A Food Dilemma

A couple at church had their fifth (!) baby this past week.  I volunteered to take a meal to them.  I was told they were vegetarian.  No problem, I have some vegetarian meals under my belt.  Then I found out they also don’t eat dairy.  Uh oh.  Most of my vegetarian meals involve some form of dairy.

I solved my dilemma with a menu from my Indian heritage.  The vegetable biriyani is a rice dish that is flavored with spices.  I served it along with chole (recipe here) and a simple cucumber, tomato and mint salad.  The meal was satisfying and met all the requirements for the family.  I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did!

Vegetable Biriyani

Recipe Adapted From:  Lucinda Scala Quinn

  • 1/3 cup plus two tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed (I didn’t have coriander seed but  I did have ground coriander)
  • 3 teaspoons poppy seeds (I didn’t have these so I omitted it)
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (I thought I had this in my freezer but after emptying the entire contents of my freezer, no luck.  So I omitted this as well.)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 2 small russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 10 ounces frozen peas


  1. In a blender, combine 1/3 cup oil, onion, salt, spices, ginger, shredded coconut, and 1/4 cup coconut milk.
  2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large straight-sided skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Toast the rice until lightly golden. Add the spice puree to the rice. Stir until aromatic, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add remaining coconut milk, 2 1/3 cups water, potatoes, and carrots to the skillet. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed into the rice, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the peas, cover, and steam until the peas are warmed through, about 5 minutes.

And since I have a new shipment of great goodies from Crate & Barrel that is overtaking my downstairs, let’s do a giveaway!  Post a comment on what your favorite ethnic cuisine is and you’ll be entered to win a fun culinary prize.  Winners will be announced Saturday, July 30th.  Good luck!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Courtney L says:

    I love biriyani! Does it count if I say my favorite ethnic cuisine is anything indian? It’s true! Here are a few on the top of the list: anything fried in chickpea flour, palak paneer, biriyani, and curry with lamb. I plan to try this recipe soon 🙂


  2. Erin says:

    We have to pick a favorite? I loved going to the outdoor market in L.A. – it’s like a food bazaar and everyone is there making their thing. Had great Greek food, Indian food, and some classic italian pizza for the kids. That’s my kind of ethnic experience!


  3. Renee says:

    I love Thai food. But I’m a food adventurer. I’ll try anything. This looks good.


  4. Rachel says:

    I do enjoy branching out and trying new food and will have to say that Thai food has been my favorite. Maybe I’ll get around to trying my hand at it myself here at home one day.


  5. Liz says:

    Thanks Erin for the link to a delicious looking website! My favorite is Mexican or Indian.


  6. Leah says:

    I’m not a huge adventurer when it comes to food, but I do love Mexican. Guess that’s because I grew up with it!


  7. Nisha says:

    Can’t wait to try this recipe, Susy! I would have to say my favorite ethnic food is Indian, but I love to explore and try new cuisines.


  8. Abby says:

    Hi Susy! Thanks for the recipe I can’t wait to try it. I love food so I have many favorite ethnic cuisines, but lately I have been craving Middle Eastern cuisines. I have been using hummus in many different ways, and I am going on a food crawl this weekend for some yummy falafel.


  9. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the alternative recipe–I have a couple of families at church on that GAPS diet, which is no dairy, gluten, pretty much no anything. 🙂 And they will each need meals this fall–so that solves my problem! Miss you!


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