These troubling times call for comfort food, plain and simple. As the world financial markets crash, I wouldn’t be surprised if mac-and-cheese and mashed potato purveyors experienced a sudden spike in business. And so, seeking shelter in a soothing dish of steamy, starchy saltiness, I prepared Mark Bittman’s “biryani” from his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. True, you could say that this classic pilaf-style Indian dish, is far from familiar. But with its warm spices and golden hue, a plate of this is like basking in balmy sunshine.
You start with some butter (if you’re really in need of comfort) or light oil, heated in a wide, deep skillet. Add your spices: 1 cinnamon stick, 3-4 whole cloves, 6 cardamom pods (though I didn’t have any on hand so I skipped them), 1 tsp turmeric and stir until fragrant. Then saute a chopped onion, a little minced garlic and ginger until soft. Add your basmati rice (1 1/2 cups) and coat with the oil until it’s shiny. Then add your liquid — 1 1/2 cups yogurt mixed with 1 1/2 cups stock. Lower heat until the mixture barely simmers, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
The result is the golden mixture you see above. Mark B. adds cubes of tofu with the liquid (which he says are like paneer cheese, a claim I find hard to swallow), of course you could also add chicken or lamb. Actually, we ate this with some highly spiced cauliflower, which felt suitably abstemious.