Sunday, July 8, 2018

Eggplant and Coconut, A Simple Vegetarian Biryani.

   Alan has gone mainly vegetarian in his diet with the exception of some pescetarian choices so I've used this change of food policy around the house to move things more in the direction of how I eat. This has enabled me to take full advantage of all the goodies I'm growing in our garden. I love the idea that I can go out pick, and cook a lot of what we eat everyday. This has brought me back to nearly daily Indian dishes. Fish or even meat if served,  is not the star but rather a side player. A little bit  goes a long way.
   Since  we have always worked out of our home office, I like things that I can make ahead or that come together easy depending on what's available in the garden on any given day, which brings me to eggplants. Every year we grow a variety of eggplants from the large classic Italian, to Japanese, to the tiny Thai, and Indian finger eggplants. I thought a nice vegetarian biryani would be good so I looked to a traditional Kerala recipe of eggplant and coconut biryani or layered rice as it's is sometimes called.
Looking in the garden I thought my eggplants might not be ready yet so a trip to the farmers market might be needed, but I took a look and whoa!!! Eggplants had arrived!!!

I cut three Japanese eggplants of a pretty good size...

 ...some chilies, and mint.

 I wanted tomatoes but mine have not ripened yet. It's been a relatively cool Summer for us this year so all the vegetables are behind schedule. I had most of the basics for the dish so the shopping and prep was pretty easy.

Eggplant and Coconut Biryani

Here's What You Need:

2 or 3 Japanese Eggplants cut lengthwise and into 1/2 inch chunks
2 cups of coconut milk (full fat)
1 and 1/4 cups of Basmati rice
1/2 cup of grated unsweetened coconut fresh or dried
1 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
1 and 3/4 cups of water
5 thin round slices of ginger
1 onion chopped roughly
1 large shallot peeled and sliced thinly
1 to 3 chopped green serrano chilies (with seeds) depending on how hot you want this.
2  dried red chilies broken into pieces
1 large tomato chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 and 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbs lemon juice
# ztbs vegetable oil

Here's What To Do:

Rinse the Basmati rice and place it in 1 and 1/4 cup s of water to soak for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile put the coconut in a cast iron pan along with the dried red chilies and dry roast them until they are slightly golden. This takes just a couple of minutes so keep an eye out.

Take the toasted coconut and red chilies, and cool them a bit.
Slice the eggplants in half the long way and chunk them up into 1 inch pieces.

Place  the chopped serrano chilies, ginger slices, sliced shallot, and onion  in a food processor or blender.

Add the toasted coconut and dried red chilies...

,,,and grind into a paste.

Than add in the coriander, garam masala...

...and turmeric.

Blend again then put everything in a large skillet or kadhai along with 2 Tbs of vegetable oil and stir over medium heat until it colors. This takes about 5 minutes.

Add in the eggplants, half the salt...

...and 1/2 cup of the coconut milk.

Stir everything around.

Turn the heat up to high for about 3 minutes, then turn down to medium.
Cover the pan and cook until the eggplants have softened about 15 to 20 minutes.
Check in on things every now and then to make sure nothing is burning or sticking.
When the eggplants are soft move them to a bowl and set them aside.

In a large pot add 1 Tbs of vegetable oil.
When the poil is hot add in the tomato... and cilantro.

Cook and stir until most of the moisture from the tomato has evaporated.
Now, add the rice and the water it was soaking in...

...along with the rest of the salt, and the rest of the coconut milk.

Bring to  a boil over high heat than slap a cover on the pot and turn the heat way down to the lowest setting for about 10 minutes. We are not going to cook the rice all the way through as it is going to finish in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and lightly grease an oven-proof dish. I usually use a clay pot but I used a pyrex casserole dish this time to get a good view of the biryani.

After the rice is cooked partly through (about 10 minutes) place half the semi cooked rice in the casserole dish.

Layer the defrosted or fresh peas on top of the rice.

Then add the eggplant mixture you've set aside. Layer the peas and eggplant together and mix them a bit.

Add the rest of the rice on top of that.

Then squeeze 3 Tbs of lemon juice over it all.

Cover the dish and place it in the oven.

Bake for 15 or 20 minutes.
Take the dish out and uncover it.
Sprinkle the top with a dash more garam masala, and a sprinkling of more chopped cilantro and mint.

Then  dish it out. See the layers?

I served mine in clay mini biryani pots, with a bit of cooling  cumin raita and some flatbread.

Chapatti would be great with it also.

There it is a simple vegetarian lunch right out of the garden. This can  be made ahead and reheated later, or the next day.  Mellowing only makes it better. This recipe will feed between 4 and 6 people.




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