Caribbean Biryani

Caribbean Biryani One-Pot Meal
I know this tongue-in-cheek dish sounds like a bit of a weird culture clash, but hear me out. I’ve been a fan of chucking rice, peppers and mixed beans together for as long as I can remember. Soon after I started working in London, I was putting together this makeshift dish from bits and bobs in the staff canteen when a Jamaican workmate explained I was enjoying a rough interpretation of rice and peas, a traditional Caribbean side dish. Well, I was happy to put a name to the dish I thought I’d made up – and over the years my version has evolved to become this one-pot meal, which really only came about because I had some biryani paste that needed to be used up. The resulting combination of spices and coconut with rice, beans and the chicken-like texture of Quorn just seemed to go together perfectly. Incidentally, I no longer buy jars of biryani paste – I find mixing tomato puree with curry powder (both permanent fixtures in my kitchen) – works well and is far more convenient. My daughter is a fan of any ‘spicy rice’ dish, and this is no exception. This perfect mid-week supper is a mildly spiced dish – you can add some dried chilli flakes for an extra kick if you like.
This is also delicious served cold as a rice salad, particularly the next day when the flavours really have a chance to develop.

Serves 3-4.

200g Quorn chicken-style chunks, defrosted (for a vegan option, pre-marinated tofu chunks or any other vegan substitute is fine)
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp medium curry
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/4 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
200g chopped mixed veg, whatever you have to hand. I tend to use a frozen mix of edamame, peppers and sweetcorn
1 x 50g sachet of creamed coconut (I use Sharwoods) – place in a mug of just-boiled water to soften
200g basmati rice (I used basmati and wild rice here because that’s what I had left)
400g tin of black eye peas/beans, or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
700ml water
75g golden sultanas (don’t buy them specially – raisins will do!)
Juice of one lime
50g raw cashews and a handful of chopped coriander (a nice finish but optional!)

In a little dish, mix together the tomato puree and curry powder, slackening with a tablespoon or so of water, if necessary. Dollop the paste on to the Quorn and give it a good mix. Set aside to marinate. (If using frozen Quorn, defrost in the microwave first – I cover and cook on high for about 2 minutes).

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Heat the oil very gently in a big saucepan. Add the chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes on the lowest heat. Try not to catch the onions, just aim for soft and golden. If you’re using chilli flakes, add them now and give a good mix. Add the marinated Quorn, stir and continue to fry gently for a couple of minutes. Now squeeze in the creamed coconut and mix well.

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Add the chopped vegetables and rice. Stir gently until everything is just about coated, then pour in the water and black eye peas (or kidney beans). Mix gently and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat a little and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the water has been absorbed. You’ll need to stir it now and again to stop the rice sticking to the pan. When it is ready, remove from the heat. Stir in the sultanas, squeeze in the lime juice and clamp the lid on. Leave it for five minutes, then fork through to fluff it up and serve. Scatter the cashews and coriander – if desired – and serve.

As with all rice-based dishes, please take extra care when storing any leftovers. Rice must be cooled and refrigerated as quickly as possible – it should never be left sitting around at room temperature for extended periods of time.
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