This recipe is purely of my invention. It is unusual for a biryani because there are no onions or tomatoes – its flavour is based solely on mushrooms and a South Indian palate of spices. For a more substantial meal, add a can of drained chickpeas to the mushroom mixture. If you prefer, pick out the whole spices before layering the rice into the casserole dish. Serve as a main course with raita, or as a side dish.
- 2 cups aged basmati rice
- 10 cups water
- 6 black peppercorns
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 2 bay leaves
- 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 900 gm white button mushrooms, trimmed and thickly sliced
- 36 curry leaves, roughly torn
- 6 black peppercorns
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 3 whole cloves
- 2-6 dried red chillies
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp sambar powder (or curry powder)
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked peppercorns
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup chopped coriander leaves and tender green stems
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup canola oil or any neutral oil
- Bring the water, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon to a boil in a large pot. Add the rice and stir, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- Return to a boil and reduce heat to a vigorous simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 6 minutes. Drain and set aside (you can pick out the whole spices if you like).
- Heat your oven to 350°F (approx 176°C).
- Heat the oil, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, mustard seeds and cumin in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, cooking for about 1.5 to 2.5 minutes until the cumin is browned and the mustard seeds start to pop.
- Add the curry leaves, red chillies and turmeric and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, add the ground coriander and cook for around 1 minute, while stirring, until the red chillies are starting to darken.
- Toss the mushrooms and salt into the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high (the skillet will be full at this point). Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms release their liquid and the total volume is reduced by about half.
- Mix in the sambar (or curry powder) and then stir in the buttermilk. Bring to a vigorous simmer and cook for 8-12 minutes until the liquid gets reduced by half and becomes slightly thick (there will still be quite a bit of sauce).
- Stir in the cracked pepper and turn off the heat. Grease a large 10-cup oven-safe casserole dish or Dutch oven (preferably one with a lid) with butter.
- Add 2 cups of cooked rice, spreading it evenly over the bottom of the dish. Cover with half the mushroom mixture and sprinkle with a third of the coriander.
- Evenly spread 1.5 cups of rice over the coriander and cover with the remaining mushrooms and half the remaining coriander.
- Evenly spread the remaining rice on top and pour 1/2 cup of water around the edges of the dish. Cover tightly with aluminium foil, seal with a lid and bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the remaining coriander and serve.