Sunday, March 27, 2016

Shrimp and Vegetable Biryani


This Shrimp and Vegetable biryani is a must make dish in my house.  I love to entertain with it because it's so aromatic and  full of bold exotic flavors.  The dish definitely feeds a crowd easily and leaves everyone happy. 

I made this biryani for our Easter Sunday lunch.  My family and I have become a little obsessed with making different kinds of biryani lately and once you get the method down, it's really quite easy to make at home.  

I almost prefer it to making 3-5 different curries as we usually do when I make a typical rice and curry meal.  I only used two pots and a casserole dish so that's much easier for me at clean up time as well.   

When I started cooking the biryani for lunch the aroma filled the kitchen and made it smell fabulous.  My son ran into the kitchen and took a big deep breath.  He was so excited because he loves biryani and could not wait to dig into it. I have to agree... you start to enjoy the meal before it's even made because it is so aromatic and your sense of smell is telling you something good is about to come out of the kitchen.   This biryani made our holiday fun and festive.  We even got to eat eggs with it so it made it perfect for Easter. 

Shrimp and Vegetable Biryani
Recipe by Ramona from Kitchen Simmer

The Rice:
3 cups uncooked basmati rice (rinsed)
2 dry bay leaves
3-4 cardamom pods
3-4 cloves
2-3 star anise
1 stick (2 inches) cinnamon stick
1 Tbs chicken bullion powder
5 cups cold water

The Biryani Curry:
1 stick margarine
2 medium onions finely chopped
12-20 curry leaves
2-3 pandan leaves

1 piece lemongrass 2-3 jalapeno peppers sliced
2-3 stalks celery sliced
3-4 cups white cabbage sliced 
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs grated fresh garlic
1 1/2 cups sliced sweet pepper or 2 red/yellow bell peppers
2 cups sliced green onions/scallions
1 cups sliced or julienned carrots 
2 medium zucchini cut in half and sliced
red chili flakes (to taste) 1 tsp turmeric powder
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes  
1 package Biryani powder
salt and black pepper to taste (if needed)
1/2 up to 1 cup water 
1 Tbs chicken bullion powder-Knorr (if desired)
2 pounds clean (shelled and deveined)
1 cup buttermilk


The  Shrimp 
Step 1: Clean and devein shrimp. Keep shrimp cool until needed. 

Note: frozen shrimp can be defrosted in cold water if needed.   Cleaned shrimp is recommended for easier eating.

Cooking the Biryani Rice: 
Step 2: Rinse rice well in cold water until water runs clear from any starch and rice residue.   Then add the cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom pods, star anise, chicken bullion powder and water.  Bring to a boil on high heat and then lower to simmer. Stir occasionally so rice does not stick to bottom of pot.   Cook until water is absorbed and rice is not fully cooked.  Remove off heat and set aside until later. 

Tip:  Once the rice has cooled down, I recommend you remove as much of the seeds, pods, sticks and leaves from the rice before layering it into the biryani pan.

Shrimp and Vegetable Biryani Curry:
In a large pan, heat the margarine with chopped white onion, curry leaves, pandan leaves and lemongrass on medium high heat.  Season onions with a little salt. Then when onions start to soften, add sliced cabbage, jalapeno peppers and celery. Again season with a little salt and saute for 3-5 minutes.

Next add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes.  Then add the red chili flakes, black pepper and turmeric powder. 

Next add the scallions, zucchini, carrots and sweet peppers. Season new vegetables with a little salt and cook for 2 minutes.  Then add the box of biryani mix and the canned tomatoes. Stir well.

Add the water and simmer on medium low.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.  Add more chicken bullion powder here for more salt and flavor if needed. Then add the cleaned shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. You only want to partially cook the shrimp at this point because it will finish cooking in the oven.

 Finally turn off the stove and add the buttermilk.  Gently stir to combine well.  Set the curry aside until assembly of the biryani. 

Assembling the Biryani :
In a large casserole dish, add a layer of biryani curry with some of the gravy.  Then layer almost 2/3 of the parboiled rice over the curry.  Repeat with more curry mixture and gravy. 

 Then add another layer of rice (keep about 2 cups of cooked rice for the top layer.  Repeat with more curry.  I kept a few pieces of shrimp to put on the very top layer.  

Tip: the "gravy" in the curry is there to make sure the rice cooks through in the oven and does not dry out.  Make sure you put gravy around the edges of the casserole pan so the the rice on the edge can cook through and does not dry out.  

Note: If you have a little extra curry, that can be warmed and served at the table if desired. 

Finish off with the final layer of rice then top with biryani powder.  The biryani powder is optional only for aesthetics purposes and not necessary for the dish.  Cover the casserole dish in foil and place in a 375 degree oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Take out of the oven and gently mix a little to distribute the layers.  Serve biryani hot with cucumber raita or any green salad, boiled eggs, papadoms etc.. Enjoy.   

Note:  Remember when you eat curry or biryani, the cardamom pods, cloves, curry leaves, pandan leaves are meant to be removed as you eat.  They are only there to enhance the flavors of the dish and are not meant to be eaten.  Eating them does no harm, but the flavors are very strong and not pleasant on their own. 


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