Recipe For Lima Beans Paneer and Saffron Basmati Rice (Vegetarian Biryani)


Vegetarian biryani is a vegetable curry with saffron basmati rice. This dish is truly authentic Indian cuisine. I always make Biryani when we have a big crowd at home. Indian food is meant to be eaten by a big group.

Paneer is an Indian cheese that you commonly fry and add to rice or vegetables. It is pretty firm and does not melt when heated. The kids love vegetarian biryani and the saffron color brings a nice …The same dish, when prepared with meat (usually mutton, goat or chicken), is traditional wedding fare.  One of Lulu’s uncles told me that if he goes to a large Indian function and doesn’t get biryani he feels cheated.

1. Info for Lima Beans Paneer and Saffron Basmati Rice (Vegetarian Biryani)

  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 1hr 20 mins
  • Servings: 8
  • Calories: 241kcal

2. Ingredients for Lima Beans Paneer and Saffron Basmati Rice (Vegetarian Biryani)

  • 3 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 pack paneer, 250 g
  • 1 lime juice with pulp, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup fried onions
  • 5 Tbs canola oil, as needed
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • 3 tsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 long red chiles, stemmed
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon, broken in 2
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 pack baby lima beans, 16 oz, frozen, thawed
  • 1 Tbs salt, as needed
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • 4 Tbs ghee

3. Directions:

  1. Cut the cheese into 1/2-in cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a fry pan, then barely fry the cubes of cheese on all sides. Set aside.
  2. Wash the rice throughly, discard any dirt. Place in a bucket, cover with water. Add 1/2 of the juice of a lime with its pulp. Soak for at least 1 1/2 hour. Drain as much water as possible.
  3. Fill about 4 quarts of water in a big pot. Add both kinds of cardamom pods, the cloves and the cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Pour the rice. Cook for about 7 minutes at a bubbly simmer. Add 2 teaspoons of salt then cook for another 2 minutes. The grains of rice should be still a little hard, about 2/3 of the way cooked. Drain the liquid from the rice using a fine mesh colander. Discard the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
  4. In a small pan, dry roast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Grind in a pestle and mortar (or in a spice grinder if you make a large quantity) with the black peppercorns. Add the cayenne powder and the turmeric powder.
  5. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil and add the shallot and garlic. Cook until it’s golden for about 2 minutes. Add the ginger garlic paste and cook for another minute. Add the curry powder, add the rest of the lime juice. Add the yogurt. It will for a thick paste. Add the lima beans. Keep the temperature at a high heat. Stir frequently for about 2-3 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of water and the whole long red chiles. Continue to cook the lima beans for about 5 minutes. Add the paneer at the end. Set aside.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°F
  7. Coat the inside of a cast iron pot with oil. Place a thin layer of the lima beans at the bottom. Add 1/3 of the quantity of the rice. Add another generous layer of lima beans. Sprinkle some salt. Repeat the process above and finish with rice.
  8. In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads. Add about 1/2 cup of water. Using the pestle (the stick), create 3 evenly-spaced holes (forming a triangle) in the pot of rice and drizzle the saffron liquid into the rice. Fill another 1/4 cup of water into the mortar to ensure all the saffron is used. Then drizzle some more liquid into the pot of rice. Place little mounts of ghee all over the pot. Sprinkle with fried onions. Seal the pot with an aluminum sheet and cover the pot. Place on the stove over high heat for about 4-5 minutes. Steam should escape from the pot. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven. Let it cool for about 15 minutes, then gently stir the rice using long chopsticks without breaking the grains of rice.
  10. Serve the biryani with raita (yogurt based sauce) or a spicy mango chutney if you’d like.
  11. Bon appétit!

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