Monday, March 15, 2010

Not Going By The Book

Two months ago, Jayashree tagged me in a meme, asking some of us to show off our favourite books/cookbooks. Very honestly, I can't home in on just one and say it's my favourite because I approach different books for different cuisines.

Very often, though, I find myself turning to Aharam which is a nice combination of the traditional cuisines of Tamil Nadu. It also makes an effort to highlight the non-Brahmin vegetarian cuisine of the State, unlike many books on vegetarian South Indian cuisine, known and little known, which seem to say vegetarian and Brahmin cuisine is one and the same thing.

"Indeed, the non-Brahmin vegetarian cuisine from Tamil Nadu is totally different from the delicious sambhars, kootus and poriyals that are part and parcel of Brahmin diets. Most of the curries with green masala, red masala and pepper masala double as vegetarian curries, potatoes being added instead of meat, accompanied by any other vegetable of your choice, like knolkhol, carrots, beans, cabbage or peas."

There are some interesting recipes in this book. Snake gourd cutlets, for instance. Radish-chickpea curry, another. I've never made those. I've tried out some non-vegetarian recipes but not too many, because many of them call for coconut. Which I do not have on call. And I am lazy. Unless I find it ready-shredded. Then I am just a little less lazy about grinding it to a paste. Aside over, yesterday, I made this Kaikari Pulav (Vegetable Pulav) with my own twists and departures - it brought back my rice-eating days to me and made me feel accomplished, if not tired, because I slaved over it for 90 minutes.

That is nothing to do with the recipe, but everything to do with my small kitchen. Have you ever felt hampered by the lack of space in your kitchen? I have to shift things around everyday to be able to find space for the chopping board, the various bowls, water bottles, the spice jars ... ugh!

Anyway, here's my version of the original recipe.

Rice (I used a mixture of Basmati and ordinary): 1.5 cups
Potatoes, cubed: 2 cups
Peas: 1 cup
Shallots, chopped: 10
Big onion, chopped: 1

Grind to a paste
Cloves: 4
Cinnamon stick: 1.5-inch
Cardamom seed: from 4 pods
Green chillies: 4
Ginger-garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Fennel seed: 1 tsp
Poppy seed: 2 tsp

Ghee: 2 tsp
Bay leaf: 1 big or 2-3 small
Oil: 2 tsp
Mint: 2 tbsp (I used the spicy mint chutney that I had)
Chopped coriander leaves: 3 tbsp
Salt to taste

Clean and wash the rice. Soak it in water.

Heat the oil and ghee in a pressure cooker and season with bay leaves.

Add onions and shallots and fry till they are a light brown.

Add the ground masala and fry for a few minutes on low heat. Add the mint chutney and coriander leaves.

Add 3 cups of water, mix well and add the salt. Add drained rice and vegetables. Close the cooker and after the first couple of whistles, turn down the heat and let cook for 4-5 minutes.

The author suggests a garnish of boiled and halved eggs and fried cashew nuts and coriander leaves, and to serve it with a raita and egg curry. She also prescribes some chilli powder, turmeric and coriander powder in the 'grind to a paste' list which completely skipped my eye. We enjoyed the outcome though, and it was spicy without being hot, spicy without causing heartburn.


  1. I have the same book and I have posted a couple of non-veg recipes on my blog. Haven't tried the veg recipes yet, also I noticed that the measurements are way off! but other than that I love it. Mine has a different cover.

  2. Yeah i for sure knwo the feeling of a small kitchen. There are so much things in my small kitchen that i sometimes go crazy, especially after buying my new oven few months back.
    But i have to admit even in my small kitchen i foget were i kept things :-)

  3. The pulao does look good.
    Sra, yes I agree there is a world of vegetarian cuisine! Chicken biryani is a breeze compared to vegetable biryanis or pulaos and sometimes after all that slaving they still don't turn out good.

  4. Looks good sra..Half the time I start making something and end up with something else :)

  5. Thank you for doing the meme, Sra.
    90 minutes??? I don't think I'd have had the patience to last that long. No matter how much space I have, I seem to have the ability to fill it up with things quickly. I moved from a home with a small kitchen to one with a bigger kitchen and promptly got more stuff so I could fill up the empty spaces.

  6. The rice looks fluffy and delicious and I love these kind of on pot meals. The masala grind looks like can be used in a vareity of such pulaos. True enough to the non-brahmin vegetarian cuisine, all the veggetarian recipes in my blog are that kind and have a totally new dimension of taste.

  7. The small kitchen thats mine. I like you veggie rice. I really felt hungry looking at the rice.

  8. Talk about small space..mine is one!..I can't stand with two in the same room..and abt the jars and other things..I keep shifting them all the time...I don't have this book..but will check it out..

  9. Lovely one pot meal. So even the non-Bram vegetarian cuisine is different from Bram vegetarian cuisine ? Why is it so ?

  10. Love a one pot meal, especially in a pressure cooker. Though at 90 minutes, you may just as well cook it in a pot.
    My mom makes something similar but she just adds the garam masala powder instead of grinding the spices. Mine never turns out good in the cooker though.

  11. The book sounds interesting with non-brahm recipes.I have more appliances than space!
    The masala goes to the rice is interesting!
    Happy Ugadi!

  12. Happy Ugadi. 90 minutes, mmmmmm, the outcome is really good. Ingredients that went into the rice is interesting.

  13. I definitely feel stifled by my lack of space. I maintain that if I had just one more counter, everything would be perfect.

    This dish looks delicious! And that cookbook sounds great...I'll have to look into getting it.

  14. 90 mins?? It does look lovely though.

  15. i have a small kitchen too.. i always wish i had a bigger spacious one.

    pulao looks yummy

  16. Thanks all, for the comments! I took ninety minutes not just for the cooking but overall, along with another dish, it took ages anyway, because I'm slow with the prep.

    Sandeepa, I think it's different because the use of garlic is liberal, and the food is much spicier.

  17. Oh thank you for that recommendation - I have been itching to add to my cookbook collection but waiting for a "proper" addition :)


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