Pinch of Saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm milk (optional)
Make Biryani Masala:
In a small skillet, sauté cashews, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and poppy seeds until lightly golden and aromatic. Cool slightly and grind to a powder. This can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Make the Rice Layer:
Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes. Bring a large pot of water along with whole spices, salt and oil to a boil. Drain the soaked rice and add to the boiling water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5~8 minutes or until the rice is 85%~90% cooked through. Drain the water and set the aside to cool slightly.
Make Vegetable Layer:
Heat oil and ghee in a large pan on medium heat. Add shahjeera and all the whole spices, cook for 30 seconds. Next add onion, green chilies and cook for 4~5 minutes or until the onion turns translucent and lightly browned around the edges.
Next add turmeric, ginger+garlic paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the veggies and cook till tender, about 8~10 minutes. Season with salt, garam masala, ground coriander, cumin and the ground spice powder.Next add yogurt and tomato. Cook till the tomato is mushy, about 3~5 minutes. Turn off the stove and add the lemon juice.
Assemble the Biryani:
Remove half of the vegetable into a small bowl. Add half of the rice over the veggies, sprinkle half of the chopped herbs and fried onions. Top with the reserved vegetable mixture, remaining rice, herbs and fried onions. Drizzle with the saffron milk, if using. Cover tightly with a foil or a tight fitting lid.
Cook on the stove top on medium~high heat for 4~5 minutes, then lower heat and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes before serving.
Spice powder can be made ahead of time. You can also double or triple the ingredients and store it in airtight container for up to 1 month.
Since there are quite a few steps in this vegetable biryani recipe, make sure to read the recipe completely before starting the cooking process.
You can use any of your favorite vegetables in this dish. Broccoli, jackfruit, zucchini, edamame and so on would work beautifully.
I recommend cooking rice using the boiling method because it gives the best texture to the grain. But you can also use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot to cook the rice. For basmati rice, I use 1:1¼ ratio of rice:water and cook for 5 minutes in the Instant Pot.
Make sure to add enough seasoning in both rice and vegetable layers so that the final biryani tastes good.
To make Hyderabadi Paneer biryani, add 2 cups of chopped paneer or cooked beans to the veggies. This not only adds flavor it will make it protein packed and wholesome.
How to make homemade fried onions: Sauté 2 large thinly sliced onions in 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet on medium-low flame. Cook until nicely caramelized and browned around the edges. Make sure that they don't burn. It will take about 18~25 minutes.
How to bake Biryani in the Oven: Lightly grease an oven safe pan with cooking spray. Layer with vegetable mixture, rice, fried onions, chopped herbs as written in the recipe. Cover tightly with a foil or a tight fitting lid. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 15~20 minutes. Cool for 5~10 minutes before digging in.