Mushrooms are one of my favourite ingredients to cook with and eat. They come in an astounding array of colours, shapes and textures. Just look at my mushroom ‘garden’-slender enoki, meaty shiitake, gorgeous maitake (hen of the woods) and king oyster mushrooms and the cutest of them all – bunashimeji mushrooms.
When we were in South Island, New Zealand last year, we’d spotted many poisonous toadstool mushrooms while we’re out walking in the woods. They weren’t edible but they were so beautiful to admire, including the countless rabbit burrows and cones which were strewn about. There’s something magical about being in the woods in Autumn – the smell of the damp earth after an autumnal downpour, bronzed leaves falling as you’re walking past and the kiss of crisp, fresh air on your cheeks. One of the things we missed out on was to go mushroom gathering with a guide. Maybe next time.
Coming back to my love for cooking and tasting mushrooms… They make an amazing substitute for meat because of their texture. For this dish, I chose to use mushrooms that result in different textures after cooking. I like the ‘crunchy’ textures of bunashimeji and wood ear mushrooms in contrast to the soft basmati rice. However, you can use any mushrooms that you like and are in season. In my first few attempts of recipe testing (as pictured above), I used baby golden oysters, maitake, bunashimeji and wood ear mushrooms and it was lovely.
And last week, I tried the same recipe with shiitake, bunashimeji, enoki, king oyster and maitake. I loved how ‘meaty’ the shiitake was and the overall flavour it imparted but wasn’t particularly won over by the stringy enoki; think they work best in noodle soups. I did try using saffron in my first try but decided against it as I wanted the flavours of the mushroom to shine. Also, I cook this quite often and am not married to a Saffron merchant. But if you’d like to try it and have the means, why not?
And for those of you hardcore biryani fans (yes, you!)… please don’t judge. I know that this isn’t an authentic (if there’s still such a thing) biryani that is cooked with layers of rice and meat and it was’t my intention to make one anyway. This is for a quick, easier, healthier, vegan version that is still cooked and sealed in a pot. If you must judge, then let it be based on how good this tastes despite being meatless and relatively fuss-free to cook. The mushroom masala mixture is cooked on a stove till al dente, transferred to the rice cooker over the basmati rice and cooked together till done. The result- an aromatic, one-pot meal that completes your weekday dinner. All the whole spices, spice powders and beautiful mushrooms create an intensely fragrant yet light dish which tastes even better the following day. Throw in a simple cucumber-yoghurt salad and some crunchy poppadams and you’re all set.
Vegetarian, tasty, easy – just the way I like it after all that Deepavali feasting!
Ricecooker Mushroom Biryani
- 2 cups good quality basmati rice
- 4 cups low-sodium, light vegetable stock (or as much as your rice cooker requires)
- 3-4 tablespoons cold-pressed coconut oil / ghee
- 1 bay leaf
- 1.5 inch cinnamon
- 2 whole green cardamoms
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
- 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
- 3 tablespoons coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- pinch of turmeric
- pinch of chilli powder (optional)
- 2-3 cups of mushroom, in medium chunks
- For garnish – chopped coriander, mint and fried shallots
- Wash basmati rice until water is almost clear. Drain all water.
- Soak basmati rice in rice cooker pot with amount of stock required for your rice cooker for 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile in another pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add bay leaf, cinnamon,cardamom, cloves and fry till aromatic. Add fennel and cumin seeds and fry till they just start to brown.
- Add chopped green chillies, sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté till they start to brown on the edges.
- Add chopped tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste, a rich of salt and all the spice powders- coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric and chilli. Sauté till tomatoes soften and have become mushy. Add a splash of water if spices begin to burn and lower the flame. The tomato should be well-integrated with the spices and the oil should start separating from the masala paste. Check for seasoning. Add more salt if needed, about 1 to 1.5 teaspoons for the entire mushroom masala should be enough.
- Add all the mushroom chunks and toss to evenly coat in masala paste. Immediately transfer to rice cooker. Add mushrooms on top of rice. Don’t mix mushroom masala with the rice.
- By this time, the rice would have been soaking for about 20-30 minutes. Switch on your rice cooker and cook as you would normally.
- When it’s done, leave your rice to cool with rice cooker lid open for about 10-15 minutes. Then gently fluff the rice from the sides to the centre with the rice scoop.
- Garnish and serve your mushroom biryani.
- Remainder can be kept refrigerated for a day and reheated with a few splashes of water in your rice cooker.