Rice Pulav (Pilaf):
Our friend Sheila wanted to know how I make Rice Pulav that she loves. So here is the basic recipe that can be modified in many ways to accompany different foods. I am writing vegetarian version of it but one can add different meats as well
2 Cups Basmati Rice (if not use any long grain Indica rice which is non sticky such as Jasmine rice)
2 Table spoons Clarified butter also know as Ghee (or any oil except extra virgin olive or mustard oil)
1/2 Teaspoon Garam Masala (recipe given at the end notes) if you don’t have Garam Masala use ½ teaspoon of Cumin seeds.
1 Bay Leaf
1/8 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
½ Medium size onion finely chopped
½ Inch very fine chopped fresh ginger root
2 Cloves of chopped Garlic
Fresh Coriander (Cilantro) leaves for garnish
1 large potato peeled and diced or cubed
1 cup green peas
½ cup of cubed carrots (small cubes)
1 cup cauliflower florets
Any other non leafy veggies that you like (optional, such squash, zucchini)
If you have already washed and dried your rice that is best (in that case don’t soak it and use 4 cups of liquid for cooking), if not then wash your rice in warm water few times and let it soak for at least ½ hr. Heat clarified butter or oil to medium heat (marked by oil moving as fine lines in pan, don’t let it start smoking, that is high heat). Add ½ of garam masala or all of cumin (1/4 tsp garam masal ) for 15 to 20 seconds (cumin will start turning light brown) and bay leaf followed by onion, garlic and half of chopped ginger, gently stir few times. Lets it sweat (onion will turn translucent). Add potato, cauliflower and carrots, stir for few minutes, then peas followed by other veggies with higher water contents, keep stirring few times gently and then add rice after draining all water. You can add turmeric just before adding rice. Mix everything for a minute; add remaining ginger and garam masla. After mixing everything add two cup of liquid (veggie, or chicken broth or water), salt to taste and let it come to a boil. Once it starts boiling reduce heat to low and place a paper towel before putting the lid on (this will help even cooking by not allowing condensation on top). Let is cook for ~ 10 minutes then check rice by pressing it with your finger to make sure it is cooked (it will be soft, not gritty). After cooking mix it very gently with a fork (fluffing), garnish with Coriander (cilantro) leaves, serve with Cucumber Raita.
Notes: This will serve 4 as main dish or 8 as side dish. One can add meats with onion and cook till it is ¾ done.
Garam Masala: Every family makes it different. I don’t like garam masala that is sold in store because it is full of Coriander seeds (cheap). I am giving you my easiest version ie take equal amounts (by volume) of Cumin seeds, Black Pepper, Black Cardamom seeds, and Cloves (optional: little bit of mace, nutmeg, green cardamom seeds, and cinnamon). Grind it fine and store in freezer up to 3 years, at room temp it will be good for 6 months. All these spices are lot cheaper in Indian Grocery stores. For St. Louisians, Global food market’s Indian aisle is a great place to get it all.
Curative properties: Onion and garlic help in digestion. By sweating it loses its bad property of producing gas. These also have high sulfur content. Cauliflowers (all mustard family) also have few sulfur compounds that act as very good antioxidant (good for cancer). Carrots, as mentioned earlier are full of beta carotene i.e. Vitamin A that helps skin and serves as antioxidant as well. Black cardamom and Black pepper is very good for health of heart. Cinnamon is good diuretic (removes toxins from body). Turmeric help in any kind of internal injury, it is good anti bacterial and is extensively used in herbal remedies.