Story by Rashmi Kalro
Photos by Maya Dadashi
One of the most exhausting parts of a diet other than figuring out what to eat, is figuring out what not to eat. Elimination and deprivation are commonly recommended in diets for weight loss. To make matters less scary, let’s familiarize ourselves with another term — substitution.
Rather than completely suppressing our cravings, we can find healthy ingredients to satisfy them with. For example, most Asian cuisines incorporate rice in their dishes, especially in India. One of the most famous Indian rice dishes is biryani. Substituting rice with quinoa, adding vegetables to the dish and cooking with less oil are great ways to enjoy biryani, and also ensure that everyone’s desires are fulfilled!
Biryani is a combination of a thick gravy with rice, flavored with spices such as saffron, cardamom and bay leaves layered with lamb, chicken or fish.
Ingredients for Marinade
1 tsp. grated garlic or garlic paste
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger or ginger paste
½ tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. store bought biryani/tandoori/kabab/curry masala (spice powder)
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice of ½ lime
About 1 tsp. salt
2 skinless, boneless, chicken thighs, diced into 2-inch pieces
1 shallot, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 diced tomatoes (cut into 2-inch pieces as well)
Instructions for Marinade
Add all of the spices, lime juice, and salt to the yogurt. Mix well until marinade is even and no lumps remain.
Add chicken and veggies into the marinate and ensure each piece is covered evenly.
Leave marinated chicken covered in the fridge for 6-8 hours.
Ingredients for Biryani
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 small garlic cloves, sliced
5-6 peppercorns and full cloves
1 bay leaf
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 ½ tsp. of salt
3 plum tomatoes, finely diced
½ a cup of cilantro leaves, chopped
1 small fist fresh mint leaves, chopped
¾ cup toasted quinoa
¾ cup hot water
¼ tsp. saffron crushed in 2 Tbsp. warm milk (optional)
Instructions for Biryani
Heat the instant pot on sauté mode. Add the oil, bay leaf, pepper and cloves.
Add the sliced onions next and once stirred, mix in the salt. Stir fry until the onions are caramelized and hints golden in color.
Add tomatoes and cilantro.
Add the toasted quinoa.
Add the water and additional salt to taste.
Switch off saute mode, and cover the pot.
Hit the rice button and wait for 15 minutes.
Note: Millets can also be used instead of quinoa.
Contrary to the popular notion, quinoa is not actually a grain that comes from the Andes Mountains of South America. It is part of the same family as spinach and beetroot, called goosefoot. Even though quinoa is not technically a grain, it can be used as one and does taste like one. White rice is the usual grain used to make biryani, it is also very low in nutritious contents such as vitamins and minerals. Also, white rice has roughly 15 times the carbohydrates and 40 more calories than quinoa does. Although rice is a staple grain, rice needs to be accompanied with vegetables and protein to ensure the meal is nutritious, where as quinoa in itself is rich in both protein and fiber. This ensures a filling and satiable meal that keeps one full for a long time preventing snacking. This makes it the perfect food to include in a diet. Ranging from Indian to Greek food, the versatile grain can be added to various meals to drastically increase the nutrition of the dish.
Substitution can be creative, fun and educative. It results in the perfect mix of tasty, satisfying food and nutrition for our bodies. With substitution, you can treat yourself and take care of yourself.