We are finishing up our month long visit (only five days left!) and I’ve noticed I have only posted one recipe. Some of you might be wondering if I have been learning any cooking during my time here. The answer is, you bet I have! One of my main goals for this trip was to learn more local cuisine made in real homes as opposed to some of the fancy restaurant creations often touted in most cookbooks. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the homes of some of the best cooks in the neighborhood and peering over their shoulder, snapping shot after shot as they show me their best dishes and family favorites. I’ve also been a constant presence in our own Punjabi kitchen watching Mummy-ji and even trying to lend a hand where I can.
The other day, Mummy-ji made one of my favorite recipes for a quick and easy one-pot meal. Pulao is any rice dish cooked with the addition of vegetables. It can be as simplistic as adding only peas and a little salt or as complex as an array of spices, vegetables, raisin and richly flavored nuts. Which ever version you prefer, pulao is always a satisfying all-in-one meal.
I avoided making pulao for many years, making Hubby the primary rice maker. I was always intimidated by how to cook rice properly. With no apparent reason I could see, the rice would come out either light and fluffy or a sticky mess which we had to chisel away at. I’ve since learned that while boiling rice is considered the easiest cooking task there is, it does take a bit of know-how. Mainly, you need to know the right ratio of water to rice. I found this wonderful water to rice calculator, based on one of my favorite cooking shows “Good Eats” and it seems to produce fluffy rice every time.
Pulao – Mixed Vegetables in Basmati Rice
This rice dish only uses two Indian spices, cumin seeds and turmeric powder. Yet this rice dish has great flavor with the addition of a bit of onion and chili. A majority of which comes from the fragrance of basmati rice, which has light buttery quality. The minimal use of spices makes this a great dish for anyone trying their hand at Indian cooking for the first time. Basmati rice also has a drier quality to it so it is less likely to become sticky. The dish takes on a royal golden color from the use of turmeric and is a filling meal all on its own with the addition of peas, potatoes and tomatoes. Add a typical Punjabi touch with a healthy dab of Indian ghee (clarified butter) when serving.
Time: 25 minutes with a pressure cooker, 40 minutes using a regular pot
1 1/2 cups white Basmati rice – it’s best to use Indian Basmati rice, which most mainstream American grocery stores carry.
2 oz. oil/a bit less than 1/4 cup oil – This is approximate as Mummy-ji just added 2 ladles of oil. can use olive oil, vegetable oil or even ghee, which has the highest smoke point (can heat the oil hotter before it burns) and adds great flavor but is more expensive.
1 small onion, finely minced
2-3 green Thai chilies, finely minced (optional)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tomato, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced – best to use a boiling potato such as a Russet or Yukon Gold
1/2 cup green peas small bunch of cilantro, stems removed and chopped for garnishing (use as much as you like)
2 1/4 cup water
- pressure cooker – if you do not have one you can use a pot but it will take twice as long. The instructions for using a pot are different and I have included them in the directions where they differ. We have one pressure cooker from India and one from Wal-Mart.
Pour the rice into a large bowl and rinse in water to remove the excess starch. Fill the pot with some water, swish the rice around vigorously until the water becomes clouded, then strain. Repeat three or four times to give it a good rinse. Cover the rice in fresh water and let it soak until it is time to add it to the recipe.
Heat the pot or pressure cooker over medium heat. Add 2 oz. (a bit less than 1/4 cup) of oil. Mummy-ji uses vegetable oil, however I prefer cooking with olive oil.
Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and green chilies. Stirring occasionally, brown the onions (about five minutes on medium-high heat). Add a tablespoon of cumin seeds.
Add 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste). Add one diced tomato, one peeled and diced potato, 1/2 a cup of green peas and the washed and strained rice. Mix well for about a minute, then add 2 1/4 cup water.
*The day we made the rice, the vegetable market didn’t have peas, so we had to leave them out, though normally they are always added
Cover the pressure cooker. Cook on medium heat and let it whistle three times, then turn off the heat. The pulao will continue to cook as the pressure naturally releases.
*if you are not using a pressure cooker, bring the water to a rolling boil, then turn the heat down to low to bring the rice to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes, then remove from heat and without opening the pot, let stand for 5 more minutes so the rice continues to steam.
Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot.