Vegetable biriyani with paneer

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a main

Appears in

Lands of the Curry Leaf

Lands of the Curry Leaf

By Peter Kuruvita

Published 2018

  • About

When our Bangladeshi kitchen hands would make staff lunches in the restaurant, it was usually a version of this — a wholesome dish with tons of flavour. The paneer is so easy to prepare, you will wonder why you haven’t made it before, once you do.

Preparation 20 minutes + 20 minutes soaking
Cooking 40 minutes


  • 300 g (10½ oz/ cups) long-grain white or brown basmati rice
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 80 ml ( fl oz/ cup) melted ghee
  • fried onion, to garnish
  • cashews, to garnish
  • raisins, to garnish

Vegetable Gravy

  • 300 g (10½ oz/ cups) chopped mixed vegetables, such as carrots, peas, cauliflower, green beans and peeled potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 small hot Indian green chillies, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon Chaat masala
  • 250 g (9 oz/1 cup) roughly chopped very ripe tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled Paneer cheese
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) milk
  • a pinch of sugar

Saffron Yoghurt

  • 70 g ( oz/¼ cup) Greek-style yoghurt
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • a pinch of saffron threads


Soak the rice in plenty of cold water for 20 minutes.

Drain the rice and place in a deep non-stick saucepan, along with the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, clove and cardamom pods. Add a pinch of salt and pour in 1.125 litres (40 fl oz/ cups) water. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil, then cook over medium heat for 6 minutes, or until the rice is par-cooked. Strain the rice using a colander and set aside.

Meanwhile, for the vegetable gravy, blanch the chopped mixed vegetables in a saucepan of boiling water for a few minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a deep non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds crackle, add the onion and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 1–2 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.

Add the ginger, green chilli and ground spices and stir for a few seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons water, mixing well, and cook for 4–5 minutes.

Add the mixed vegetables, paneer and milk, season with salt and cook for another 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sugar and cook for a further 1 minute, then remove from the heat.

Combine the saffron yoghurt ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Layer the rice, saffron yoghurt and vegetable gravy in a heavy-based saucepan, so you have layers of flavour and colour.

Pour the melted ghee evenly over the rice and cover with a lid. Place over low heat and allow the biriyani to steam for 10–12 minutes, and ideally form a crust on the bottom.

To serve, turn the biriyani upside down onto a serving plate. Garnish with fried onion, cashews and raisins and serve immediately.