Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Dressing Up 'Food That's Good For You'

Did you have to be bribed with idli and sandwich smileys when you were younger so that some nutrition could be forced into you? What are those, you ask? Oh, you know, that's when you put pea eyes, tomato mouth and carrot nose on a nice, white dumpling to get the tiresome kid to eat a sensible breakfast, never mind that YOU're losing all YOUR nutrients in the process!

I often have this problem with The Spouse who is rather opposed to "food that's good for you". However much I dress them up, most vegetables stay firmly away from his plate, unless they're served to him in other people's houses - I recently saw him gush over yam, chunks of it, in tamarind gravy at his aunt's place, something I'm willing to bet he wouldn't even recognise at ours. And there's no point talking about brown rice, he will simply "perish the thought!" The only reason he tasted my tomato upma, I suspect, was because it was on his aunt's table and that huge plank of wood must have added to its appeal. I have almost given up making him give up on ghee supplied by some fond and rustic relatives, rice and ghee added to senaga karam (chana dal powder) supplied on request by his fond and urban mother-in-law, rice and ghee added to red chilli pickle supplied by loving aunts and cousins and sundry goodies supplied by ourselves. But the thought of being defeated - and the amount of waste all those leftover supplies make for - make me keep trying.

A while ago, I bought a small packet of something called 'low-carb' rice. It looked normal enough but when I finally cut it open, I realised I'd been looking at the wrong side of the pack - there WAS a transparent patch at the back and it was very distinctly light brown.

Now, had he not seen me open it and pour it out into the pressure cooker, he may have eaten it - but I think the sequence of events was that he did, made a face several times and sulked but ungraciously conceded he would try it because "it doesn't seem to be like the usual brown rice I know you don't like" (said in a loud and earnest tone). Unfortunately, the pack instructions failed me - and it was hard and remained brown. He may well have gone to bed angry and hungry, I really don't remember.

I couldn't eat it either. (I was never very good at self-flagellation.)

It stayed in the fridge for a few days till I began to suspect something was wrong with it because it wasn't going bad. So I dumped it.

Then came about some circumstances where, for over a week, we were eating at someone's place everyday and I too began to contribute to those meals. As it was a hectic and difficult phase, I could not even shop for supplies but had to make do with what was available at home. For once, I had had potatoes, some carrots were withering in the fridge as usual and I had just exhausted my supply of peas. I didn't know if I had run out of Basmati and I didn't want to find out. Some black chickpeas were turning to speckly white dust in their container.

Some of our meal companions wouldn't eat onion and garlic, it had to be quite a big amount (to serve about a dozen people) and it needed to be something I could make swiftly so that once I woke up the next day and finished with it, I could try to snooze again, find time for Yoga, social networking and lunch before I set off for work. Not to mention having a bath, of course!

One of the cookbooks I love is Tarla Dalal's Gujarati cookbook. I haven't made all that much from it but I love to flip through it and look at the pictures. It's seen me through many a sleepless night. So I chose the Vagharelo Bhaat which seemed pretty swift and straightforward.

I doubled the quantities and made my substitutions: Brown rice for Basmati, kala channa for green peas, and some oil added to the ghee. (Mine is organic, again bought to lure The Spouse away from what could be some hormone-ridden one.)

If he reads this, he will find out it was the brown rice he once so violently rejected, rendered so palatable by soaking, oodles of ghee, the potatoes, other bits and pieces, and, of course, the communal (as in 'community', not 'religion', lest you wonder) nature of the occasion.

Brown rice: 3 cups (soaked for at least 30 minutes, then washed delicately several times, and drained)
Potatoes, diced: 3 cups
Kala channa/black chickpeas: 1 cup, soaked overnite, cooked till soft
Carrots, diced: 1/2 cup
Cloves: 4
Cinnamon: 1-inch blade
Cumin seed/jeera: 1 tsp
Asafoetida/Hing: 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Chilli powder: 2 tsp
Garam masala: 1 tsp
Ghee: 5 tbsp
Oil: 1 tbsp
Hot water: 6 cups
In a large pot/pressure cooker, heat the ghee, add the cloves, cinnamon, cumin, asafoetida and fry for half a minute.

Add the vegetables and salt and stir for about four minutes.

Add the turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala and rice and stir again for five minutes till well and evenly mixed.

Add six cups of hot water, cover and simmer till the rice is cooked. If you're using a pressure cooker (like I did), put it on simmer for about five minutes after three whistles. It was perfect.

I did not hesitate to use so much ghee and oil because this meal was spread across many people and I'm hoping none of them ate more than their recommended allowance of fat and starch. A happy consequence was that I didn't have any charred and crusty residue at the bottom of the pressure cooker.


  1. We get a Wild rice which is black and long grained. I tried to cook it once like I do with regular rice, wouldn't get soft at all. But then I found out that that's how it supposed to be and it tastes really good in salad or with added spices, although you have to chew a bit.A nutty taste, yummy. I don't buy it often though, long grain rice or brown rice is fine for me.
    Btw I hate fussy people, just eat whatever comes on the table already and be glad you are being fed is my philosophy! ;D
    Occasional indulgence like having ghee or butter is good for our souls, so I love your Pulao with Chana.
    That reminds me. I saw few bugs in the 1/2kg pack of brown chana (I love these)today, washed, soaked the whole pack, cooked in pressure cooker, divided into 4 Ziploc bags, froze them for next time.
    One portion is going to be yummy Sambhar for Friday.
    Saved my beloved brown Chanas! :D
    You too have a great day.

  2. Oh, I forgot to say one more thing. If you see the photos in Nita Mehta's "Amritsari Khaana" cookbook, you will drown the book with your saliva! It's that good, I promise!! Love Gujarati cookbook of Tarla Dalal, her "South Indian cookbook" is good too! :)

  3. That is a delicouslooking rice. Well my hubby is like yours, he keep away from vegetables too.He like some but then tha tis just only 2%.
    When we visit home mom make chicken curry and she thought chicken legs he like and he gave him both pieces, poor fellow don't like them but he ate without even muttering a word and i made him suffer by not telling mom he hates it, i know i am EVIL :-)

  4. Getting grownups to eat healthy is more difficult than children Sra.
    Adding a little of this and that to a pulao always makes it interesting ... I am always scared to try new rice in a pressure cooker where I cannot keep a watch on it. :-)
    That pulao does sound wonderful. :-)

  5. Sra, I do not blame your better half for the reaction he had for the brown rice. It is variation of the same reaction in our house too including me, unless everybody is too hungry to notice. Lack of aunts and uncles nearby and hence the lack of other supplies :)

    This fried ricification suits brown rice perfectly so much so the brown rice haters in our house adore the fried rice version. It even worked alright when it was made into lemon rice.

    By the way I love what you have whipped up here. Will give it a try soon. But your brown rice looks way better than what we get here.

  6. I never had to be forced to eat anything....I was born a good-food lover. I am putting up with more than my share of losing my nutrients now:-)
    The rice looks very appealing.....and you know what? The next time the spouse objects to something that you put on the table, maybe you should tell him the aunt/MIL sent it across :-)

  7. Hmmmm. Rice that was unrecognizable and indestructible. Think of it as high fiber. Maybe it *was* good for you, after all. ; )

    Funny anecdotes. Scott's pretty good w/ veggies, but he won't take even one vitamin supplement, so I buy fortified orange juice for him despite his best intentions to resist. He'll be healthy even if it kills me w/ intrigue.

  8. I never had to be bribed as a child as long as what I liked was fed to me which was pretty much plain dal, roti, rice and potato sabzi. My toddler is the same. Flower and funny faces don't do much for him unless it is of something he likes so I don't usually bother.
    The spouse is better than me at eating vegetables and other healthy foods so no complains. It is probably the other way round. :)

    I like your rice/ pulao. I make something similar but with onions and tomatoes thrown in for one pot meal rather than a side dish.

  9. Your spouse sounds exactly like my daughter here! LOL
    She will resist any attempts at my trying to cook anything that's "good for you". Not eassy to bribe her either!

    The only brown rice I've ever cooked was rose matta and I haven't had any problems with that.
    All said, your "brown" rice here seems pretty ok to me. Maybe appearances are deceiving? :)

  10. :):) The length we go to feed the spouse healthy, and they don't even appreciate !!! My daughter will eat stuff in other people's house that she wouldn't even touch at ours

    Your Pulao really looks good Sra, I bet he didn't know it was brown

  11. Love this post. though my hubby like healthy stuffs but still buying brown rice is a strict no at our house. there is no way I can make him eat this. let me try your recipe but the problem is he does not even eat ghee(has allergy) so have to look for another substitution. but this one is a keeper for my home alone lunches.

  12. What a lovely read Sra, I hope M reads this..heheh..and not to forget rice looks very inviting!

  13. Came across ur awesome blog while surfing..ditto like u..me too hv 2 fussy eaters in my house..n hv to do all sorts of tricks to tuck te food down thier throat.
    Like ur version of a vagharela bhaat...good use of channa...n brown rice of course.
    Between a cook -like to call myself one(although a trained chef)fm down under.
    Will be bk for more.

  14. It drives me CRAZY when people won't even try things! My dad is just like that.

    This dish sounds like a serious winner though! I love all of the spices in it!

  15. Sra,
    I can't imagine cooking brown rice and although DH is very health conscious but wont eat brown rice,never..and I have also issued Nita Mehta's "Amritsari Khana" from library but returned it without making a single dish from it.I wonder why??
    hugs and smiles

  16. and oh! pulao looks delicious and yum,if you wouldn't have told it's brown rice pulao ,I wouldn't have noticed it, seriously :-)..
    hugs and smiles

  17. I never thought that rice can be turned out like that. Really, rice really can go a long way!
    dining tables

  18. Ooooh, anybody would love this dish! yum! I thnk brown bastamti would taste great here!

  19. Folks, thanks for the lovely and involved comments.

  20. I would have gone quite crazy if the spouse didnt eat any and every vegetable there was!! Thankfully he even likes karela which I love. But he draws the line at Brown Rice - he has eaten it the few times I have tried, but without much enthusiasm and since I don't seem to be cracking the code on making it palatable, I have left it for now.


I moderate all my comments. So if you're a human spammer or a bot that can understand this warning, buzz off, don't waste your time here spamming.