Rice to the rescue!

How many times have we thought rice is a blessing? We use it for holy purposes but we also can pressure up a quick pulao or khichdi when hunger pangs are drumming away! Rice has come to my rescue at many occasions and I am totally happy with kadhi chawal or rajma chawal as a main meal.

But I changed a few things some years back. I switched to brown. Now that is something most of you are doing so easily now, thanks to the new awareness about whole food, thanks to the easy availability and thanks to all those wonderful recipes. But when I started cooking it at home, there was big resistance especially from my little kids. I could not blame them because I too found the rice looking different, tasting different.

Brown rice is the least processed form of rice. Kernels of rice from which only the hull has been removed. The light brown colour is caused by the presence of bran layers, which are rich in minerals and vitamins. Cooked brown rice has a slightly chewy texture and a nut-like flavour.

That’s when another twist happened. My in laws came to stay. So here we are at the table and here they are expecting lovely white rice to round off the meal and Alyona brings in a bowl of not so white rice! They did eat it up because I spoke up and defined the healthier possibilities in brown rice but could see the lack of conviction on the faces of my dining companions. So the chef had to get to work again and for the evening meal Alyona and I made them a nice soft khichdi with brown rice and dal. Added a bit of haldi and salt and they loved it! So when the brown rice non-lovers come over, make khichdi!

But things are certainly on track now. The kids expect nothing but brown rice on the table and there is no fuss. And brown rice makes some lovely oil free pulaos and biryanis too…try some boiled grains in a chicken soup to make it heartier, or even try a kheer with brown rice, you cannot go wrong. I have also made pohe using the flattened rice made from brown rice.

So be it basmati, parboiled, glutinous, long grain Patna, pudding, red wild rice, risotto, sushi, Jasmine, or brown – getting to know and use all types of rice has enough material for an encyclopedia.

Brown versus white rice
Brown rice takes longer to cook than regular white rice (about forty five minutes versus fifteen to twenty minutes) because of the structure of the brown rice grain. Brown rice has far more nutrients as vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folacin, potassium, magnesium, iron and over dozen other nutrients. Added to that, the dietary fibre contained in white rice is around a quarter of brown rice. Brown rice may help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, and may even contribute towards maintaining a healthy weight.

Health points in rice
The Vitamin B is important. Rice gruel is considered easy food for the stomach especially for the ailing. Compared to wheat, rice has lower gluten content so more easily digestible.

Flour, crispies, noodles, paper, flakes….rice comes in many forms. Around the world the snack industry is doing wonders. Look at our bhel puri…puffed rice is the basic ingredient. And crispies make breakfast cereal. Glazed with gur, puffed rice becomes a chikki or enters bars of chocolates.

New frontiers
Sushi with sticky rice is something I am going to be working on in my kitchen…rice has always presented challenges and I simply love overcoming them!

As for now some simple rice recipes to get you going!

Brown Rice Biryani with Chutney Chicken
Herbed Rice with Mushrooms
Kurmura Tadka
Brown Rice Payasam


Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!
Sanjeev Kapoor

Easy Indian Recipes – a treasure trove

Those who wish to cook Indian food will be pleased to know that there are thousands of easy Indian recipes that are a breeze to cook. In fact, the only dexterity required is to read the recipe and get hold of all the ingredients. It is not difficult putting the dish together once your preparation is complete. For the novice cook, the simplest of the Indian bread called the roti would be masterful thing to make. But for a novice cook, kneading the dough just right is a new frontier to cross. So let us look at some rice recipes that come together in the pot with vegetables and spices to make soft khichdis. Moong Dal Khichdi, Bajra Khichdi, Gujarati Khichdi, Hari Bhari Khichdi are some of the ideas that you could use. If you prefer to use the microwave for cooking, ensure that the bowl is large enough to take the bubbling of the water used for cooking the rice and dals.
One more suggestion for your collection of easy Indian recipes is raita. To get the raita perfect, first let us set the curd to the correct firmness and sweetness at home. To make this heat 5 cups of full cream whole milk, bring it to boil and reduce to around four cups. Remove from heat and cool it till it comes to a temperature of 45° C. Add one tablespoon of thick yogurt as starter and mix evenly with a spoon or churner/whisker. Transfer the mixture into an earthenware pot and allow to set in a warm place (at 43°C) for four hours (in summer, otherwise may take longer). In winter or in places at higher altitudes one can always wrap the pot in which you are setting the yogurt in a blanket or a similar warm wrapping. Always remove a small quantity aside for setting the yogurt for the following day before you consume the rest. Refrigerate once set. So when you have such lovely yogurt in your refrigerator lets get going with the relishes. Try out Lauki ka Raita, Beetroot Raita, Phalon Ka Raita, Boondi ka Raita.
Next time round we will look at cooling traditional beverages such as lassi, tangy chutneys that do not require any cooking and halwas. The last is the quickest way to present a genuine Indian dessert that is comfort food for many. Then we will progress to breads and dals, other desserts, rice dishes called biryanis and pulaos and then the simplest of the snacks. So who wants to file a collection of easy Indian recipes is at the right place!

9 greats about Gujarati food

Gujarati food or should I say a Gujarati thali is a perfectly balanced meal. From servings of different vegetables and pulses to inclusion of pickles, savouries and sweets, along with rice, chapati and yogurt, I think it fulfills all the requirements that a food pyramid guides us to follow.

I think it is versatile. I have eaten some unbelievably wholesome combinations like soft khichdi with sweet and sour kadhi, then the same khichdi tastes wonderful plain with a spoon of ghee, khichdi with chaas is tasty and so is khichdi with papads and pickles. It is now common to see some Gujarati preparations at all weddings. It blends perfectly with all types of cuisine. In fact in my home we mix and match a lot of Punjabi and Gujarati preparations. I had mentioned that Gujarati thali is a perfectly balanced meal. What with all aspects of nutrition – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals from chapati, rice, vegetables and pulses, salads and sweets, dairy products, I can say that Gujarati food offers some very healthy combinations (just control the oil quantity used!). Have a full Gujarati meal and your all six senses of taste are satisfied. That is the reason why pickles and sweets are considered important along with the dal, bhaat, shaak and roti. And Gujju food is greatly popular. Till some years ago, we could not find khakhras in a shop in north India. Or for that matter khaman dhokla was considered as exotic food! But now things are different. We can buy khakhras in Amritsar too! And readymade khaman dhokla in a mall in Hyderabad! And enjoy oondhiyu at a Maharashtrian wedding…some time back I had made a comment that a Gujarati family can enjoy 365 different recipes 365 days of the year! The variety is worth exploring and as this cuisine is open to fusion one can get creative with Gujarati farsan and mishtaan. I have tried ganthia nu shaak, fresh fruits in basundi!

The proof of the pudding is in tasting it…so try these…

Ek handi nu dal bhaat, Aamras Puri , Tricoloured Dhokla

Have a great weekend….early next week I will know the status of the Spice Routers as they play the semi finals on 15th.

Sanjeev Kapoor.