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Archive for the ‘Rice’ Category

Comfort food: varan-bhat

In Maharashtrian, Rice, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on February 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm

sada varan bhat

For many of us dal-chaval constitutes the ultimate comfort food.  It is hard to come up with food that is simpler or more satiating.  One such version of dal-chaval is the Maharashrian sada varan-bhat.

Many Sundays during our courting days I would visit V at his home for lunch.  Varan-bhat was frequently on the menu – it was a Sunday favorite with the family.  Sunday used to be the day of the weekly veggie shopping from the Shahadra mandi in the days before Mother’s Dairy Fruit and Vegetable Shops and Big Apple marts appeared in every neighbourhood.  Often I would arrive to find V and his father still not back from the market.  With fresh vegetables yet to arrive for re-stocking the fridge, varan-bhat must have been not only the logical meal but also one that would allow time needed for the sorting of the soon-to-arrive green-groceries.  I remember my MIL following a regimen of washing and drip-drying all the vegetables before stocking them for the week.  Bundles of greens (spinach, coriander, and methi) were  untied, picked over to remove damp or rotting stems, and then packed into bags; other vegetables were trimmed and washed and spread on a cloth to dry off for a while.  If I got there before it was all done, I too would lend a helping hand.  That is when I learnt to do a quick job of picking methi (hold a fistful of the leafy-stems in one hand and pull  at the stem-ends with the other!), and that stems could be left in while using green coriander!

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Goan Sausage

In Goan, Potatoes, Rice, Under 30 min! on January 31, 2013 at 5:44 pm

My interest in food and cooking is known to most of my friends, family, and colleagues, and even students.  Towards the end of the term I bring some food, usually home-cooked, to the class on  a day when informal interactions are scheduled.  It is a pleasant way to conclude the semester.

Some students stay in touch after they graduate.  Some come and visit and we exchange notes as colleagues.  A special mention here is Ryan, who remembers to bring me foodie-things from his travels around the country; many times these are ingredients sourced from where they are grown (or brewed!).  Amongst the many gifts I have received from him are coffee from a Chikmagalur plantation, his aunt’s home-brewed plum wine, his mom’s fruitcake, Shrewsbury biscuits and ginger cookies from the famous Kayani bakery in Pune, toddy from Kerala, and Mahuwa (the drink!) from Madhya Pradesh.  Recently he brought me dried kokum and kokum syrup on his return from a visit to the Konkan.  He seems to be partial to the western coast; perhaps because of his ethnic roots.  Back from one such visit to the coast last year, he brought me a packet of Goan pork sausage.  Until then I had only read about it.

Remember I asked all of you to suggest recipes?  Raji had suggested I use it in a pulao, and Ryan shared a recipe for a curry cooked with the sausage and potatoes.  The Goan Chouriço, also known as linguica, is an important element in the Portuguese-influenced Goan Catholic cuisine.  Though often identified as a sausage, it is made with chopped pork instead of ground meat and cannot be consumed uncooked.  The prepared pork is combined with spices and vinegar, stuffed into cleaned cattle gut, and usually dried in the sun.  The resulting aged meat imparts a unique taste and aroma to whatever it is cooked with.

goan sausage

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Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

In From the Garden, Low Fat, on the side, Rice, Vegetarian on June 28, 2009 at 1:02 pm

I know, I know – I have been neglecting the blog.  I think i might have writer’s block.  The thing with writing is that you must just keep at it; that’s the only way to get past it.  You cut yourself some slack, waiting for inspiration to strike, and before you know it you have arrived at Writer’s Block!  Sticky place, that.

the vine

Yet it’s not as if it has been an uneventful month.  The Big News is that the son has graduated from highschool. Pappu pass ho gaya!! 😀 Not just that, he has also managed a place at a good college down South to study the subject he wishes to.  Yes, if all goes as per plan, he is slated to become an engineer in four years.

This is also a month of birthdays in the family, and everyone is a year older.  The son can vote now.  As for me, well… I don’t think 44 is any kind of a milestone…  After 40, they seem to whiz by.

Yet, this birthday ended up special in many ways.  The day began with the usual phone calls from my Mom and sis.  Then my neighbour T walked in to wish me and reminded me about our lunch appointment – yes, T took me out to lunch!  It was after a very long time that I actually liked everything I had ordered at a restaurant.  Thank you, T, for a wonderful afternoon!

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Ver – the opposite of Kheer

In Kashmiri, Rice, Traditions and Customs on December 17, 2008 at 11:35 pm

veri masala

As I said earlier, there is much Kashmiris make with rice. Besides being the staple on our plate it is also our preferred ingredient when it comes to celebrations of all kinds. All auspicious occasions begin with rice in some avatar or the other. Barring one sweet made with dry fruits all Kashmiri desserts have rice as the main ingredient. [Therein lies a lesson for all of us to look at statistics with a sharp eye – Kashmiri cuisine has 3.5 desserts in all!]

Kheer is the offering of choice for most Goddesses.  When a sweet offering will not fit the bill, taher is cooked to mark the happy occasion. Similarly, cooking and eating ver marks the beginning of important celebrations such as weddings and yagnopavit ceremonies.

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Birthdays and other days

In Kashmiri, Potatoes, Rice, Traditions and Customs, Under 30 min! on November 13, 2008 at 1:29 pm

taher

Kashmiri Pandits, just like Bengali Brahmins, are known for their love of mutton and fish.  Just the sight of a goat can make my Bengali professor salivate.  Likewise, a Kashmiri is within her rights to discount a meal that did not include meat.

Food is perhaps amongst the most gossiped topics in the Kashmiri community.  The usual greetings and hugging are always followed by queries regarding the last meal.  How do you do?  What did you have for lunch?  The aunt will barely keep herself from clucking if you omit to mention some meat dish, real or imaginary, in your previous repast.  And you had better include the leftover morsel from yesterday’s meal while you are recounting the feast which is obviously your norm.  You can see the mental balancing underway as the relative from one side (paternal or maternal) weighs the meal in question (enjoyed at the other side) and determines who the winner would be after they are done serving you next. I have been accosted on the street – and after the pleasantries were done with –  “Ah, on your way from your maasi’s eh? So, what did you eat?!”  Now I look back at it with nostalgia; it did make our once-upon-a-time annual summer visits to Srinagar all the more colourful.

Yet, this blog speaks little of my nonvegetarian heritage.

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A hearty dish of Beans and Rice

In Low Fat, Punjab, Rice, Vegetarian on December 16, 2007 at 12:37 am

We are in the grip of winter here in Delhi. Not quite freezing but close; cold enough for a hearty dish of beans and rice.

rajma chaval

Our hills are home to an amazing variety of beans. If you remember I mentioned that on one of my visits I found 200 kinds of beans on display at Dilli Haat! I bought two varieties that time – one was chitre rajma, very similar to cranberry beans I received from a friend in the US, and another was a smooth tan-colour.

beans
How many have you? Clockwise from top: lobia (black eyed peas), varya muth (black beans), chitre rajma, cranberry beans, Kashmiri rajma

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Fried Rice, Again!

In Eggs, Rice, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on November 13, 2007 at 8:23 pm

fried rice
At last I have a recipe using brown rice that the whole family will eat. I might also come out in the open about the fact that I love white rice. While I do on occasion cook brown rice, I find white rice is more suited to absorbing the curries we all love so much. You can mush it up with dal, or with dahi (yoghurt), and it feels right. Brown rice just refuses to soften up despite all the pressure-cooking I subject it to, and then it dares me to refuse. A lot like dalia (cracked wheat). But I put dalia in its place once I realized I could eat my cake and have it too, sort of. I needed a recipe for brown rice that would make it really sing instead of the forlorn ditty, “I’m good for you.”

I tried Musical’s mothaan di khichdi (using sprouted moth as Nupur had done) and reluctantly agreed with my teen son that it would have been better with regular white rice. My son will not touch brown rice with a ten foot pole. But lap it up he did with his 10 inch chopsticks when I made it into fried rice!

Now, who doesn’t like fried rice! I bet that all of us have our own favourite version of this classic Chinese dish. There are many traditional Indian avatars of this dish too using leftover rice – Maharashtrians have their phodnicha bhath (literally, rice with tempering), and the many South Indian rice preparations use the same concept too (chitranna, tamarind rice) – leftover rice mixed into seasoned oil, with or without the addition of vegetables.

While most of the dishes consumed in India under the “Chinese food” label have the most superficial of resemblance to the cuisine of that ancient country (Chicken Manchurian is as Chinese as Chicken Tikka Masala is Indian), I will wager that home-cooks serve a decent version of Chinese fried rice. That is because the home cook likely limits his Chinese pantry items to the generic soy sauce; and most Indian homes are never out of ginger, onion, and garlic. I have since also bought myself a bottle of hoysin sauce, and will be using it in this rice (and pray that it is not blasphemy); fermented beans are on my list next.

rices varieties
How many have you? Nine kinds of rice in my pantry: Clockwise, from bottom: Goan brown rice, fragrant white Basmati, black rice (a gift from a friend!), a mix of Kerala red rice (rosematta) and a dark red rice from Uttaranchal (from Navdanya) – I use the mix in soups, par-boiled rice for idli (from Madras Store, INA), short grain brown rice, brown Basmati; center -lightly fragrant short grain rice from Madhya Pradesh, which I have been saving for Ver)

The fried brown-rice happened quite by chance. I had (pressure) cooked a big pot of Goan brown rice, swearing to eat no white rice for a whole month. The following day I Google-chatted with a certain friend too late into the afternoon that cooking lunch on time was not likely.

My family will readily eat bread and butter, or bread and eggs, whenever I forget them on account of this computer affair. Only, I feel guilty if I do that more than thrice in a week. And there was that healthy bowl of brown rice sitting in the fridge…and since Kylie Kwong, I don’t ‘chop fine’ the vegetables for my Chinese recipes…Half hour later we were enjoying a delicious healthy lunch of fried rice – egg fried rice for the son.

fried rice
Easiest Fried Rice
(Serves 3)

4-5 C cooked brown rice (if using leftover brown rice, pressure cook or steam again to refresh)
2 + 1 T peanut oil
1 medium onion, sliced
a few cloves of garlic, smashed
1 T fresh grated/julienned ginger
2-3 whole red chillies (fresh or dry), sliced thin, on the bias
2-3 green chillies, sliced thin, on the bias
2-3 C prepared vegetables of choice (shredded cabbage, sliced carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, broccoli florets – I had only green peppers that day)
1 T soy sauce
1 T hoysin sauce (optional)
1-2 t vinegar (optional)
¾ t ajinomoto (or salt to taste) [yes, I do]
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)

To a hot karahi or wok, add 2 tablespoons of oil. To the hot oil, add garlic and ginger and stir till fragrant but not browned. Add the red chillies and onions and stir it all around till the onions change colour (a minute or so). Add the prepared vegetables and cook, stirring all the time, for 2-3 minutes, till the vegetables have all brightened up. Add the hoysin sauce and the soy sauce and mix. Add the cooked rice and stir. Sprinkle ajinomoto (or salt), and stir till heated through. Mix in the vinegar before removing to a serving dish.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok. Pour the beaten egg (to which you have added a pinch of salt) into the hot oil, swirl the wok around and lift the egg slightly to allow it to spread and cook. As it starts to set, break it up into large chunks. Tip a third of the fried rice into the wok and stir to combine. Serve this portion to the egg-lover in the family.

Other takes on Fried Rice:

Kylie’s Delicious Fried Rice
Manisha’s Leftover Chicken and Rice
Inji’s Indian-Chinese Fried Rice
Sig’s sunny Sweet Corn Fried Rice
Japanese Fried Rice
Thai Fried Rice
Chinese Fried Rice

Tags: brown rice, fried rice, egg fried rice, rice, Chinese, egg, under 30 min!, vegetarian

Whew! It’s Over! Time for Some Breakfast

In Kashmiri, on the side, Rice, Traditions and Customs, Under 30 min! on September 30, 2007 at 9:44 pm

wedding roth
Party fatigue took over. But since I promised a concluding post, I will tell you a little bit more about the wedding and the events after the mehndiraat.

On the morning of the wedding, preparations were on for the Devgon – a ceremonial cleansing of the self to get ready for the next phase in one’s life – entering the grihasta (family) ashram. In India, it has always been said that a marriage is a relationship not just between two individuals but between two families. The living members and those who have passed on to the other realm. On this day the groom and his family first seek the blessings of their ancestors by performing the pitr pooja.

Hindu philosophy believes agni (fire) to be the ultimate cleanser – it can never itself be sullied or polluted, and all are equal before him. Devgon is performed around this sacred fire. The groom-to-be sits by the fire after a ceremonial bath and offers prayers to Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. All the elders of the family participate in the ceremony and fast till the conclusion of the havan.

kheer and monjjvorDaughters of the family are always a part of the ceremonies with the bua (father’s sister) enjoying an enviable position. She prepares kheer and monjjvor (flattened moong dal vadas) on this day which are offered to the Gods and then distributed to all family members to break their fast. The function is usually followed by a simple vegetarian meal of rice and vegetables. Our lunch that day comprised of a yellow subzi of pumpkin, a fiery red dish of radish and potatoes cooked with nadur (lotus roots), and served over steamed rice with yoghurt. (Read more about Devgon and Kashmiri wedding rituals here).

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Bhopal and Hyderabadi Qabooli

In Eating Out, Hyderabadi, Low Fat, Rice, Travel on August 28, 2007 at 8:43 pm

After the poorimadness I was sure I wanted to do an obviously healthful recipe (read – low fat) to restore some respectability to the blog which had gained some kind of notoriety what with the no-holds-barred-deep-fried partying and all. The occasion had demanded indulgence and many of you seemed to agree wholeheartedly 😀 .

But things don’t always go as planned. Life happens. The pictures of my quick low-fat nutritious snack didn’t turnout that great (although the khandvi was as delicious as ever) and the blog was held up at the poori for some time.

railway track

Meanwhile, I visited Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, ‘the heart of India’. It was a rushed visit with no time free for sightseeing. What little there was, was spent searching for a place to eat. Biryani and kababs were recommended and we spent a good part of one evening looking for them.

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Express Cooking: Meal #1

In Low Fat, Rice, Under 30 min!, Vegetables on July 27, 2007 at 11:27 pm

Mallugirl has thrown a challenge to prepare meals that take just 10-30 minutes from start to finish. Ten minute meals will naturally have to rely on processed foods or some amount of pre-prep. But 30 minutes is long enough to put together something decent from scratch. With the trusted pressure cooker, and a 3-4 burner stove, there are many meals you can put on the table in that much time.

For me it is deciding what to cook that is the hard part. Once that’s done, it’s all easy from there. In fact, I think most of my everyday cooking falls within that average of 30 minutes of active time (check the under-30-minute category).

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