Baked coconut curry rice (vegetable biryani)

Every man/woman needs a special recipe.  The one that you can pull out when nothing else comes to mind, the one that is suitable for all occasions and all crowds, the one that is bound to draw rave reviews.

This is that recipe. It is not a simple recipe. It will take more than an hour to make. It uses a large number of ingredients. It will, however, make your reputation. It will be your best friend. You will be asked for it, again and again.  It will please the carnivores and the vegans in your life. If you decide to make this your go-to potluck recipe, start practicing that smug smile in the mirror.


Baked coconut curry rice


The recipe is adapted from Tarla Dalal’s wonderful Saatvik Khana. Its free on the website, but I’m posting my slight adaptation here because the website can be temperamental.


For the rice:

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 cloves

a 1 inch piece of cinnamon stick

one 14 oz can coconut milk (light is fine)

1 1/2 cup long grain basmati rice, uncooked

salt to taste

For the curry paste:

1 tbsp oil

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp whole coriander seeds

1 inch piece of cinnamon stick

2 cloves

2 whole dried red chillies (small red Indian chillies)

1 tbsp poppy seeds

4 black peppercorns

1/4 cup dried unsweetened flaked coconut (frozen grated coconut will work in a pinch)

For the curry:

2.5 cup chopped, mixed parboiled vegetables (I like using peas, green beans, carrots, cauliflower. If using frozen vegetables, just thaw them and use as is.  If using fresh vegetables, chop, add a tbsp of water, and cook them in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.)

1 tbsp oil

1 cup crushed tomatoes (canned are fine)

salt to taste

For the garnish:

1/4 cup cashews, sliced and fried or dry roasted/ fresh cilantro, chopped/ a pinch of saffron, dissolved in a tbsp of hot milk (Use one of the above, but not all together.)

– Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

– Cook the rice first. Wash and soak the rice in plenty of water for a couple of minutes, then drain. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Let them sizzle. Add the drained rice and sauté for 30 seconds. Pour in the coconut milk, then another can-full of water. Add a hefty pinch of salt, cover and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat to low and cook, covered, until all the water is absorbed. Stir the rice once if you have to, but mostly leave it alone.

– For the curry paste, heat the oil in a small, heavy skillet. Add all the spices in the order written and fry for a minute and a half or until the kitchen smells of spicy goodness. Grind them to a paste in a coffee grinder/blender, using a tbsp of water if you need to.

– For the curry, heat the oil in another saucepan. (I told you this wasn’t simple.) Add the curry paste and sauté for a minute. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, add the vegetables and the salt, and bring to a boil. Cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat.

– Assemble the biryani. Spread the curry in a 9X9 baking dish or casserole. Cover the curry layer with a thick layer of rice, getting it as even as possible. Sprinkle the cashews/saffron milk on top and seal tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove, sprinkle with cilantro (if using) and serve hot.




About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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26 Responses to Baked coconut curry rice (vegetable biryani)

  1. rlbates says:

    Looks like a nice one to take to a potluck. Beautiful!

  2. phantomxii says:

    Notes to self: (1) Set up potluck. (2) Convince purplesque to drive 5+ hours to our house for it.

  3. I hadn’t thought of baking the biryani. That would save the inevitable-for-me sticking to the pot bit that always happens at the end.

    Your recipe sounds great. I’ll have to give it a try. 🙂

    • purplesque says:

      I hadn’t thought of that, Laurie! Its a great idea. (There are traditional Sri Lankan variants of biryani as well- you might be able to find a neighbor/friend who makes those.)

  4. Vijay says:

    Eskoos my ignorance pliss, but isn’t this a pulav rather than a biriyani?!
    In Tamil Nadu, biriyani is made with a short grain variety of non-basmati local rice, called seeraga samba. In our variant of the biriyani (veg & meat) the rice and curry are cooked together. Check out this recipe for a Tamil-style veg biriyani and this one for a Tamil-style chicken biriyani.

    • purplesque says:

      Good question, Vijay. Even though different from the Tamil Nadu version, this is still a biryani. A pulav is rice cooked together with vegetables and some spices.

      In a biryani, rice and curry are cooked separately, layered together and then cooked on dum– air cooked in a tightly sealed container to allow the flavors of the curry to seep into the rice and vice versa.

      • Vijay says:

        I remembered biriyani’s Mughalai origins after I posted the comment. And the fact that proper biriyani is cooked in a dhum.
        Thanks for clarifying.

  5. My parents’ oven is broken, so I can’t make this dish, alas. 😦 I might try asking the oldest daughter’s mother-in-law if I can use her marvelous kitchen, but she’d probably insist on cooking this for me.

    (She’s from Jaipur: I don’t know if this makes a difference in how she would change/prepare this recipe.)

    • purplesque says:

      There might be a slight difference, HG, especially re: the coconut. The biryani is Persian in origin, I believe- over the years, every part of India has developed their own modification (see Vijay’s comment above.)

      You should ask your samdhan (Hindi word for your children’s female mothers-in-law, pronounced sum-dhun) anyway. Even if she insists on cooking for you, it would be a bonding experience! And then we could swap notes over recipe differences. 🙂

  6. Boston Margy says:

    Wow – that looks fabulous! I’ll have to devote an afternoon to trying it out at some point soon.

  7. merbelle says:

    I better finally collect all the right jars of seeds so I can make this. It sounds exactly right.

  8. Sowmya says:

    Couldn’t resist clicking on the link at blogadda after seeing that delicious looking rice. It’s one thing making delicious food, but clicking them in a way they look as delicious as they are, is totally a different skill. The pics are awesome!

  9. jaklumen says:

    small red Indian chillies

    Bird’s eye?

    I have noticed consistently for Asiatic cuisine here in my area, that most restauranteurs simply use jalapeños, since that’s what’s locally available. However, Cimmy and the kids are not too fond of capsaicin, and I wind up using bell… no, I refuse to call them “peppers”… they are all chiles to me.

    Cimmy may very well suggest I skip using curry paste if I make this. She likes rice, though, especially since I’d say basmati is one welcome alternative to the typical short-grain crap that passes for white rice in the States (but we often eat anyways, being poor). We’re quite fond of jasmine rice, too.

    • purplesque says:

      They’re not Bird’s eye, Jak, though I’ve never been able to figure out what variety they actually are. In appearance, Indian chillies appear closest to Cayenne, so I would use those if you have them. When using fresh green ones, serranos seem to be the closest in flavor, though I’ve certainly used jalapenos.

  10. robpixaday says:

    It looks magnificent, like everything good in the world is packed in there waiting to be enjoyed. WOW!!!!

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