Let me admit this upfront.
I have, for quite some time, been an unabashed fan of Hawkins, of its pressure cookers, pans and even electrical appliances, without being “affiliated” with this company in any manner.
But what recently got my goose was when this venerated company ran a half-a-page advertisement about its latest Hevibase pressure cooker in some North-Indian newspapers featuring a recipe that promises to make Vegetable Biryani “in just 45 minutes”.
Are you joking? Why do you want to use a wonderful pressure cooker that can be used on both induction cookers and gas stoves, and still waste 45 minutes in your kitchen cooking just one Indian dish?
I’m agitated because in my opinion the same job can be accomplished in just 12 minutes. Don’t believe me, so read on.
But before I go on any further, please have a look at the “Hawkins” recipe. My comments are in brackets in italics.
Abridged Recipe for Vegetable Biryani
Get a Hawkins Havibase Pressure Cooker.
Grind ginger, garlic, chillies into a paste with water. (How much of each, NO idea!)
Boil 5 cups water in cooker. (Why so much water and why boil only water first?)Add salt, spices (which ones?) and rice. (Again NO quantity indicated.) Boil 5 minutes without vent weight. Remove cooker from heat. Transfer rice to a colander and drain. (So you did use excess water!)
Heat one-fourth cup ghee (so much?) in cooker 2 minutes. Add onions, ginger paste, cut potatoes, cauliflower. Fry 3 minutes. Add cut beans and carrots and peas. Fry 2 minutes. Add red chilli, cumin and garam masala powders, tomatoes, coriander and mint leaves, lemon juice and salt. Fry 3 minutes. Add paneer. (How much of each, NO idea!) Mix gently. Add 1 cup water (for what?). Stir.
Remove cooker from heat. Place rice on vegetables. Dribble saffron-milk over rice. Add hot ghee (again?) and cumin seeds.
Close cooker. Bring to pressure and cook 3 minutes. (So you are going to cook everything again?) Remove cooker from heat. Allow to cool naturally. Release pressure. Open cooker.
Garnish with almonds and mint leaves. Serve hot with butter (again?) or curd.
Now compare this with the Vegetable Biryani recipe that I share in my book “The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Rice the Indian Way”. Please also note how this dish needs to be cooked in a pressure cooker (the same Hawkins Havibase Pressure Cooker, if you wish) in only 12 minutes!
My recipe also explains the method using a thick bottomed pan or a rice cooker, in which case the cooking time shall be 20-25 minutes with a deep thick bottomed pan.
Mixed Vegetable Cheese Biryani
Who says vegetarians can’t enjoy Biryanis? Try this dish and I guarantee you the same flavours as of any normal non-vegetarian Biryani and almost the same protein levels (that are brought in by the tofu or paneer).
Long grain rice (Basmati)-2 cups
Cottage Cheese (Paneer) or Tofu-200 grams (7oz) (1 cup)
Carrots cut into small pieces-1/4 cup
Cauliflower florets-1/4 cup
Blanched Almonds-2 tablespoon
(To blanch almonds, immerse them in half a cup of hot water for 30 minutes. Remove the skin thereafter.)
Sliced Onion-1 (Medium)
Chopped Ginger-1 inch piece
Chopped Garlic-4 cloves
Turmeric (Haldi)-1/2 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder-1/4 teaspoon
Coriander powder-1 teaspoon
Garam Masala (mixture of common Indian spices) -1/2 teaspoon
Tip: If you can’t get ready-made garam masala mixture from a nearby Indian store, you can make yours by using 1 black cardamom, 3 green cardamoms, 4 cloves, and 1 inch cinnamon-all ground together for this dish.
Red Tomatoes pureed-2
Cumin seeds (Jeera)-1/2 teaspoon
Clarified butter (Ghee)-4 tablespoon
Salt to taste
Wash the rice well (in a vessel 3-4 times, but don’t rub it lest the grains break) and let it naturally “dry”, on an inclined plate, for 15-20 minutes. This helps enhance the aroma.
Roast the cottage cheese (paneer) or tofu on a dry pan and then cut into bite size pieces.
If using a pressure cooker:
In a pressure cooker, add the clarified butter and place it on your heat source.
When the butter warms up, add the cumin seeds. As soon as it starts giving a nice aroma, in less than a minute, add the onion slices and fry till translucent. Do please make sure that the spices brown and not burn, otherwise your dish will be totally spoiled.
Add the ginger and garlic. Stir for a minute.
Add all the vegetables except the Paneer (cottage cheese) and stir well.
Now add the turmeric, chilli powder, coriander and garam masala and again stir well.
Pour the tomato puree over this mixture and stir till the tomatoes give off a nice aroma. That’s the indication that they are getting cooked.
Add now the paneer (or tofu) and the blanched almonds.
Add the salt and sugar. Now add the rice.
Add the water.
Close the lid of the pressure cooker BUT remove the weight.
When steam starts escaping from the vent (don’t worry, you will hear that typical sound), reduce the heat to minimum. In other words, if cooking on gas, turn the knob to SIM (mer).
Wait for 10 minutes and switch off the gas.
Take out the rice. Your Vegetable biryani is ready.
This is a complete meal in itself.
Cooking time: 12 minutes with a pressure cooker.
(Excerpted from “The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Rice the Indian Way” which features a total of 35 mouth-watering rice dishes, including 20 dishes where rice cookers can be used. There are eight plain rice recipes, five for cooking rice with lentils, five each for cooking rice with vegetables and meats, five ways to use rice in snacks and seven as desserts.)