Recipe courtesy of Maneet Chauhan

Jackfruit Biryani

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Biryani is a fragrant rice casserole whose roots can be traced back to dishes enjoyed by royalty. Usually made with meat, this is a vegetarian version with jackfruit for heartiness and toothsomeness. Layering flavorful ingredients and rice makes it sophisticated dish that requires a bit of attention. The cornerstone of this dish, however, is how it’s finished: After layering it’s cooked over a low flame in a sealed container, a process known as “dum cooking” (steam cooking) in India. All the flavors come together as the heat permeates the entire dish. My aunt used to make an epic biryani that I looked forward to eating it during the summer holidays.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 50 min
  • Active: 50 min
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
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Ingredients

Jackfruit:

Basmati Rice:

Layering:

Directions

  1. For the jackfruit: Combine the jackfruit, yogurt, fried onions, mint, cilantro, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, biryani masala, chili powder, turmeric and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Marinate 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the marinated jackfruit and cook until the edges are lightly browned, a few minutes. Cover and simmer until the jackfruit is fork tender, 5 to 7 minutes.  
  3. For the basmati rice: Place the rice in a medium bowl and cover with a few inches of water. Soak for 30 minutes. 
  4. Drain the rice into a sieve and rinse under running water. Place in a large saucepan and add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, ghee and salt. Add 8 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat so the rice simmers and give it a quick stir. Cook the rice, uncovered, for 15 minutes; it should be about 90% cooked; do not overcook it. Drain out excess water and set the rice aside.
  5. For the layering: Combine the saffron and milk in a cup and set aside to soak for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, place the ghee in a medium skillet and place over medium heat. Add the cashews and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the raisins to the ghee in the skillet and repeat. Remove the raisins with a slotted spoon and set the skillet with the ghee aside. 
  7. Use a wide, heavy-bottom pan with a tightly fitting lid to layer the biryani. Spread 1 tablespoon of the reserved melted ghee on the pan. Layer in one-third of the cooked rice first. Top with half the jackfruit. Top with one-third each of the fried onions, cashews, raisins, cilantro and mint and drizzle with one third of the saffron milk. Drizzle 1 1/2 teaspoons of the reserved melted ghee on top. Repeat the layers again starting with a third of the rice and all of the remaining jackfruit. Finish with the remaining one third of the fried onions, cashews, raisins, cilantro, mint and saffron milk and drizzle with 1 1/2 teaspoons melted ghee. 
  8. Cover the pan with 2 pieces of aluminum foil and then cover the foil with the lid. Place the pan over low heat and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, and let rest covered for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the lid and aluminum foil. The biryani can be served with raita, pappadums, pickle, etc.

Cook’s Note

You can use homemade or store-bought ginger-garlic paste. To make it yourself, crush or blend together equal amounts of peeled ginger and garlic. You can buy crisp fried onions, or make your own by deep-frying sliced onions in 350-degree-F oil until browned and crispy, then draining them well.

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