Sunday, June 17, 2007

Vegetable Ghee Rice - Indian Rice flavored with whole spices and vegetables in Ghee.

During my teens, attending marriage receptions and related functions were not all that exhilarating to me, unless I had some of my cousins or friends to give company…. But every rule has some exceptions….so this particular dislike was not there when it came to attending Mappila/Muslim marriage ceremonies……..I still have a very vague memory of the rich and festive ceremonies at one of our family friends’ daughter’s Mailanji Kalyanam, a Mehendi ceremony which is a pre-wedding ritual among the Muslims of Kerala.…….I think I was a very small kid at that time, may be in my 1st or 2nd grade but that evening is still crystal clear in my mind…..a group of girls, dressed up in bright and vibrant Muslim attires , decked up with ornaments, singing Mappilappatu and performing Oppana…..those girls moving in circles, clapping their hands with a rhythm…….the illuminations in the hall….I regret to say I cannot recollect the bride’s face but that festive mood prevalent in that hall is still fresh in my mind!! And when I grew up, Muslim marriage ceremonies attracted me not just because of the Oppana and Mehendi ceremony but there was something else too…what lured me was the tantalizing aroma and richness and taste of their feast, especially Biriyani, Neichoru & Kozhi curry (Ghee Rice & Chicken Curry) etc…..It might sound funny to you, but after enjoying all that rich food, coming home and smelling our own hand, reliving the aroma and taste of that food again, used to be a pleasant routine for me :)

Ghee rice, a Muslim specialty, popular for its simplicity, is basically basmati or any long grain rice flavored with whole spices and ghee, garnished with some fried nuts and raisins and fried onions…..Vegetable Ghee Rice is a cousin of this original recipe or to put it lightly, it’s a ghee rice with more family members!! I tasted a similar dish for the first time at one of our friends, R & B’s house. I tweaked the recipe a bit and now it is one of our favourite dishes, something which I cook with confidence, when we have friends coming over for dinner or lunch.

Ingredients for Vegetable Ghee Rice:- (Serves 2-3)
  • 1 small size, big onion thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup golden raisins/kismis
  • ¼ cup halved cashew nuts
  • 2 ½ cups Basmati Rice
  • 5 cups Water
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 5-7 small ½ inch long cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup green peas
  • ¼ cup green beans chopped
  • ¼ cup cauliflower florets chopped (as small as pearls)
  • 3 tbsp carrot coarsely chopped
  • Ghee - 3tbsp + 2tbsp + more for frying the onions
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of sugar
  1. Wash and drain the rice on a paper towel. When it is medium dry, heat 2 tbsp ghee in a large pan and splutter cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf; add rice to this and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes in low heat and keep them aside.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp ghee in the same pan and fry the raisins, stirring continuously until they turn plump or look like golden grapes and keep them aside; fry the cashew nuts in the same oil, till they turn golden in colour and let both the nuts and raisins drain on a paper towel. In the remaining oil, sauté all the veggies for 2-3 minutes in low heat, with some salt, until they are well coated with the oil and cooked slightly. No need to cook them fully, as veggies will be cooked along with the rice again. Remove all the veggies and add more ghee to the pan to fry the thinly sliced onions till they become golden brown; at this stage sprinkling a pinch of sugar to the onion, while frying, to get a taste of nice caramelized onions is a good idea; remove the fried onions from the oil with a slotted spoon and let them drain on paper towels.
  3. Before cooking the rice, keep a spoonful of fried nuts and raisins and half of the fried onions, separately for garnishing. Microwave Method: Mix everything together- fried rice with spices, onion, nuts, raisins & veggies- with 5 cups of water (2 cups of water for 1 cup basmati rice) and adjust the salt and pop it in the microwave and cook for 23-25 minutes or until rice is done. Stove-top Method: Boil water in a heavy bottom cooking vessel, and when it comes to boil, add all the ingredients and bring it to a boil again and then reduce the flame and cook covered in low-medium heat, until rice is fully done and water is absorbed. Using a fork, gently separate the rice, so as not to get sticky, and leave it covered for another 10-20 minutes, for all the flavours to set in. Garnish with the rest of the nuts, raisins & onions and serve with Raitha (Coarsely chopped onions, tomatoes and cucumber mixed in yogurt with a dash of salt and pepper), Pickles and some spicy Chicken/Mutton curry, which is a real bonus to this dish.
Note: For a healthier version, onion can be fried in vegetable oil, instead of ghee. Make sure that onions are not burnt or browned too dark, as this leads to changing the colour of the rice when cooked. Here is recipe for a regular Ghee Rice.


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