This is a much awaited recipe contribution from Radhika, a fabulous cook and a very dear friend. I did promise to post some choice recipes collected during my recent visits back home – Dallas home that is – um yes I realize how the term “home” is absolutely where the heart is.
In any case Radhika invited us all over for lunch one weekend afternoon during my visit. I had nagged her for this special recipe so many times that she decided to do a live demo of the making of this Godavari style (a district in coastal Andhra Pradesh also known for its culinary dishes) vegetarian pulao even if it was well after all the guests had arrived. (I was running late and of course had to see the demo.) Which was actually a great idea or so I would like to think – this aromatic pulao was tantalizing enough for the guests – enough testament for the rest of the scrumptious meal she had cooked. So they/we all waited in anticipation and watched her cook and it was well worth it. Very flavorful and aromatic – you could almost call this a “quick biryani”. And notice that I refrained from calling this a vegetable pulao -this dish is better off without vegetables and just uses onions,garlic and spices. In any case thank you Rads for the recipe and for your patience (with me):)
After I got back to Singapore I needed to try the dish out myself before I could qualify posting it here. And though it was a tad spicier than Radhika’s, the result was equally aromatic and full of flavor.
Here is the step by step recipe with pictures. I couldn’t get a very good picture of the finished dish on both occasions – it was gone before I could click it in the right light and circumstances but you get the idea:)
Ingredients: (for about 10-12 people)
- 4 1/2 cups rice
- 9 cups water
- Garlic – 5-6 peeled and crushed
- Garlic ginger paste – 1 ½ tsp (add more ginger here than garlic to make a paste)
- Shahjeera (caraway seeds)– 1 tbsp
- Bay leaf – 1
- Cloves – 1 tbsp
- Cardamom – 1/2 tbsp
- Cinnamon sticks -2-3
- Star anise- 2-3
- Green chilies – 5
- Red chilies- 2
- Curry leaves – one sprig
- Jeera (cumin seeds) – 1 tsp
- Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
- Dhania jeera powder – Take 11/2 tsp dhania (coriander seeds) and 1 tsp jeera , roast and dry grind to a powder
- Red onion chopped roughly into chunks – 1 big or 2 small
- Cashews- 1/4 cup
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Ghee – 1 tsp
- Heat oil in a pan, add the ghee. Now add mustard, jeera, red chilies, curry leaves, green chilies.
- Once the mustard seeds crackle, add the crushed garlic.
- Fry the above well, then add whole masalas (cloves, cinnamon,bayleaf, star anise and shahjeera).
- Add onion chunks, saute well then add the garlic ginger paste, saute again for about 3-5 minutes. Add cashews.
- Cover with a lid and cook for a few minutes, till you get an aroma and onions are lightly fried,not very golden brown.
- Add 1- 1 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- Add 2 tsp dhania jeera powder
- Now add 1 to 11/2 tsp garam masala (see note below for home made garam masala) .Let the masalas fry well in the oil
- Cover with lid and simmer till well fried.
- Add washed and soaked basmati rice to this.You don’t have to soak the rice though I usually do for about a half hour.
- Mix the rice well with the spice mixture till it is well coated with the spices/masalas.
- Fry on a medium flame till the rice is coated with the oil and spices and feels a bit “fried”, about 5 minutes of sauteing. Make sure you keep stirring the pot so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.
- Add salt to taste. You may need to taste for salt again after you add water.
- While the rice is being sauteed, boil about 8-9 cups of water separately in a saucepan or in a water kettle. (You will need approx 9 cups of water for 4 1/2 cups of rice so 1:2 ratio of rice to water)
- Add the hot water to the rice and spice mixture.
- Now taste again for salt and bring the rice and water mixture to a boil. At this step don’t put a lid on the vessel.
- After it boils for a few minutes, cover the vessel and cook the mixture on a medium flame. Keep checking in every 3-4 minutes and stir the mixture.
- You may also transfer to a rice cooker at this stage. I actually preferred to cook it in a vessel over a stove as I felt the aroma and spice was better distributed. If you are cooking over a stove, here is another tip to ensure the rice doesn’t get burnt. Keep a water bath or a flatter vessel with some water and then keep the vessel with the pulao inside the flat vessel. This double boiler technique helps in cooking the rice evenly and prevents burning. Alternatively you can also use a “tawa” or a flat iron pan before you place the vessel with the rice and water and heat it this way which is what Radhika did.
Enjoy the hot pulao with onion raita. Finger licking good!
Notes: Home made garam masala – 1 cup cloves, 1/2 cup cardamom, 3/4 cup cinnamon, 1/4 cup star anise, 3 tsp dhania or coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds or jeera, 1 whole nutmeg.
Grind all the above to a fine powder and store in an air tight container or in the refrigerator.