Enjoy a Taste of India

One of the things foodies love most about cuisine is the opportunity to experiment in their own kitchens. Foods that may never have made it to the family kitchen in the past can now be enjoyed thanks to many reasons, including an increasingly global society and the popularity of television shows that explore cuisines from countries all over the world.

Those looking for a touch of India at the dinner table should try this recipe for "Hyderabadi Vegetable Biryani" from Monisha Bharadwaj's "India's Vegetarian Cooking" (Kyle Books).

Hyderabadi Vegetable Biryani

Makes 4 servings

11/2 cups basmati rice, washed and drained

11 ounces mixed vegetables -- potatoes, eggplant, cauliflower (about 3-4 cups), cut into small pieces

1 large onion, finely sliced

1 teaspoon raisins

2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste (see box)

2 fresh green chiles, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons ghee

Sunflower oil for deep-frying

Salt, to taste

Juice of one lemon

Handful of cilantro and mint

leaves, chopped

1. Put the rice with 3 cups of hot water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes until done. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and deep-fry the vegetables until cooked, first the cauliflower and potatoes, then the eggplant. Drain and set aside.

3. Add half the onion and fry until dark brown, drain and set aside. Fry the raisins for one minute, drain and reserve them separately.

4. In a large clean pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the rest of the onion until golden brown. Add the ginger-garlic paste, chiles, turmeric, and garam marsala. Gently stir in the fried vegetables, yogurt and salt and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Now start to assemble the tahiri. In an ovenproof serving dish, put one layer of rice and one of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle some lemon juice over it, along with some of the cilantro and mint leaves.

6. Begin with the next layer of rice and keep going until you have a layer of rice at the top. Drizzle the ghee over it and serve hot, garnished with the fried onions, raisins and the remaining cilantro and mint leaves.

7. Keep it warm in a 350 F oven until you are ready to serve.

Ginger-Garlic Paste

Ginger and garlic are almost always used together in Indian cooking. To make the ginger-garlic paste for this recipe, take equal quantities of each and whiz in a blender until smooth. This paste is commonly made in big batches and frozen in thin sheets between plastic. Place the frozen sheets in large freezer containers or else everything else in the freezer might smell weird. Just break off bits as needed and add straight into the pan.

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