Thursday, September 22, 2005

At long last

Finally! The long, yet relatively simple, recipe.

I'm finally posting about the fabulous Pulau (Biryani) rice dish I learned in the Indian cooking class I took in August. I was talking to Laura last Friday about it and, as she put it, it does require one pain-in-the-butt shopping trip to the Indian market to stock up on the spices, but pretty much all the exotic stuff is shelf stable so once you have it in the house, you can easily make this dish.

Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients or the long instructions--this really is pretty darn easy and fast to make. To encourage you to read the whole long recipe, I present a photo of the finished dish:
The finished dish (this time made with rock shrimp) with a bowl of raita on the side.

Shahi Vegetable Pulau (Vegetable Biryani)
(with optional protein addition)

recipe from Bhanu Hajratwala
Serves 4-6 with generous portions

Ingredients are (conveniently) listed in the order in which they are used.

The Rice:
2 C basmati long grain rice
5 C water
2 T ghee
2 1/2 t salt
1 T Garam Masala
3/4 t tumeric

1. Wash and drain the rice. (Put the rice in a bowl and pour on cold water. Swish it around a bit and the water becomes cloudy. Drain off the cloudy water and do it again, and again, and again until the water is relatively clear.)
2. Mix all the ingredients above in a rice cooker. (If not using a rice cooker, bring rice and all ingredients to a boil, lower heat and simmer till all the water is evaporated and the rice is cooked.)
The rice should look like this when it is done.

The Vegetables:
1/4 C ghee (or mix 2 T ghee with the rest canola oil--ghee can be really expensive)
8 sticks of cinnamon, approximately 2 inches long each
12 whole cloves
12 green cardamom pods, whole
6 star anise pods, whole
1 t cumin seeds
12 fresh curry leaves (can be bought for about $1 a pack at Indian grocery stores. If you can't get them, you can either leave them out of the recipe or substitute 6 dried bay leaves--not the same flavor, but not a bad alternate).
1 large potato, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
6 green, hot chilies, decapped and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (if you are making this for kids or people who don't like heat, cut down the number of chilies. My mild version uses 2 jalapenos that I have seeded so I still get a little of the flavor without the heat.)
1 C frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, beans, etc.)
1 C cauliflower florets, small
1/2 C broccoli florets, small
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C unsalted cashews
1/4 C whole almonds
1/4 unsweetened shredded dried coconut
1 1/2 t salt
OPTIONAL: protein of your choice--1-2 C of cubed tofu, shrimp, small pieces of raw boneless chicken, etc.

1. Heat ghee (and oil if using) in a large pot.
2. Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom and star anise till brown, and cover. Saute at medium heat till spices brown.
3. Add the cumin seeds and curry leaves (if using), cover and brown.
4. Add the potatoes and chilies, cover and cook till potatoes are almost cooked (approximately 10 minutes) stirring frequently.
5. Add all the vegetables and cook covered for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If using the optional chicken or tofu, add now.
6. Add the raisins, cashews, almonds, and coconut.
7. Add the salt and stir well. If using the optional shrimp, add now.
8. Cook for two minutes, remove from heat and set aside.
Here are your vegetables with or without added protein (I used rock shrimp this time).

The Garnishes:
1 medium onion sliced very thin into half circles
oil for frying onion--about 1/4 inch in the bottom of a small pot
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 C pomegranate seeds (optional--I've never had them but I bet they would taste great and look beautiful)

1. Heat oil on medium high and deep fry onion till dark brown. Spread on paper towel to drain oil.

Yes, your onions really should be this dark of a brown.

Serving (two options)

Option 1--mix it all up
1. Put all the cooked rice in a large bowl and gently separate the rice grains so it isn't lumpy.
2. Add the vegetables and stir gently to mix.
3. Mound on a serving platter and garnish with the fried onions, cilantro and optional pomegranate seeds.

Option 2--keep it sort of separate (what I usually do since my kids like the rice part without the vegetables mixed in)
1. Pile the rice on a platter. Make a shallow well and put the vegetable mixture in the middle.
2. Top with friend onions, cilantro and optional pomegranate seeds. Can also put slices of cucumber, tomatoes, raw onions, etc. around the edge of the platter to decorate.

Pulau can be served warm or at room temperature (which makes it great for buffets and potlucks). It is a main course, but can also be served along with other dishes like a chicken or lamb curry.

(Note: The spices are left whole in this dish. If you will be serving this to people not used to Indian food, you may want to go through the rather laborious step and pick out all the whole spices and leaves after you finish the stir fry. I am way too lazy to do this. I issue a warning to diners not to eat the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, anise and curry leaves. A nice host would probably lay out little bowls on the table so that people have a place to deposit the spices they pick out.)

At this point you may think I am insane to call this a simple recipe. Let me explain. I made this last Friday and in the morning (one could also do this the night before) I got everything prepped: I washed the rice, I set out all the spices I would need, washed, cut up and measured vegetables and set them all aside.

When I came back from the playground with my kids at 5 pm, I mixed up the stuff for the rice and set it in the rice cooker, started the stirfry for the vegetables, and chopped up some cilantro for the garnish. The vegetables only took about 15-20 minutes total and I fried up the onion for the garnish at the same time. By the time the rice was done cooking (about 25 minutes in my rice cooker) everything was ready to be assembled. Dinner was ready by 5:30 I kid you not. There was even time to grate some cucumber into yogurt and make a simple raita.


Anonymous said...

Hey I love your blog and share 3 of your four obsessions (I can't knit to save my life).

Thanks for taking the time to post this recipie. I'm going to gather the ingredients and try it out next weekend.

Dena, Toronto

Anonymous said...

I am an Indian, living in Stockholm. I was looking for this recipe, to try it out. Thanks for your post, and the encouraging pictures. It is surely a motivation.

Anonymous said...

very lengthy list of ingredients, that not how cooking is meant to be...its just way too long to even have the momentum to try it...

Anonymous said...

Thanks a ton. Although I live in India I found ur recipe very detailed and yet the methodology simple.
So I am going to be trying this recipe tonight and I hope it turns out like the pic u have posted for the motivation.

Rachana(fingers crossed)