Dal Biryani

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Lentils cooked with spices and rice

If you are wondering why not just pour the dal over your rice and save yourself trouble, you’ll have to believe me when I say making this biryani is worth it! It is so much more than the sum of its parts. Partially cooked lentils and rice are brought together in delicious harmony in a spicy coconut sauce that is addictive by itself. They finish cooking in the sauce, absorb its flavours and become this wonderful biryani. Feel free to add other veggies such as diced zucchini, red peppers, green beans – really whatever is in your fridge. Throw them in along with the onions when sautéing. And if you don’t feel like a biryani, then just cook the veggies in the delicious sauce and you have a fantastic curry on hand. See, so much more than the sum of its parts!


1 cup French green lentils (substitute regular brown lentils if desired)
1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced ginger
6 plum tomatoes, fresh or canned, pureed
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
Salt to taste
1 tsp each: ground coriander, ground cumin, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves
½ tsp each: cayenne pepper, turmeric
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander

Soak lentils in enough water to cover for 1 hour. Drain. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add lentils, reduce heat to medium and cook till the lentils are just tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Drain lentils in a sieve and spread on a tray to cool.
Meanwhile, bring another 4 cups of water to a boil in separate saucepan. Add rice, reduce heat to medium and cook until rice is just tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Drain in sieve and spread on a tray to cool.
Warm oil in deep non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add cumin seeds, splutter for 30 seconds. Add onions, garlic and ginger. Sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, salt, spices and fresh coriander. Cook until mixture starts bubbling, about 2 minutes.
Add reserved lentils and rice and gently mix them in. Cover and let biryani heat up for 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium low and cook for 30 minutes, without uncovering the skillet or stirring the biryani in between.
At the end of cooking time, uncover skillet and mix the biryani gently. It should be completely dry at this point and rice should be fluffy. If it is not, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Let biryani sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves four