The supperclub that I co-run, Ruby & Pickles, is all about fusion cooking. We take dishes from around that the world that we enjoy and we give them our own twist using the flavours and spices of our Indian background.
So when we hosted a Mediterranean summer feast last week, I was feeling particularly inspired by my recent trip to Sicily. and had a wild notion that we could mix up one of my favourite Sicilian street food snacks, arancini risotto balls, with traditional Indian dish of mixed rice, biryani.
Biryani isn’t a dish that I cook or eat that often, but is something that my dad used to cook regularly. One of the reasons that I rarely cook it is that I know that I won’t be able to replicate the deep but subtle flavours of his dish that was so seemingly effortlessly put together. However when I made millet biryani a few months ago, somehow I managed to create a dish that was so similar in taste to my dad’s that I actually felt quite emotional eating it (I’ve cried over curries my uncle has cooked me in India before as they taste just like my dad’s…) I’m not entirely sure how I did it, something must have just clicked, I must have remembered an extra ingredient, or maybe I just hadn’t been confident to try it before.
Despite appearing on on Indian menus across the country, Biryani is a dish many people aren’t as familiar with as it will often be overlooked in favour of the more – in the absolute loosest sense of the word – traditional curries. So I also thought that this experimental dish would be a great opportunity to familiarise more people with biryani flavours.
The recipe below uses risotto rice which is used in arancini, although I did originally experiment with basmati rice as I thought that might be more authentic in terms of the biryani. I’ve added a note at the end on how you can adapt the recipe to use basmati rice if you don’t have risotto rice.
I used carrots, peas and onion in the recipe, but you can really use any type of vegetables – potatoes are common in biryani but given that the rice is carby and we were also serving them on a platter alongside bread, we decided to omit potatoes from the recipe.
Birycini: Indian rice balls
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/4 inch ginger, chopped
- 1 green chilli, sliced
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 carrot, cubed
- 1 cup of basmati rice* (see recipe if you want to use risotto rice)
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- pinch of chilli powder
- 1 cup of frozen peas
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2-3 tbsp almond or other milk
Coating and frying:
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 cup almond or other milk
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 4 cups of vegetable oil
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the ginger, garlic, fresh chilli and cumin seeds until slightly browned.
Add the rice, water, carrots and all the dried spices. Bring to the boil then simmer and cover until the rice is soft and all the water is absorbed (around 12 minutes). Add more water a tablespoon at a time if you need more moisture.
[*Alternatively, if you want to use risotto rice, cook it as per the instructions on the packet, adding in the spices instead of stock, plus carrots from the start, and then mix with the pre-cooked ginger, garlic, chilli and cumin seeds. You won’t need to add almond milk as below as it should be creamy enough].
Add the almond milk to make it more creamy and some salt and pepper to taste. Add more chilli or garam masala to taste if you want.
Put the filling in the fridge to chill for at least an hour, ideally overnight.
Once ready to make the balls, put each of the coating ingredients in a separate bowl.
Roll the rice mixture into golf ball sized balls. The mixture should blend into balls quite easily and stick together. Your hands might get sticky but that’s ok.
Heat the oil in a pan.
Roll the balls, one at a time, firstly in the flour then coat in the milk and finally in the breadcrumbs. You can repeat if you want a crispier, thicker coating. Place gently in the hot oil and cook until crispy and brown – about 8-10 minutes. Be aware of them cracking. To avoid that ensure that the coating is completely even before frying and don’t have the oil too hot (a test is to drop a bit of breadcrumb in first and it should sizzle but not crisp too quickly).
Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen towel. Ideally serve straight away, with your favourite chutney, pickle or dip.