When people ask me what I love the most about my country, I don’t have to think twice before answering them. Food. It is India’s rich culinary traditions that top the list of everything that is awesome about my country.
And being a bit of a gastronomer, I literally live to eat. Naturally, my love of eating translates into my love for cooking. Though some of that also comes from my paternal grandfather. He was the very soul of hospitality. And it was his ardent belief that a good host always fed their guest more than they could possibly eat.
Since force-feeding was not the politest way of doing that, the food needed to be completely irresistible.
I pride myself on my ability to cook a large number of dishes from around the world. Though of course, my expertise lies in Indian cooking. And it is amazing what a home cooked meal can do sometimes.
Recently I hosted some friends for dinner. And one of them said this:- “I feel fed, like someone actually prepared a meal for my soul.”
It isn’t magic. No. It is the taste of tradition, and of culture.
You should try it. Who knows, maybe you will find nirvana in your first bite too, just like my friend it!
Without much further ado, let us dive right into this recipe, for a much loved South Indian comfort food. Serves four.
You Will Need:
- Basmati rice- 1.5 cups- Washed and partially cooked (you can use a microwave or a pot. I used a pot. If you wish, you can drain the water in order to get rid of the excess starch.)
- Turmeric Powder- 1 tablespoon
- Whole dried red chilies- 4 in number
- Dried split black grams- 2 tablespoons
- Black mustard seeds- 1.5 teaspoons
- Onions- finely chopped- 2 in number
- Cloves of garlic- crushed- 10 in number
- Sugar- 1 teaspoon
- Black pepper powder- 0.25 teaspoon
- Red chili powder (mild/medium strength)- 0.5 teaspoon
- Curry leaves (tender, soft, and fresh)- 12 in number or 2-3 medium sized stems
- Lemon juice- 2 tablespoons
- Grated coconut- 1 teaspoon
- Shelled peanuts- 0.25 cup
- Cashew nuts- 0.25 cups
- Cardamom pods- 3-4 in number
- Oil/clarified butter for frying (I use olive oil)- 2-3 tablespoons
- Water (for mixing powdered spices)- 0.5 cup
- Salt- to taste
- In a large wok, heat half of the oil. Add the mustard seeds, cardamom pods, onions, garlic, split black grams, shelled peanuts, cashew nuts, sugar, curry leaves, and the whole red chilis. Fry one a low or medium flame till the onions turn brown. Make sure that the spices don’t burn. Stir and saute constantly. You will smell a strong aroma of cooking spices (be careful, though. There is a fine, but definite line between cooking the spices and burning them. If you remain attentive, you will remain on the right side of the line.) It is also advisable to switch on your electric chimney or exhaust fan while frying these ingredients. Once the onions are nicely browned and the curry leaves have darkened to a deeper green, turn the flame off.
- Next, mix the salt, the red chili powder, the turmeric powder, and the black pepper with the water. Mix properly to make a thick, smooth paste. Try and avoid lumps.
- Use a flat serving spoon to transfer the rice slowly to the wok. After every two servings of rice that are transferred to the wok, gently turn the rice to mix it with the tempering prepared earlier. Also, add a little bit of the spice and water mixture each time you do this. Be careful to not break the rice. Repeat till all the rice and the water and spice mixture had been combined with the tempering.
- On a slow flame, allow the rice to cook with all the other ingredients. Pour the remaining oil along the sides of the wok to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick to the inner surface of the wok.
- After 3 or 4 minutes, taste the rice and check if it has been cooked. It should be soft and flavorful.
- Once you have ascertained that the rice has been cooked, pour the lemon juice all over the rice and gently turn it. Garnish with the grated coconut.
- Serve immediately with plain yogurt, Sambar (lentil soup), or pickles (Indian pickles. They can easily be purchased at any Asian/Indian/South Asian grocery store) and poppadums (papad, as we call them in India)
Try out this recipe and let me know how it turned out for you. If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments section. Enjoy !