Vegetable Biryani from 'River Cottage Veg'

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[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.