheets, buttering each of them. Tuck the last phyllo sheet in all edges.

Using  a sharp knife, cut your baklawas in lozenges, squares or rectangles.

Again, brush with melted butter.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Then, take out of the oven and cut once more the desired shapes, all the way through.

Increase the oven temperature to 210°C and bake for 10 more minutes.

Remove from the oven and pour over the syrup all over the baklawas.

Let them cool and wait a few hours before serving.

Baklawas should be kept at room temperature and not refrigerated.

Challenge des Daring Bakers du mois de juin: Baklawas aux amandes et noix de pécan

J’ai été particulièrement ravie à l’idée de préparer le dessert du challenge des Daring Bakers du mois de juin, qui portait sur les baklawas.
Comme vous le savez peut-être, je suis totalement passionné par le Moyen-Orient: langues, culture et bien sûr, la nourriture. Et qu’est-ce qui représente le mieux les merveilles des traditions culinaires de cette région que les baklawas? Pour moi elles sont l’essence de la culture du Moyen-Orient et croquer une baklawa m’emmène toujours vers ces terres enchantées …

Toutefois, il faut bien que je vous avoue que la première fois que j’ai mangé une baklawa, je n’ai pas du tout aimé.

Je l’ai trouvée tellement sucrée que j’en étais toute écoeurée …

C’était il ya longtemps …

Puis, j’ai souvent voyagé au Moyen-Orient et peu à peu, j’ai pris l’habitude de manger une, puis deux, ou même beaucoup plus de ces délicieuses douceurs, m’habituant à la croûte croustillante et sucrée,  qui se mêle aux saveurs des noix et de la fleur d’ oranger ou de l’eau de rose … Tout le raffinement de l’Orient dans une bouchée!

J’ai même une théorie selon laquelle les baklawas sont vraiment bonnes pour la santé et que, par conséquent,  nous devrions régulièrement en manger … Comme vous le constaterez dans la recette ci-dessous, il n’y a que de bon ingrédients dedans: différentes sortes de noix (excellente source de magnésium, acide folique et vitamine E), du miel (source de minéraux et de vitamines B), de la fleur d’oranger (qui est un tranquilisant naturel) et  bien sûr, tout l’amour qui a été mis en les préparant, surtout si comme les Daring Bakers, vous avez fait la pâte filo vous-même , ce qui constitue une vraie aventure, croyez-moi. Je suis contente de l’avoir fait une fois dans ma vie, mais, je ne pense pas réitérer l’expérience,  parce qu’il n’y avait de différence notable dans le goût entre la filo maison et celle acheté dans une épicerie orientale.

Nous avions le choix pour la garniture et au départ, j’avais pensé à mélanger des cajou et des cacahuètes, mais a finalement j’ai opté pour une combinaison plutôt simple: noix de pécan et amandes.

Le résultat m’a beaucoup plu pour un premier essai, car le goût de la noix de pécan agrémente le goût de l’amande de façon très subtile. Le sirop seul a largement suffi pour obtenir des baklawas agréablement sucrées. J’ai même décidé de les faire goûter à ma très chère amie jordanienne H. qui les a trouvé délicieuses!  Son avis m’a rassuré et je sens que je vais très bientôt en refaire…

Maintenant, voyons comment préparer des baklawas:

Pour le challenge, il était obligatoire de faire la pâte filo nous-mêmes. Comme je n’en avais jamais fait, j’ai suivi à la lettre la recette donnée par Erica (ici, en anglais).Pour les autres étapes de la confection des baklawas, j’ai préféré adapter  la recette du livre de Claudia Roden, qui utilise beaucoup moins de sucre. Elle ne met pas de sucre dans la garniture et étant donné que le sirop est très sucré, j’ai pensé que ça suffisait!)

Ingrédients pour un moule 22×26 cm ou environ 30 baklawas carrés (4x3cm)

Pour le sirop:

adapté du livre de Claudia Roden  “A new book of Middle Eastern food”

180g de sucre brun

50 ml de miel liquide

150 ml d’eau

1 cuillère à soupe de jus de citron

2 cuillères à soupe d’eau de fleur d’oranger


Dans une casserole anti-adhésive, dissoudre le sucre avec l’eau et le jus de citron. Porter à ébullition à feu vif , puis réduire à feu moyen et laisser mijoter pendant 10-15 minutes.

Ajouter l’eau de fleur d’oranger. Bien remuer et laisser mijoter pendant encore 1 minute.

Laisser refroidir.

Garniture aux amandes et noix de pécan:

200g d’amandes

100g noix de pécan

1/2 cuillère à café de cardamome en poudre

Assemblage des baklawas:

environ 100g de beurre fondu


Préchauffer le four à 160 ° C.

Mélanger les amandes,les noix de pécan et la cardamome en poudre dans un mixeur et hacher grossièrement.

A l’aide d’un pinceau, badigeonner le moule avec une bonne quantité de beurre fondu.

Couper les feuilles de pâte phyllo à la taille du moule de cuisson.

Déposer la première feuille de pâte filo dans le plat et la badigeonner de beurre. Répéter  l’opération avec au moins 5 feuilles de pâte phyllo.

Ensuite, répartir uniformément  la moitié du mélange des noix dessus.

Continuer en superposant 5  feuilles de pâte phyllo, en  badigeonnant de beurre à chaque fois.

Etaler l’autre  moitié des noix.

Couvrir avec le reste feuilles de pâte phyllo, en beurrant chacune d’elles. Bien rentrer les bords de la dernière feuille de filo à l’intérieur du plat.

A l’aide d’un couteau pointu, couper des losanges ou des carrés ou des rectangles.

Encore une fois, badigeonner de beurre fondu.

Cuire au four pendant 45 minutes. Ensuite, sortir du four et couper une fois encore dans les marques en allant bien jusqu’au fond du moule.

Augmenter la température du four à 210 ° C et cuire pendant  encore 10minutes.

Retirer du four et verser le sirop sur les baklawas.

Laisser refroidir et attendre quelques heures avant de servir.

Les baklawas doivent être conservées à température ambiante et non réfrigérées.

Nut Roast with za’atar – Pâté végétal aux oléagineux et za’atar

(recette en français, plus bas)

As surprising as it might sound and even if I have been a vegetarian for quite a number of years,  I had never baked or even tasted nut roasts…

The first time I heard about nut roasts was on Johanna’s blog, Green Gourmet Giraffe…  I remember finding the ingredients very appetizing and liking the idea of a vegetarian “meatloaf” (this is how it looked to me) , I kept the idea in mind and… kind of forgot about it until a few weeks ago, when Johanna announced her second “A Neb at Nut Roast” event, I pledge to myself that I would not miss it!

In case you haven’t heard of nut roast either, a it is a kind vegetarian roast made of different ingredients: one or several kind(s) of nuts + legumes or cereals + spices and/ or herbs + sometimes cheese and egg, if it is not a vegan one. Traditionnally, it is served as a vegetarian option for the Christmas dinner or any other celebration serving roasted meat. If you want to know more about Nut Roasts and learn a Scottish slang word check here (click).

The reason the name really striked me is probably because my mother tongue is French, and to my ears, a roast (un rôti, in French) sounded like a piece of meat, roasted in the oven… and if we want to go deeper into the subtleties of the French language, a nut (une noix, in French) can be at least 3 things: a walnut, a knob of something (usually, butter) or a specific piece of meat called, la noix, which is cut somewhere at the back of the poor animal’s haunch…

Of course, by seeing what it looked like, I could imagine that the translation in French would be either “pâté végétarien” or “terrine végétarienne” but this would mean that the nutty component is omitted…  I started searching recipes for a  pâté végétarien on my favourite French vegetarian cookbooks and blogs and all the vegetarian pâtés recipes I found,usually DID NOT contained any nuts, but only legume or cereal vegetables and seasoning… I even went through my copy of “Pâtés végétaux et tartinades” page by page and   but could not find any equivalent of the nut roast in over 60 recipes of vegetarian pâtés…

I started to fear that the nuts of the nut roast would be lost in the translation and in the French recipes…Was it the graal or the nut roast that I was looking for? I was starting to wonder…

Finally – hooray! -I found one of Clea’s recipes that  looked like a nut roast, it was made of lentils, walnuts and cashew, and spiced up by one of my favourite herb mix: za’atar!

I immediately tried this recipe, following exactly the instructions; even if I liked it despite the not very flavourful taste,  Mr Artichoke complained that it was very bland and he would not eat more than half a slice… As the texture was really great (the outside was firm and a little crunchy, the inside was soft and moist, with the little crunchy bits) I decided to prepare another version, changing only the quantity of za’atar and shalots and adding some extra spices and onions… The result was perfect to both our tastes: flavourful and only slightly spicy. We ate is with a salad and the rests with some bread, mustard and fresh sprouts, but  I can imagine preparing it for a picnic, or taking it in my lunch box, with a salad.

I am surely going to further  explore the world of nut roasts in a very near future! In the meantime and just in time , I am  sending this recipe to  Johanna, with my hearful thanks for making me discover nut roasts 🙂

and as one of the main ingredients is lentils,  I am also sending it to Smitha  – Kannada Kitchen, who is hosting this month edition of MLLA ( no.35). My Legume Love Affair is an event started by Susan of the blog The Well-Seasoned Cook, celebrating legumes.

Ingredient for a 20x10cm loaf tin

recipe adapted from Clea’s recipe here

200g red lentils (masoor dal)
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 medium onion or 2 small, finely chopped
50 g walnuts
100 g almonds (80g + 20g)
50 g  cashew nuts
3 tablespoons  za’atar
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon of salt or a little more, to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch
1 tablespoon  flour
1 egg

note: za’atar is a Middle-eastern spice mix, composed of thyme, sesame seeds, salt and sometimes cumin. In this recipe, it can be easily replace by Madras curry powder or different combination of spices (cumin + coriander + chili powder or garam masala + chili  or parsley + oregano + garlic flakes, or whatever you like!)


Boil about a litre of water in a large saucepan. When the water boils, add turmeric and the lentils.
Reduce the heat slightly and simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until lentils are soft but still firm.

Put the shallots, onion, nuts, half the cashews, 80g almonds, chili, salt and pepper in a blender and pulse into a coarse powder.

Preheat oven to 180 ° C.

Pour the drained lentils in a bowl, add the blended mixture walnut-onion shallots and za’atar.  Mash with a fork.

Add flour and cornstarch and mix well.

In another bowl, beat the egg with a fork and add it to mixture. Stir well :  the egg needs to be distributed evenly into the mixture.

Line a loaf tin with parchment paper. Pour in the mixture and tighten it up by pressing on the top of it with your fingers..

Bake for 45 minutes.

Let it cool in the tin. Serve with a salad,  in a sandwich or cut into small sticks as an appetizer.

Pâté végétal au za’atar

Ingrédient pour un moule à cake de 20x10cm

recette adaptée d’une recette de Cléa, (ici)

200g lentilles corail

½ cuillère à café de curcuma

2 échalotes, hachée

1 oignon moyen ou 2 petits, hachés

50 grammes de cerneaux de noix
100 grammes d’amandes (80g + 20g)

50g de noix de cajou
3 cuillères à soupe de za’atar

½ cuillère à café de poudre de piment rouge

½ c.à café de sel ou un peu plus, selon votre goût

2 c. à soupe de fécule de maïs ou pomme de terre

1 c. à soupe de farine

1 oeuf

Note: le za’atar est un mélange d’épices Moyen-Oriental, composé de thym, graines de sésame, sel et parfois du cumin. Dans cette recette, il peut être facilement remplacé par de la poudre de curry Madras  ou par une combinaison d’épices (cumin + coriandre en poudre + poudre de piment ou de garam masala + chili ou de persil + origan + flocons d’ail, ou ce que vous voulez!)

Préparation :

Faire bouillir un litre d’eau dans une grande casserole. Quand l’eau bout, ajouter le curcuma et les lentilles.

Baisser un peu le feu et laisser cuire à petits bouillons pendant 15 minutes ou jusqu’à ce que les lentilles soient molles, mais encore fermes. Egoutter.

Mettre les échalotes, l’oignon, les noix, la moitié des noix de cajou, 80g d’ amandes, du sel et du poivre dans un mixeur et les réduire en poudre grossière.

Préchauffer le four à 180°C.

Verser les lentilles égouttées dans un saladier, y ajouter le mélange mixé de noix-oignons-échalotes et le za’atar. Ecraser avec une fourchette.

Ajouter la farine et la fécule et bien mélanger.

Battre l’œuf avec une fourchette et l’ajouter au mélange. Bien remuer pour que l’œuf se répartisse bien partout.

Recouvrir un moule à cake avec du papier sulfurisé. Le remplir avec le mélange et bien tasser en appuyant dessus avec les doigts.

Cuire au four pendant 45 minutes.

Laisser refroidir dans le moule. Servir avec une salade, dans un sandwich ou coupé en petits bâtonnets, comme apéritif.