[Photograph: Simon Wheeler]

Biryani is a celebratory dish of rice and curry, often featuring meat. Luckily, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's vegetarian version in River Cottage Veg doesn't suffer from its absence. His base is a richly spiced stew of potatoes, peas, and carrots, fragrant with cardamom, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander. A fluffy layer of saffron basmati rice tops the curry and manages to retain its own character, even after a second round of cooking. The final touches of caramelized onions, toasted almonds, and chopped cilantro add enough vibrancy to the dish that it's easy to forget that it's meatless.

Why I picked this recipe: Frankly, most biryani recipes I've tried haven't worked very well, so I wanted to see if Fearnley-Whittingstall's version was up to snuff.

What worked: This one went off without a major hitch. The rice stayed fluffy, the curry was distinctly fragrant, and the meal came together with relative ease.

What didn't: Next time I'll start caramelizing the onions earlier (perhaps before starting any other elements) to give them a chance to really cook down. These quickly browned onions were okay, but would've been better with more time on the stove.

Suggested tweaks: You could play with the vegetables in the curry if you'd like. Cauliflower would be a nice addition, as would sweet potatoes.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of River Cottage Veg to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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