Whenever I cook Indian food, I always remember my university days. Sometime during my first year, my flatmate borrowed a book from an Indian friend of hers. You cannot believe the smell of the book! The intense aromas every flip of the page released made your mouth water and your stomach crave for Indian food ASAP. Later on, we found out that she used to love reading in the kitchen while cooking.

Since then, Indian food is a happy-day food for me. Why? Well, I always cook it when I am in a very good mood and when I want to celebrate something. I love the smells, the textures, the mixed spiciness.

This vegetarian dish is very easy to make and full of Indian flavors you will come to love as much as I do. Just bear in mind, though, that Madras means… hot. Let’s cook!


For the Madras curry paste

  • 2 ½ tablespoons of coriander seeds, dry-roasted in oven for 7-10 minutes then ground
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed, dry-roasted in oven for 7-10 minutes then ground
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seedsspices
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder, eg. cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 garlic cloves, crusted
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3-4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

For the Biryani

  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut in thin stripes
  • 1 small cauliflower, washed and cut in small florets
  • 2 medium-to-large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in cubes
  • 150gr trimmed green beans, cut in half
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 500gr basmati rice
  • 1 liter vegetable stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons Madras curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons black or white mustard seeds
  • large pinch of saffron strands
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • 50 gr salted roasted cashew nuts or raisins, optional
  • salt for seasoning

Part I: Directions for the Madras curry paste

  1. Put all ingredients, except the vinegar, into a small ball and mix well.
  2. Add vinegar, one tablespoon at a time, and work gradually into a smooth paste.
  3. Once you make it, you can store in the fridge, in an air-tight container, for up to a month.

Part II: Directions for the Biryani

  1. Preheat the oven at 190°C.
  2. Wash and soak the rice for 20 minutes in cold water. Drain and keep it aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, over medium-to-high heat, add the olive oil, stir in the chopped onion and sizzle for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped chilli and sauté for an extra minute.
  5. Blend in the Madras paste, vegetables and the mustard seeds and sizzle for 2 minutes until vegetables start to “sweat”.
  6. Mix in the drained rice, give it a stir and carefully add the vegetable stock and the saffron. Season with salt as desired.
  7. Carefully transfer into a large roasting pan. Cover with foil or use the pan’s lid if available, and cook in the oven until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed (approximately 30 minutes).
  8. Once it is cooked, add the lemon juice and decorate with the coriander leaves and cashew nuts or raisins or both.

Serving suggestions

A pile of poppadums and a bowl of raita (yogurt mixed with finely chopped cucumber or onion, mint leaves and a touch of salt) are ideal for this dish.


  • Prawn Biryani All the exotic flavors of this recipe blend exceptionally with fresh prawns. Just, mix them in before you put the biryani in the oven (step 7 of part II).
  • If you don’t want to make your own Madras paste, you can find good quality ones at Indian food stores and supermarkets. Still, none can beat the real taste of a homemade one.
  • For a milder yet still spicy taste, you can omit the green chilli.


Lab scientist, sharp dresser and cooking guru Maria is one half of the original alwaysladies.com founding team. She brings her opinions with earnestness and a smile, even when there are razor blades inside.

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