29. Nunu’s biryani

April 29, 2012mayurisjikoni
Blog post

For my Nunu

  As I have mentioned before, I have learnt to cook from my mum, kaki, other women in my life and most of all from Nunu. Nunu is my mother in law. The patience that my mum didn’t have with me, Nunu had in abundance. Lots of dinners, lunches, parties was the norm when I entered the V.V. Patel household as a new bride. To top it up my sister in law Arti too was under training…. learning how to cook. At breakfast time Nunu would explain to her how to make a particular dish and at that time I didn’t have just a pair of ears but perhaps 2 or 3 pairs open ready to pick up new recipes, ideas, tips etc. 
  Nunu had to learn cooking by herself. She lost her mother when she was very young and had the responsibility of cooking for her father and brother. She learnt the basics from her aunt (kaki). When she got married and moved to Mombasa, she slowly formed her own group of friends who were more like family members. She learnt recipes from them, from cook books and from ladies groups that she was a member of.

  She quickly saw my enthusiasm for cooking and taught me how to make so many dishes right from Gujarati ones to desserts. Dahi Vadas, ladoos, coconut cupcakes, biscuit pudding are some her most famous dishes that she taught me and my sister in laws. 

  This particular rice dish, Nunu must have made umpteens of time but we really didn’t have a name for it. Where she learnt it from, I have no idea but I have decided to call it Nunu’s biryani. She had the knack of putting two different recipes into one. I’m sure this is one of them. Nunu is in India and because of her age is not able to spend long hours in the kitchen. I decided to carry on the tradition and make the ever popular dish of our family.
Don’t be put of by the laborious method as I promise the end result is very yummy and rewarding. I have tried to make it as simple as possible, but not comprising on the taste. A rice dish without onions or garlic hasn’t tasted yummier.


Serves 4 as a main dish 

Ingredient List 1

1cup of basmati rice
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3 cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick cut into pieces
2 tbsps ghee

Ingredient List 2

2 cups of chopped cabbage
1/2 cup peas
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt
a pinch of asafoetida powder (hing)
2 tbsps oil
1 tsp ginger paste
1tsp chilli paste

Ingredient list 3

8 small potatoes
8 small brinjals (eggplant)
2 tbsps oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder

For the stuffing :
3 tbsps oil
4 tbsps gram flour (chana flour)
1/2 cup coarse peanut powder
1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
11/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsps dhana jiru powder (coriander and cumin powder)
1/4 cup fresh chopped coriander
1/2 tsp carom seeds (ajwain or ajmo)
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp chilli paste

Ingredient List 4

1/2 cup fried cashew nuts

Ingredient List 1- procedure

  1. Wash the rice thoroughly and soak it in water for about 30 minutes.
  2. Drain out the water and put the rice in a pan or a rice cooker.
  3. Add to it the coconut milk, ghee, turmeric powder, salt, cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves.
  4. Mix gently, cover and cook the rice till done.
  5. Immediately remove the rice into a large tray and let it cool. Use a fork to spread the rice gently. 
Ingredient List 2 – procedure
  1. Heat the 3 tbsps of oil in a frying pan. When it is hot add to it the mustard and cumin seeds.
  2. When the seeds begin to splutter, add the ginger and chilli paste. Saute for a few seconds and add the turmeric powder and asafoetida powder.
  3. Add the cabbage and peas. Add the salt. Mix well.
  4. Cover the pan with a lid and let the vegetables cook over a medium flame. Don’t over cook the cabbage. 
  5. When done remove from the heat and keep it aside.
Ingredient List 3 – procedure
  1. Heat the oil in a medium pan over a low flame. When it is hot, add to it the carom seeds, sesame seeds.
  2. When the seeds begin to splutter, add the gram flour,turmeric powder, peanut powder, coconut, chilli and ginger paste. Stir fry the mixture all the time till its light pink and you can get the aroma of the coconut.
  3. Take it off the heat. Add to it the chilli powder, dhana jiru powder, salt and sugar.
  4. Let the mixture cool for a while. Add to it the lemon juice and chopped coriander and mix well.
  5. Peel the potatoes. Cut a slit at the top 3/4 of the way, on each potato. 
  6. Trim the stem of the brinjals. Cut a slit from the stem 3/4 of the way. 
  7. Stuff all the potatoes and brinjals with the filling.
  8. Heat the 2 tbsps of oil in a wide pan. I prefer to use a non stick frying pan. 
  9. Gently place the potatoes and brinjals into the pan. Sprinkle the1/4 tsp turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp salt all over the vegetables. Mix gently. Cover and cook the vegetables over low flame till done.You may need to shake the pan occasionally so that the vegetables do not burn. Its done when you can pierce a potato easily with a knife.
Ingredient list 4 – procedure
Fry the cashew nuts in oil over a low flame till they are light pink.
Put your dish together.
  1. Add the cabbage peas vegetable to the rice and mix well.
  2. Take a greased baking tray. Divide the rice into 2 parts.
  3. Layer the first part at the bottom of the tray.
  4. Now layer the potato brinjal vegetable over the rice. 
  5. Cover with the remaining rice.
  6. Sprinkle the cashew nuts over it.
  7. Cover the tray with a foil.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for about 15 to 20 minutes just before serving.
  9. Serve with plain yogurt, chaas or raita.
Tips :
  • The amount of liquid the rice may require depends on how old the rice is. I prefer to use Kohinoor or India Gate rice.
  • Any left over filling can be used to sprinkle over cooked potatoes, ladyfingers or brinjals.
  • Dhana jiru is simply 3 parts of roasted coriander seeds to 1 part of roasted cumin seeds , put together and made into a powder. Used for most gujarati vegetables or shaak. 
  • Can add a few more brinjals and potatoes.
  • As usual, add chillis according to your taste. The above recipe is mildly hot.
  • If the potatoes and brinjals begin to stick to the pan and are not cooked yet, sprinkle a little water over it, cover and cook over low heat.

Sending this recipe for the following events:

Full Scoops

Citrus spice and all things nice





You may want to check out the following:

beetroot rice
mexican rice


Vegetable biryani


  • Pari Vasisht

    July 7, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    What lovely set of ingredients and such subtle flavours. Thanks for linking it Only gluten free.

  • Full Scoops

    August 5, 2014 at 4:22 am

    Must have been so flavorful! My mother in law is also a great cook! Thanks for linking it to The Veg Box event!

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