Updated: May 7, 2021
Everyone loves a briyani, it is the "king" of rice dishes. Most biryani featured is usually a meat (lamb or chicken) biryani. There is a world of vegetarian biryanis too, delicious and satisfying. This is one of those amazing biryanis.
First, let us start with what defines a briyani? It is rice layered, yes it has to be layered, with a rich "korma" of meat (or vegetables, in this case) that has been slow braised. All other spiced and mixed rices are pulaos, the literature and history on this dish is clear. More on the differences here.
The biryani arrived from Persia, now Iran, and came with the nobles and soldiers of the invading forces. It took a firm foothold in India, first in Lucknow and spread across the country with regional changes. It is agreed that the most delectable biryani is the Hyderabadi dum ki biryani, that is cooked in a sealed pot to retain all the aromas and flavors. A more detailed historical on this biryani article here.
This biryani, is a version from Kerala where the jackfruit tree is abundant. This dish is richly spiced with chunks of soft jackfruit in a wonderful "korma" of Kerala spices. The tender jackfruit have the chewy texture of meat, and it satisfies just as a protein would. I served this biryani with Pomegranate and mint raita, but you could just as well serve it with Mango raita. The raita helps to both dampen the spice and also refresh your palate for the next bite.
This vegetarian cookbook from Puspesh Pant is amazing. the recipes are unusual, and each and every one of them turn out amazing. The recipes trend from the standard to more contemporary versions from across India.
For more amazing recipes from this cookbook click here.
2 cups basmati rice, cooked
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons `oil
3 tablespoons ghee, or oil
1 bay leaf
1 black cardamom
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
8-10 black peppercorns
1 lb cleaned green (raw) jackfruit, diced into 1/2 inch pieces, see method after recipe
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, or to taste
2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 cup yogurt, whisked smooth
Water, as needed
Ghee, if desired
Salt to taste
Cilantro, minced for garnish
In a large deep sauté pan fry the onions in oil till brown and crisp, birista. Remove and set aside on paper towels to drain.
Add the ghee, or oil, to a shallow flat pan, could be the same as the one used above, add the whole spices, temper on low heat for 30 seconds. Add the cleaned jackfruit pieces and turn the heat up to medium and sauté till the jackfruit is a rich golden color on all sides, about 7-10 minutes. Add the fried onions back into the pot and stir well to mix.
Add the garlic and ginger pastes and sauté for 1 minute till the ginger is no longer smelling raw. Add the chili powder, ground cumin and ground coriander and give the pan a quick spin. Add the yogurt and mix well incorporating all the spices into the curry. Cook till almost dry and the yogurt is no longer visible. Add 1/2 cup water, to form a liquid again, close the pot with a tight fitting lid, and and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Check once in between to make sure the pan still has liquids, if needed add more as needed.
After 30 minutes, taste a large piece of jackfruit to make sure it is cooked, it will not be sticky. If needed simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375°F, with the rack in the lowest position.
In an oven proof pan, or deep Pyrex dish, layer half the basmati rice on the bottom. Layer the jackfruit curry over the rice and finally the rest of the rice on top. Pat down a bit to get tight layers. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan And a large spoon of ghee if desired. Seal well with a layer of foil, crimping the edges to get a tight seal. Do this even if you are using an oven safe pot.
Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Remove and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
How to prepare raw jackfruit:
This video explains the process clearly. Some tips though:
Oil your hands and knife throughly. The jackfruit gives out a very stick milk that will adhere to your fingers and stain it a dark brown on oxidation. Always have some oil in a small bowl handy, your fingers will loose their oil as you work, you can replenish the oil by rubbing your fingers on your palms or in the bowl, Same for your knife.
Have a bowl of water with the juice of one lemon/lime squeezed in. As you cut the small pieces, drop them in the water to stop them from oxidizing and turning brown.
Any unused portion of the raw jackfruit can be stored by rubbing the cut section liberally with oil and folding it into a plastic bag and storing in the fridge. It will last for a couple of days.
If the jackfruit has a central pith, remove it too.