Miraculously: Speedy, Spicy Tomato Biryani

Today’s post is brought to you by a long string of happy accidents. I say happy because, for all of the mistakes that were made this weekend as the dish came together, it turned out delicious nonetheless. Which means that if you manage to hold it together better than I did when you make this — and it’s not hard; I just wasn’t on the ball last week — you’re on the way to achieving ultra deliciousness. Not a bad deal, I say.


So the reason for the endless stream of accidents? Last week was hectic. By the time the weekend rolled around, when I was set to head to my sister and brother-in-law’s (home of the yellow tulips and chalkboard ‘A’s) to make a bloggable lunch, I was short on sleep. And when that’s the case, the day goes something like this: cameras are forgotten at home, rice is forgotten at the grocery store; rice is then retrieved from a different grocery store, which takes an unusually long time as I debate whether to buy the suspiciously inexpensive bag of rice decorated with an illustration of a very masculine-looking woman, and I show up late.


From there, onions and garlic are chopped rather than sliced, a timer may or may not be set (naturally, I can’t remember), water is added in the wrong quantity, the critical step of letting the rice sit for 10 minutes is altogether disregarded, and everyone ends up biting down on a rogue clove. Unsurprisingly, the usual ingredient and instruction shots go by the wayside. 


As you’d expect given all the mishaps, the end results weren’t perfect: the rice should have been firmer and the aromatic veggies more visible. But, like I said earlier, the recipe still managed to deliver a warming, fragrant dish that we ate with gusto. Impressive. And, given that it should be easy enough to make the recipe properly — in essence, it’s a one-pot rice dish — I can see it becoming the kind of thing you can turn to time and again when you’re in need of a simple, satisfying meal. I dare say: perfect for when life gets hectic.

Speedy, Spicy Tomato Biryani

Adapted from food52.com
Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side (and doubles easily)

1 cup of uncooked white basmati rice
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp whole cloves
6 cardamom pods (green or white will do)
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2-3 green chiles, cut into thin strips (removing the seeds and membrane is optional; leaving them in will up the spice)
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro leaves


1. In a pot or a strainer, rinse the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Drop the rice into a medium bowl, cover with cold water, and let soak at room temperature for 20-30 minutes (longer is better, but 20 minutes will do).

2. While the rice is soaking, heat the butter in medium, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Add in the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and cook until fragrant and sizzling, 15-30 seconds.

3. Add the onion and fry, stirring occasionally, until the edges begin to brown, 5-7 minutes.

4. Add the ginger, garlic and chiles and cook until garlic is soft but not brown, about 1 minute.

5. Stir in the tomatoes, salt and turmeric and simmer, uncovered, until tomatoes are soft, 5-7 minutes.

6. Drain the rice and gently stir the grains into the saucepan. Stir in the 1.5 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit, with the lid on, for 10 minutes.

7. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, and remove the whole spices. Serve up the rice, topped with cilantro.

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