Sri Lankan Vegetable Biryani

Sri Lankan Vegetable Biryani



I never use artificial colours or flavours in my cooking. They were not available to my mother, and she taught me to create the full flavour from the natural ingredients themselves. A biryani is rice cooked together usually with meat or fish, but this pure vegetable version that I have made on  special occasions in Sri Lanka and here in London is so tasty that you won’t miss the meat. All the root vegetables and the aubergine are roasted in the oven to get more flavour, and the green vegetables are cooked with rice (to keep them green). My friends and family all love this dish, and I hope you will too!



500g rice
250g green vegetables (beans, asparagus, courgette)
350g root vegetables (parsnips, carrot, sweet potato, onion, celeriac)
3 tbs ginger and garlic (chopped)
1 aubergine (diced)
150g tomato (chopped)
100g leeks or spring onion (sliced)
Handful of basil leaves or coriander leaves
4 sprigs curry leaves
1 tbs dry herbs
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 black pepper seeds
1/2 mustard seeds
1 tbs cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick and star anise
Pinch of saffron strands, or turmeric powder
50g roasted cashew nuts
3 tbs olive oil
1/2 half lemon
3 tbs plain yogurt
Boiling water
Salt and pepper to taste




Preheat the oven to 180*. Dice and mix all the root vegetables with aubergine, oil, dry herbs and seasoning. Use the pestle and mortar to grind the seeds. Boil the rice with the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and star anise and the lemon. When the rice is cooked, squeeze the lemon and remove the whole spices. Then add the diced green vegetables and cover. Heat the oil in a pan and add ginger, garlic, curry leaves, spice seeds powder, tomato, leeks and yogurt. Remove from the heat and season. Mix all together and add cashews and chopped basil, then garnish as you like. I served mine with boiled egg curry and devilled potato.

© Ajith Perera. All rights reserved.