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.

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.

Vatteppam – Vattayappa (steamed rice cakes) for the Indian Cooking Challenge – Gâteau de riz du Kerala

(en français, plus bas)

One of the reason I enjoy cooking so much, is that it has no limit when it comes to creativity and innovation and there is always something new to learn: techniques, ingredients, flavours, etc. I often try to go out of my comfort zone and discover new culinary horizons and participating to blog cooking challenges is a great way to do so.

I had long heard about the Indian Cooking Challenge, but was feeling a bit shy to join the group until this month… Even if I have learnt basic things and techniques about Indian cuisine with my family-in-law,  Mr Artichoke himself (who was a great cook before we got married…) or by trying recipes from books and blogs, there is so much diversity and so many regional food in Indian cuisine, that I was not sure to be able to complete the challenges… I am happy to say that my first ICC went well!

This month, the Indian Cooking Challenge ,  took  us to the beautiful Indian state of Kerala:  Srivalli selected vattayappam (also known as vatteppam) a steamed rice cakes, which is an authentic dessert from Kerala. The recipe was chosen from Shn’s blog:  Mishmash.

These little cakes turn out fluffy and very pleasantly “coconutty”, they make a very nice snack. I steamed most of them in tin moulds and in silicons moulds. Both cooked well.

Ingredients for about 10-12 individual small cakes (idli/muffin size)

recipe adapted from Shn (here)

for the rice batter:

1 cup raw Idli rice, soaked overnight or at least for 8 hours (I used sushi rice, as it is the same kind of short grain, low starch rice, see info here)
¾ cup dried coconut flakes, soaked in 3 tbsp hot water (recipe called for fresh grated coconut)
2 tbsp cooked rice
½ cup water or enough to grind the above ingredients to make a batter ( consistency of batter should be thick )

1 pinch active dry yeast
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp water
1/2tsp sugar

Rice porridge (Thari Kurukku):

2 tbsp the rice above, ground
about  ½ cup water

½ cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp cashew nuts (original recipe: 1/2 tbsp)
1/4 cup raisins (original recipe: 1/2 tbsp)
1 tbsp ghee

Coconut flakes for serving


Soak the rice overnight, so that it become really soft to be ground. As I do not live in a warm country, I soaked it about 12 hours. If you live in a warm country, you’ll need less soaking time.
Grind it in a blender with a little bit of water. You might add a little more water during the blending, so that it blends into a thick paste.
Take out 2 tablespoons of the mixture and keep aside, it will be used later to prepare the rice porridge.
Add the coconut and the two tablespoons of cooked rice. Blend until smooth.

In a bowl, combine one pinch of yeast with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and lukewarm water. Leave for about 15 min.

Prepare the rice porridge:  mix the two tablespoons of ground rice and about 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. When it boils, reduce the heat to low and keep on stirring until the porridge becomes thick. Keep aside to cool down.

Add 4 tablespoons of the cold porridge to the ground rice/coconut batter and blend once more.  Add the yeast mixture, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and mix well.

Keeping in mind that the batter will double during fermentation, pour it into a big glass container, cover with a clean cloth and leave it to ferment for about 6 hours or overnight.

After that time, gently stir in the sugar into the batter. Cover and keep aside for 2 hours.

In the meantime, heat a pan and dry roast the cashew nuts. Keep aside. Heat the ghee in a pan and add the raisins, stir well and fry for 1-2 minutes. Mix with the cashew and keep aside.

After the 2 hours, stir the raisins, cashew and cardamom powder into the batter.

Heat water in a steamer.

Grease your moulds lightly with some oil and pour the batter or into idli moulds, filling them only up to 3/4.
Steam for 20-25 minutes. I wrap the lid in a clean kitchen towel before covering the steamer, by doing so, you will prevent water drop falling onto your cakes.

Take out from the moulds, let them cool down and sprinkle with dessicated coconut flakes before serving. The vattayappam can be cut into wedges before serving.

Vattayappam, Gâteau de riz du Kerala

Cela faisait longtemps que j’avais entendu parler du Indian Cooking Challenge, mais je n’osais pas trop rejoindre ce groupe … car même si j’ai appris pas mal de choses et techniques de base en cuisine indienne avec ma belle-famille, M. Artichoke lui-même (qui était un bon cuisinier avant que nous soyons mariés …) ou en essayant les recettes des livres et des blogs, il y a une telle diversité et variations culinaires selon les différentes régionaux dans la cuisine indienne, que je n’étais pas sûre d’être capable de réussir les challenges proposés.

Le challenge de ce mois-ci nous emmène dans le bel état indien du Kerala: Srivalli a choisi que nous préparions des vattayappam (également connu sous le nom de vatteppam) un gâteau de riz cuit à la vapeur, qui est un dessert authentique du Kerala. La recette a été choisi sur le blog  Mishmash.

Ingrédients pour environ 10-12 petits gâteaux individuels (de la taille d’un muffin ou d’un idli )

pour la pâte de riz:

1 verre de riz cru pour idli, trempé la veille ou au moins pendant 8 heures (j’ai utilisé du riz à sushi, car c’est le même genre de grain de riz,  court et faible en amidon )
¾ verre de noix de coco en poudre, trempée dans 3 c. à soupe d’eau chaude
2 c. à soupe de riz cuit
environ ½ verre d’eau

1 pincée de levure  de boulanger sèche
1 / 2 c. à café de poudre à lever
3 c. à café d’eau
1/2 c. à café de sucre

porridge de riz (Thari Kurukku):

2 c. à soupe de pâte de riz moulu (voir ci-dessus)
environ ½ verre d’eau

½ verre de sucre
1/2 c.à café de cardamomme en poudre
2 c. à soupe de noix de cajou (recette originale: 1 / 2 c. à soupe)
1 / 4 tasse de raisins secs (recette originale: 1 / 2 c. à soupe)
1 c. à soupe de ghee

un peu de noix de coco en poudre pour le décorer


Faire tremper le riz pendant une nuit, jusqu’à ce qu’il soit bien mou. Comme je n’habite pas dans un pays chaud, je l’ai laissé tremper environ 12 heures. Si vous vivez dans un pays chaud, vous aurez besoin de moins temps de trempage.
Broyer le riz dans un mixer avec un peu d’eau. Vous pouvez ajouter un peu d’eau pendant au cours de l’opération, afin que cela se transforme en  une pâte épaisse.
Mettre de côté 2 cuillères à soupe du mélange, on les  utilisera plus tard pour préparer le porridge de riz.
Ajouter la noix de coco et les deux cuillères à soupe de riz cuit. Mixer jusqu’à consistance onctueuse.

Dans un bol, mélanger une pincée de levure avec 1 / 2 cuillère à café de sucre et l’eau tiède. Laisser reposer pendant environ 15 min.

Préparer le porridge de riz: mélanger les deux cuillères à soupe de riz moulu et environ 1 / 2 verre d’eau. Porter à ébullition, en remuant continuellement. Quand ça bout, baisser à feu doux et continuer à remuer jusqu’à ce que le porridge épaississe. Laisser  refroidir.

Ajouter 4 cuillerées à soupe de porridge froid à la pâte de riz/noix de coco et mélanger à nouveau. Ajouter le mélange de levure et 1 / 2 c. à café de poudre à lever et bien mélanger.

En gardant à l’esprit que la pâte va doubler pendant la fermentation, la verser dans un grand récipient en verre, couvrir avec un linge propre et laisser fermenter pendant environ 6 heures ou toute la nuit.

Après ce temps, incorporer délicatement le sucre dans la pâte. Couvrir et garder de côté pendant 2 heures.

Pendant ce temps, chauffer une poêle et faire rôtir à sec les noix de cajou. Mettre de côté. Faire chauffer le ghee dans une casserole et ajouter les raisins secs, bien mélanger et faire revenir pendant 1-2 minutes. Mélanger avec la noix de cajou.

Après les 2 heures, ajouter les raisins secs, noix de cajou  et cardamome en poudre dans la pâte.

Chauffer l’eau dans un cuit-vapeur.

Graisser légèrement vos moules avec de l’huile et verser la pâte dans des moules, en ne les remplissant que jusqu’aux  3 / 4.
Cuire à la vapeur pendant 20-25 minutes. J’enveloppe le couvercle dans un torchon propre avant de recouvrir le cuit-vapeur, de cette manière, vous empêcherez que des gouttes d’eau ne tombent sur les gâteaux.

Démouler et laisser refroidir. Saupoudrer de noix de coco en poudre avant de servir. Les vattayappam peuvent être coupés en quartiers avant de servir.