Vegetarian for Life

Zanna presents… Roasted Vegetable Biryani

Posted by Guest on 30/08/18 in Articles, Recipes

Friends across the UK are giving their time to help make the nation a better place for older vegans and vegetarians. Each Friend of V for Life brings their own unique skill set to the role, and today we'd like to introduce you to our newest supporter, Zanna.

Zanna supports older vegans and vegetarians by offering to make extra portions of food to share with older vegans and vegetarians in her local area. Zanna is going to share with us a popular recipe with a little bit of spice – all cooked up wearing a V for Life apron!

Now, over to Zanna...

Zanna presents... Roasted Vegetable Biryani

This is based on a recipe in Delia Smith's book, Delia's Vegetarian Collection. My mum gave me this cookbook for Christmas when I was 17. I hadn't learnt to cook yet, though as the first vegetarian in my family since age 13, I'd been 'cooking' simple packet noodle, pasta and rice dishes for myself after school for a few years. Neither of my parents were keen cooks (though my mum has since become very good at putting appealing meals together, and both my parents have become vegetarian and recently vegan) so cookbooks were my first real instruction. I read the book cover to cover in fascination before I attempted to make anything from it. When I moved out at 18, I used it extensively and cooked almost every recipe in it. Now, 16 years later, I've revisited the book with my increased interest in Indian food and made some of the recipes again.

Making biryani is quite time consuming, but it's really worth it for the wonderful flavour, and it's not difficult.

You can omit any vegetables you don't like or can't get hold of, and add in any you prefer. Sweet potato and any squash would roast well with the other vegetables, but might benefit from a few minutes of parboiling. If you're pressed for time and/or don't have the energy (or assistants!) for all the chopping, you can use a frozen or fresh prepared vegetable mix with carrots, corn, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli etc, according to your preference.

The spices all lend something to this dish, but you can skip what you don't have.

Serves 3–4 as a complete meal with raita/yogurt on the side

'Cup' here refers to 250ml volume.


Spice mixture:

  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves (or 4 allspice berries)
  • 1 green cardamom pod
  • 1 heaped tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel
  • 1 heaped tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 heaped tbsp desiccated or fresh grated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 


  • 1 small cup frozen peas, defrosted, or fresh peas, shelled and cleaned (optional)
  • 1 corn cob
  • 1 cup aubergine (about 1/2 a large European aubergine, or alternatively use courgette)
  • 2/3 cup cauliflower, chopped small
  • 2 medium carrots (1/2 cup), finely diced
  • 4 small potatoes (generous 1/2 cup), diced
  • 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, dry roasted and crushed, or 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • pinch salt
  • 2–3 tsp neutral oil
  • Handful cashew nuts, about 12


  • 1 generous cup brown basmati rice
  • 1/2 tsp neutral oil
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • Big pinch salt


  • 1.5 tsp neutral oil
  • 1 hot green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 12 curry leaves
  • 1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs mint, chopped (or coriander leaves) (optional)
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp rice syrup (or any syrup or 1/4 tsp unrefined sugar or sweetener of choice)
  • 1/4 tsp salt


1. To make the spice mixture, heat a small pan on low-medium heat. Add all the whole spices and dry-roast for about 2 minutes. Add the coconut and cinnamon, and switch off the heat. Allow to cool completely, then grind the mixture in a dry grinder (spice grinder, coffee grinder, etc) or with a pestle and mortar. It doesn't have to be perfectly ground. The coconut will make the mixture oily, which is fine.

2. For the vegetables, wash the corn and put it into a saucepan with 1/2 cup water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the water to the boil, and cook for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Add the diced potato and boil for another 8–10 minutes, until the potato is just about tender. Remove the corn and potato from the pan and drain, reserving any water. Set the corn aside to cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6). Spread the cashews on a large baking tray and place in the oven while it's heating for 10 minutes to lightly toast them (it's very easy to burn nuts this way, so set a timer or otherwise be careful not to leave them in too long). Meanwhile, put all the chopped vegetables, including the boiled potato but not the corn, into a big mixing bowl with salt, coriander and 2–3 tsp peanut, rapeseed or sunflower oil, and mix well. When the cashews are done, remove them from the oven and set aside. Spread the vegetable mixture in a single layer on the baking sheet. Put them in the oven and roast for 25–30 minutes or until they are done to your preference, stirring once halfway through the cooking time. Cook the peas by microwaving with a little water or boiling and set aside. Cut the corn from the cob.

4. Wash the rice in a sieve and drain thoroughly. Use a rice cooker if you have one. If not, heat 1/2 tsp oil in a small pan, add the cumin, and let it sizzle slightly for 15 seconds. Then add the rice carefully and stir lightly to coat with oil, and add any water reserved from the corn, salt, and more freshly boiled water making a total of roughly 2 cups water. Cover the pan and cook for about 35 minutes (for white basmati rice, you only need about 15 minutes), until the rice is the perfect consistency. Fluff lightly with a fork and set aside.

5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat 1–2 tsp oil in a medium sized pan over a low-medium heat and add the chillies, onion and curry leaves. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes, then add the ginger, garlic and mint. Cook for a few minutes, until the raw smell of garlic goes away. Add the spice mixture from step 1 and cook for a few minutes more to make sure all the flavour comes from the spices into the oil. If the mixture starts to stick to the pan, deglaze with a little water. Add the tomatoes and cook until they become saucy (about 8 minutes). Allow the sauce to cool slightly, then transfer to a blender to make a smooth sauce. If you don't have a blender, skip this step.

6. Transfer the roasted vegetables, peas, corn, sauce and cashews to a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

7. If you are too hungry to wait, you can now eat the rice and veg mixture together. If you are feeling patient, spray the base of a medium saucepan with a little oil (you can use the pan you cooked the sauce in) and put a layer of rice on the bottom. Cover with a layer of the veg-sauce mixture, then add another layer of rice, then another layer of veg, etc. Wrap the lid of the pan in a tea towel, and cook on the lowest possible heat for 20–30 minutes. Meanwhile you can stir together some yogurt with grated cucumber and more mint, plus ground cumin and cayenne pepper if liked, to make a raita to serve with the biryani.


Flis Cotham
10 August, 2019

Sounds lovely. Beautifully presented recipe. Can’t wait to make it as soon as I have time. Thanks for sharing.

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