My mom is the queen of the kitchen, which meant growing up I never cooked! Fast forward to 2005 standing in my kitchen in Connecticut I figured fried rice would be the easiest thing to pull off, right? Wrong! While it tasted good, the texture was completely off, more like awful, because of some obvious mistakes. What followed was a teary conversation with mom, mostly because I was really homesick and couldn’t even cook myself a decent warm meal. This post is more about the secret tips that mom shared with me that day, than about the actual recipe. This recipe is a basic one and can be modified to make your own. Add different vegetables, may be some protein…
The secret to a good fried rice is starting with cold cooked grains! Now that I think of it mom always cooked the rice the day before. The reason is simple, dehydration of the grains. Refrigeration makes the grains dry, and then when cooked it gets hydrated just right. Fresh cooked rice gets mushy! When in the moment spread fresh cooked rice in a baking sheet and chill it in the refrigerator for 15-20 mins. This will take care of any residual moisture and give your dish the fried texture.
Heat! High heat is important. As my mom’s lil helper I would love adding things to the pan but I wasn’t that patient. So I would go “Aikhon Di”(should I add now) and mom would roll her eyes and say “Daada, gorom hoi ni”(wait its not warm enough yet) because it was probably the 4th or 5th time! High heat ensures that whatever is added to the pan gets fried quickly, so the rawness goes but the crunchiness stays.
“Ghatish Na”(Don’t stir it too much) was what she screamed at me when this eager helper, kept stirring the rice. Constant stirring will cause the grains to break and get starchy, then mushy. Also it prevents the rice from getting that crunchy crusty texture. So spread the rice out in the pan, let it sit for a minute or so before flipping it.
So the secret to Jhojhore (fluffy), slightly crusty fried rice is – dehydrated cooked rice, cooking in high heat and no to constant stirring! To never again mushy fried rice… Happy cooking!!
Time for Prep: 10 mins Time to Cook: 10 mins Yield: 4-5 Servings Level: Easy
- 2 cups rice, cooked.
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup green peas
- 1/2 cup sweet corn
- 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp black pepper, ground
- salt to taste
- Heat oil in a wok, add the vegetables (except scallions) and sauté in high heat for 4-5 mins, just so that the rawness goes but they still retain the crunchiness.
- Add cooked rice, salt, ground black pepper and butter, stir it in and cook for another minute or so.
- Pour the soy sauce, around the edges of the wok and gently fold it in.
- Remove from heat, garnish with chopped scallions and serve.
Kadai is a thick bottom circular cooking pan, similar to a wok, but with steeper sides, an essential in every Indian kitchen. This dish is traditionally cooked in one and hence the name Kadai Paneer. The combination of the the tangy tomato gravy balanced with a dash of sweetness from cream followed by a garnish of dried fenugreek leaves makes this dish. It’s rich texture and ease to cook makes it a perfect dish to cook when entertaining. So far I have never had leftovers and always find myself writing this recipe down for people.
I am good at figuring things out and really enjoy the process of deconstructing a dish, understanding the various ingredients that went in it and building it all together. This dish is one of them, I had an idea of this dish and I modified it to be my own. Traditionally ginger, garlic and a few more whole spices are added to this dish. I prefer it without those.
I have made this dish for my vegan friends and its easy. For a vegan version, use Tofu instead of Paneer and cashews for the creamy sweet richness. Even my non-vegan friends love that variation.
Time for Prep: 10 mins Time to Cook: 25 mins Yield: 4-6 servings Level: Easy
- 10 oz Paneer
- 1 onion, julienned
- 1 small green bell pepper, julienned
- 1 small red bell pepper, julienned
- 1 plum tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup tomato puree
- 1 bay leaf
- 2-3 dried red chilli
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne or red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 4 tbsp fresh cream or heavy cream
- 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori Methi)
- In a heavy bottom pan, heat butter over medium heat. Add bay leaf, dried red chilli, cumin and caraway seeds.
- When the tempering starts spluttering and you can get the aroma, add onions. Saute for 4-5 mins, till they get a little caramalized.
- Add the red and green bell peppers, mix it in, then garam masala,cayenne, coriander powder, turmeric and salt. Mix everything in, sauté for 3-4 mins.
- Add the chopped tomato fold it in. Cover and cook, stirring on regular interval until it gets mushy or 4-5 mins.
- Add in tomato puree, cover and cook for another 5 mins, to take away the rawness.
- Add Paneer, fold it in and cook for 2-3 mins.
- Add cream, mix it in and turn of the flame. Do not cook after adding cream or it will curdle.
- Garnish with Kasoori Methi.
Serve with naan or chapatis.
This past week marked the 42nd wedding anniversary of my parents, growing up we celebrated the day with a gathering of friends and family and my mom like always cooked up a feast. Peas Pulao or ghee bhaath, always played an award winning supporting role, complimenting the flavors of the side dishes. In my opinion this dish is the underdog of bengali cuisine and never gets its due credit. Long grained basmati rice flavored with aasto gorom moshala (whole spices), jeere (cumin) and ghee makes for perfectly light and aromatic companion to pretty much any side dish, or to be eaten as is.
Time for Prep: 5 mins Time to Cook: 15 mins Yield: 6 Servings Level: easy
- 2 cups of Basmati rice
- 1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
- 1 inch stick of cinnamon
- 4-5 green cardamom
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 Bay leaf
- 7-8 cloves
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 1 tbsp mint, chopped
- 2 tbsp ghee or oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3.5 cup water or broth.
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
- In a heavy bottom pan heat the ghee and add caraway seeds, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, black peppercorns. Sauté for till you begin getting the spice aroma around 2-3 mins.
- Add the drained rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
- Add green peas, cilantro, mint and sauté for a minute before adding water, salt, sugar and lemon juice. Stir slightly.
- Cover and let cook for around 12-15 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
- Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Serve with your favorite side dish or with just Raita.
- For rice that is fluffy and each grain of rice is separated drain and spread soaked rice on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out before cooking. While cooking fry/sauté the rice grains for a 2-3 mins before adding water. While doing so make sure that you don’t stir too vigorously, that will break the rice grain and you will not get those long grains of rice that are visually so appetizing.
- If your using frozen green peas, thaw it before using.
Hari and I love traveling, especially long road trips. There is something very energizing about open roads, music, us singing along, stopping at random places to explore and debate about random topics. Chipotle is our favorite fast food places to go when on these trips, its healthy and wholesome with a delicious vegetarian option which is not just salad. But then there are those days where we crave the goodness of a burrito bowl and live the memories of travel without really leaving the house, this is our fix for those days. Plus this easy to fix meal is actually faster than getting in the car and driving.
I use Cilantro Lime Rice and homemade Salsa (Recipes posted earlier)
This is a vegetarian version, but if you are a meat lover then just top it with cooked meat of your choice in assembly and your all set.
Time for Prep: 10 mins Time to Cook: 10 mins Yield: 4 Servings Level: Easy
- 2 cups cilantro lime rice
- 1/2-3/4 cup beans and corn salsa
- Chopped mixed vegetables:
- 1/2 green pepper, Julienned (cut into thin strips)
- 1/2 red pepper, Julienned
- 1/2 yellow pepper, Julienned
- 1 medium sized red onion, Julienned
- 1 medium size tomato, Julienned
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing
- Cooking the vegetables:
- In a heavy bottom pan heat oil over medium high heat, add all the vegetables and sauté for another 2-3 mins.
- Add the cumin powder, cayenne and salt. Mix and sauté until they are cooked, stirring as needed.
- In a bowl arrange 1/2 cup of Cilantro Lime Rice, top it with the Beans and Corn Salsa, then the sautéed vegetables.
- Season with salt and pepper if needed, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.