We have a fabulous Indian restaurant in the town where we live, close enough to walk to. We eat there a couple times a month, and when we want to eat at home and watch a movie, we often call them for take-out. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's Prabh Indian Kitchen, in downtown Mill Valley – and I highly recommend them.
My favorite dish there is a biryani with some shrimp tossed into the rice to steam, but I've been wanting to try a version with paneer cheese. So I started studying recipes and techniques a couple of weeks ago, and came up with a version that I love. I'll still go to Prabh if I don't feel like cooking, but now I can have a great Indian dish if I want to cook it at home.
Biryani is a well spiced rice dish, often with cardamom pods, cloves, mace, and peppercorns. It's popularly believed to have originated in Persia, finding its way to India via Arab traders sailing the Arabian Sea. It's a hearty dish, typically mixed with meat – probably originally goat, but I've seen lots of versions with seafood, vegetables, and paneer cheese. And Biryani usually has a little kick to it, so it's often served with a cooling cucumber raita sauce.
- This is not a sticky rice dish. In fact the rice is typically toasted in a little ghee to bring up a nutty flavor before liquid is added.
- This is a spicy dish (how spicy is up to you), but this dish is ALL about the flavor base created in the beginning before any broth is added to the rice.
- This version creates a spicy base with significant heat which is cooked with the paneer, and ultimately the rice in a broth. The finished dish has a little heat, but not nearly as much as you start with.
- Paneer is a very young (un-aged), mild farmer's cheese that doesn't melt. The cubes will hold their shape throughout the sautéing process and simmering with the broth. It's available in most well-stocked markets.
- This is a great dish to enjoy as a vegetarian entrée or a side rice dish to accompany meat.
The point of my dish is to make this dish vegetarian. Biryani's more commonly include goat, beef, chicken, or seafood. Thing of this as India's version of paella.
Paneer Biryani with Cucumber Raita and Mint Chutney: #ProgressiveEats
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 2 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp garam masala
- zest of 1 lime about 1 tsp
- ½ tsp salt
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp slivered mint
- 1/2 block paneer cheese cut into 3/4" cubes
- 2 Tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
- 2 short sticks cinnamon
- 1 small star anise
- 6 whole cloves
- 7 cardamom pods
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 10 halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup basmati brown rice, rinsed
- 2 cups broth
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1/3 cup grated cucumber using the largest holes on a cheese grater
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Juice of 1/3 lime
- 12 cherry tomatoes halved and thinly sliced
- Large pinch of cane sugar
- 1/3 cup 2% Greek yogurt I use Fage
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro or more, to taste
- Freshly ground pepper
- Combine all marinade ingredients EXCEPT the paneer cheese. Stir to mix thoroughly and add the paneer. Toss to coat and marinate for 30 minutes.
- Melt the ghee in a large sauté pan, large enough to accommodate the entire dish. Add the rice, and lightly toast for 5 - 10 minutes. Add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, cardamom pods, and fennel seeds. Sauté for an additional 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and the paneer with all of the marinade. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the broth and salt, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from the heat, and keep covered for 10 minutes. Top with cilantro.
- Serve with Cucumber Raita (recipe below).
- Stir together all the ingredients for the raita, and set aside for 30 minutes.