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Jun 1, 2011 06:40 AM

Seductions of Rice: Basmati, Gobindavog, South Indian Red: The Indian Way

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  1. Sultana Chutney ... page 249


    Banana Salad ... page 252

    Each a nice surprise for me! *Very* little cooking will get you two unusual and really good-tasting little bowls full of toppings or stir-ins for rice.

    The Sultana Chutney ...

    uses golden raisins, toasted & ground cumin seeds, minced ginger, fresh lime juice and serrano chiles. I had ground cumin, but "toasted" it anyway--at least I pushed it around in a small frying pan until it smelled toasty. I grated the ginger (large holes), put the raisins and chiles in the processor with lime juice. I'm not a heat/hot fan, so used jentle jalapenos not serranos. The result is just fine -- not my beloved Major Grey Mango Chutney, but I'd sure put out a bowlful to accompany rice and curry.

    The Banana Salad ...

    uses some of the same flavors -- a little heat in the form of cayenne, and cumin. You (very fast and easy) fry up chopped banana with the spices, then mix with plain yogurt. This takes around 4 seconds, and you've got *another* interesting little dish to go with your big dish. I loved this combination of flavors.

    What a good introduction to this book -- little time or effort, but now I have confidence the more involved recipes will be worthwhile too.

    5 Replies
    1. re: blue room

      Wow. Banana salad is calling to me. Is it considered a side dish? Or a snack? Very interesting.


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        In the book, the author ate it from a green banana leaf at a temple festival in India, but describes it as an accompaniment for rice or rice dishes. I thought it was so good I just kept "tasting" 'til it was gone, long before any rice was around. It's not pretty due to cooking the banana--mushy and discolored a bit from the spices--but the nicest flavor!

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          As kids, we used to frequently have banana salad or similar fruit chaat as a snack for afternoon tea. As far as I remember, it was never served with rice.

        2. re: blue room

          Banana Salad – p. 252

          s soon as the cumin seeds started to sizzle in the hot pan their warm, mellow aroma told me that they’d pair perfectly with banana. My mouth started watering. I couldn’t wait to sample this simple yet exotic dish that this book’s authors describe being served to them on a small piece of banana leaf. I’m delighted to report that this lovely salad exceeded our expectations and the final dish is far, far greater than the sum of its parts. At once sweet, hot, creamy and tangy with the wonderful nutty, peppery crunch of the cumin seeds; this little salad was just fantastic. Delicious on its own, it also made an excellent condiment for our Indian-spiced grilled chicken and was delicious smeared on our toasted whole-wheat naan breads. Blue room thanks so much for pointing out this wonderful dish!

          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            I'm intrigued Blue Room and BC, cannot wait to try this!

        3. Bengali Potato and Cauliflower Curry ... page 271

          This is lively, but still potatoes and cauliflower, so definitely homey too.

          It calls for mustard oil -- practically a staple for this kind of cooking I learned -- so I mashed some (black, brown, & yellow) mustard seeds into canola oil to get some flavor. The vegetables are chopped and cooked in this oil. Then comes a mix of aniseseed, cinnamon, cardamom, bay, onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt, and sugar. The mix is cooked in a certain order and put with the potato and cauliflower. Add water, "boil hard" for 10 minutes -- the notes explain that this dish needs to come together fully, and the vegetables should be "very tender"-- comfort food.

          I substituted fennel seed for the aniseseed, used waxy red potatoes, which kept their shape.

          It's very good, a different flavor for us. I made some toppings (posted yesterday) to go with this--2 chutneys, one raisin one banana. Plain white rice goes well, though it seems too much to spoon potatoes over rice. Just have a little of everything--that's what I like about curries.

          13 Replies
          1. re: blue room

            Lucky for you, aniseed would probably not be used anyway! Fennel seed is more authentic. By the way, you would not get the same flavour as mustard oil by simply crushing a few seeds in oil. Mustard oil has a distinctive taste, do try and get some.

            1. re: Muchlove

              Oh I'm sure my "mustard oil" wasn't near authentic! Is mustard oil very hot ?

              1. re: blue room

                Hmm, I would describe as pungent. Sometimes it is heated to smoking point and this mellows it considerably. But othertimes it is left completely raw, not even heated to fry anything, as in alu bhate where boiled and mashed potatoes are mixed with raw mustard oil, raw green chillies, raw onion and salt. Delicious!

                1. re: Muchlove

                  I bought some mustard oil, but then was deterred using it because it said "for external use only". A fellow shopper at the small Pakistani grocery assured me that she cooked with it, although communication was limited. I read that all mustard oil in the United States is marked that way, but it is the oil used in India (Northern?) cooking? So I should go forward and be brave and use it? Or is there some other mustard oil I should be buying?

                  1. re: mscoffee1

                    The FDA doesn't approve it for food use hence the labeling. It's up to you (and I'm not sure what health effects it might have) - my SIL (from Kolkata fka Calcutta) uses it occasionally, though.

                      1. re: luckyfatima

                        I wonder how one would use it "externally" ?

                          1. re: blue room

                            how to use externally-mustard oil mixed with turmeric is supposedly good to rub on wounds/burns or just plain applied on skin and hair to improve the quality.

                          2. re: luckyfatima

                            Thank you luckyfatima and thank you buttertart.

                  2. re: blue room

                    Oh, that looks delicious! I've bookmarked quite a few of the chutneys from this section; you've inspired me to try more!

                    1. re: Allegra_K

                      Try the ginger and banana pachadis. It's been a while since I've made them, but I remember them as extremely delicious!

                    2. re: blue room

                      Dear Friend,

                      For Rarh cooking, cauliflower and potaoes are cooked in two different styles, one reserved for the lunch and "snack" type meals served with fried breads and the other for the evening and/or "big" occasions such as religious festivals or important guests and celebrations. The spicing is different too, and never mixed up. Much of Rarh cooking, for brahmans and Vaishnava vegetarian meals never employ garlic or onion, and that is a characteristic feature of this style of Bengali cuisine, and its flavor palette. Please let me offer you some genuine hints because it pains me a great deal to see the weird things floating around, claiming to be "Bengali" food!

                      First, the "dark" evening "curry" properly termed a "daalnaa". The cauliflower must be cut in BIG WHOLE florets, and there is a particular technique where you slice into the flower stalk, the pedicel, and then gently tear apart the flower bud portion. Now gently sautee the florets in a hot SS pan or steel pan with scant oil so that you scorch them a bit; you will begin to smell a typical cauliflower aroma arising. Set apart. Cut russet potatoes or yukon gold , both with skin on, into very large chunks, and lightly fry, set aside. Now prepare your masala!

                      Take root ginger and finely grind it on stone; this is going to be the base for your gravy; it should be silken smooth. Use your judgement, a couple, three tablespoon, because ginger varies in pungency and fiber content.
                      Next, do the same to some thai green chilies of long green chilies of pronounced aroma; you can remove seed & membrane, to reduce heat. We just need the aroma. The grind need not be fine.

                      Next, if you can manage such, the finest taste comes from stone ground red chilies [again no heat, only aroma and color] and stone-ground turmeric rhizomes. Soak in water, and grind.

                      Then, whole coriander seed, whole cumin seed, whole black peppercorn, by volume, 2: 1.5: 0.5. wash, soak, grind on Indian stone metate to silken paste. Use judgement how much.

                      Now your aromatics to flavor the hot oil: CASSIA leaf [never bay!!], cassia bark, cloves, green cardamom lightly crushed, a little bit of whole cumin seed. Please note, NOTHING else!

                      You can use mustard oil or pure ghee, gently heat just to the point the aromatics will release flavor, and pop them in with a short prayer. When they swell and swim around, you may add a pinch of asafetida, if you have any, but do not bother; add ginger paste, then green chili paste, stir to release aroma, followed by turmeric and red chili paste, and the coriander/cumin/peppercorn paste. There needs to be a fair amount of fat, control heat, and keep water handy to sprinkle so that the spices never scorch but cook with equanimity and give off a satisfied fragrance. If you have been adding tiny splashes of water, you will have a mass of spice, to which you will now add the potaoes, and gently "bhunao" them for a wee bit of time, but long enough to drive away all that aroma. This is where in vegetarian cooking, an apprenticeship is invaluable, and learning this type of Indian cooking from cookbooks is often fraught with failure.

                      OK, so now add sea salt and brown sugar, or cane jaggery, quite a bit because the dalna will be distinctly sweet. gradually build up the gravy with boiling water, and cover, cook until potatoes are half tender, and then add cauliflower, cook until just tender and gravy thick. Thin very slightly if need be. This is your dalnaa. Add ghee, if necessary, just before serving and eat with a freshly sliced lime, and whole wheat tortilla toasted on griddle until they are puffed and develop dark spots. Chinese grocery frozen roti prata also ok, but very rich.

                      If you like this, then I shall post your other dish that does contain fennel or aniseed, either is fine. It can also have mustard paste or not. But then it will NOT have the dark masala + garam masala combination, not ever in the Rarh palette of accepted flavors. And no onions in orthodox cooking. Numerous lovely dishes using cabbage, Lagenaria, and many other interesting vegetable, including eggplant with Neem leaves, a shockingly bitter preparation that you may grow to love and that is exceedingly good for your health.

                      This is the REAL Rarh, my gracious lady, not the imagination of some half-baked author.!!

                    3. Spicy Yogurt Sauce with Ginger (page 256)

                      I had most of the ingredients on hand (but, unfortunately, no curry leaves) and at Westminstress’s urging, decided to give this a try. It was very refreshing, and a lovely accompaniment to a piece of simply broiled salmon and plain brown jasmine rice. But I thought it was a bit harsh, especially the second day when, as they say, “the coconut recedes just a bit and the ginger comes forward.” I’ve made a note for next time to try it with two, instead of three, tablespoons of finely minced ginger. Mine was also considerably more spicy than just “some chile warmth,” but that was probably because I crushed a whole dried Thai chile into the sauce rather than leaving it whole as I now suspect the instructions intended. Will try the banana pachadi as soon as I have a chance to buy some curry leaves. I see a trip to Kalustyan’s in the next couple of days.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: JoanN

                        I sought out whole (not non or low-fat) for this kind of sauce. Are you using full-fat yogurt?

                        (I looked at the recipe just now, I think you're right about the chile!)

                        1. re: blue room

                          I used 2% Fage for this and would do the same again. Agree with you that full-fat would probably be best. Just couldn't bring myself to go all the way.

                        2. re: JoanN

                          The store cattycorner to Kalustyan's on 28th (named Little India?) has curry leaves in much bigger quantity and cheaper than Kalustyan's. They're in the cooler at the back.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            Terrific. And just in time. Heading down tomorrow morning. Thanks.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              K's doesn't always have them, I was happy to see these. You're very welcome.

                        3. Stir-Fried Shrimp, Kerala Style ( page 272)

                          Perhaps it was because my expectations were fairly low (I made this because I had the ingredients), but I thought this was outstanding. I’m not even all that fond of coconut, at least I thought I wasn’t; but I liked this a great deal. They say the dish is dry and should be served with a pachadi. I had intended to do that, but ran out of time and inclination when dinner prep was interrupted by a long phone call. Didn’t matter. The shrimp alone, with plain brown jasmine rice, was full of flavor with just a touch of heat. This is definitely being added to the do-it-again list.

                          I made half the recipe and that would have served two generously. A crumbly paste is made from unsweetened coconut, garlic, crushed red pepper, and .turmeric. Mustard seed, urad dal, raw rice, and curry leaves are stirred briefly in hot oil before minced ginger, onion, and green chile are added and cooked until the onion is softened. That’s kept warm while you stir-fry the reserved coconut paste, add the shrimp and a hint of rice vinegar and steam for a bit, then stir-fry again before combining the shrimp and onion mixtures, adding a touch of cayenne and black pepper, and just stirring to combine before serving.

                          I’ve been skeptical about this book. Looked at the recipe titles on EYB while it was being nominated and found it more appealing than I’d expected. When I finally sat down with the hard copy, I thought maybe I’d made a mistake. There weren’t all that many recipes I found compelling. But once I started making some dishes, chosen mainly because the ingredients were already on hand, I realized I’d underestimated this book. Three recipes, three successes. Looking forward, now, to delving deeper.

                          19 Replies
                          1. re: JoanN

                            Joan thanks for a great review of this recipe, it's on my menu for next week and I'm glad to know its a hit. Your photograph is so appetizing, just beautiful! Thanks again.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              That looks and sounds amazing! It's been a toss-up whether to make the shrimp or the kerala chicken curry, but you've convinced me; this one is going on the menu!

                              1. re: JoanN

                                I've had nothing but successes too. I think in my mind was "how good can rice be? whole book on rice, okay, but what's for dinner *tomorrow*?"
                                Nice to find such a winner, huh? Couldn't happen to nicer people!

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  This dish looks lovely, I was drawn to the recipe, even more so after reading your review. I haven't been able to find curry leaves (basically, ever, so I don't even know what they taste like). Inability to find ingredients (coupled with time constraints) has kept me relatively inactive in COTM this month. Do you have any idea how much they add to the dish? Do you think it would work without them? I know there is no real substitute, but do you think something like basil could work?

                                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                                    There was so much flavor in that dish that I can't honestly say the curry leaves were discernible. At least, not to my palate. I didn't have the curry leaves when I made the Spicy Yogurt Sauce above. I looked online to see what might be substituted and discovered, as you say, that there really isn't one. I saw suggestions for both basil and Kaffir lime leaves, and thought the lime leaves would have worked well with the other flavors in the Yogurt Sauce, but I didn't have any of those on hand either.

                                    For this dish, I'd just leave it out. There's very little of it in there to begin with and I'm not at all sure basil would work with the flavor profile. I think you'll be very happy with the recipe without the curry leaves and would be unaware that something was missing if you weren't the one doing the cooking.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      They add a certain toasty but otherwise indescribable taste that I love. If you order the dried ones at any point use 4 times as much, they do have flavor but it's much more attenuated than in the fresh.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        The Stir-Fried Shrimp recipe calls for just "a pinch," so that's what I used and may well be why I was unaware of it--especially among the mustard seed, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and chile. Will make a note to add more next time and see if I notice the difference.

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          A pinch???? I've only ever seen them in recipes in terms of number of leaves (often around 12 - which is like say 2 TB if dry).

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            Yeah, "A pinch of fresh or dried curry leaves." And tell me. How do measure a pinch of fresh curry leaves?

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              These authors are not favorites of mine, partly because of things like that.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                Exactly the reason I hesitated buying this book sight unseen. But I've certainly enjoyed what I've made so far.

                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                  Things do look good. I'd be cooking too but either my copy is still in a box or I now have 2 copies of the Flatbreads one I just bought at the Strand thinking surely the other one must be on the shelves...

                                              2. re: JoanN

                                                smidgen = about 1/32 tspn (insignificent but missed if not used)
                                                pinch = 1/16 tspn - or - that which can be picked up between thumb & forefinger
                                                dash = 1/8 tspn


                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  And in the case of large, flat leaves? I wonder what the author's interpretation of a pinch would be....

                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                    However many leaves you can pick up between your thumb and forefinger and that could be many!

                                        2. re: JoanN

                                          Thanks to both of you for weighing in on this question. I'll probably try it soon, just leaving them out. I hit a couple more stores today in search, but still no luck. That "toasty but otherwise indescribable taste" description definitely has me intrigued. I'll be on the lookout next time I am in a bigger city. I hear they do freeze well.

                                          1. re: L.Nightshade

                                            They do, I buy a couple of bags of them and they keep for a long time frozen.

                                            1. re: L.Nightshade

                                              Curry leaves definitely add a nice touch to a dish. I make tomato side dish with curry leaves that I like very much. Nightshade, ask an Indian restaurant in your city when they get curry leaves - they might point you to a source or sell you some.

                                              1. re: herby

                                                Good idea, herby! No Indian grocer, but there are a couple Indian restaurants.

                                      2. Gobindavog Rice pg. 240

                                        For a while now our preferred rice from the sub-continent has been a very tiny grained rice labeled "Kalizira" or "Kalizera" or "Kalijira", I had no idea it could also be called "Gobindavog".
                                        And I'd never cooked it using the boil and drain method until last night. Wow, talk about perfect fluffy rice, and scrumptious & easy too.

                                        Rinse the rice in a sieve, bring water at a ratio of 5x the rice volume to a vigorous boil, add the rice, boil uncovered for 6-7 minutes (start testing for doness around the 5 min mark), when tender through, drain the hot rice, put it the drained rice back in the pot, cover with a damp towel, and the pot lid, let rest for 15 minutes or so. Stir with a paddle, serve. Honestly the most perfect fluffy rice I've ever made. Now if I could just find "Gobindavog" or "Kalizira" in a brown or semi-polished state we'd be eating this a lot.