I’ve never put together this particular combination together before. I was adding spices as I went along. The combination of the brown rice and red lentils go pretty well together because they cook for the same amount of time. The red lentils almost disappear, adding a richness to the texture of the rice. It had a nutty flavor from the rice and a touch of sweetness from the raisins that goes really well with the cardamom flavors. A great rice dish that goes with so many proteins like pork chops, gola kabobs (that’s how we ate them) and as a light meal by itself.
This Coconut Rice is super tasty and originates from the Southern part of India. Most places that grow coconut has some kind of a coconut rice recipe. Jamaicans have a coconut rice recipe where the coconut milk is used directly with the rice and it’s a rich, sweet rice. Marshall Islanders make shredded coconut and white rice balls that are very popular and eaten with savory foods even though the rice balls are quite sweet tasting. The tastes, styles and flavors are as varied as the locales coconuts are grown in. I really enjoy this South Indian version because it has a wonderful crunch not only from the nuts but from the lentils that are stir fried . The toasted coconut adds depth, texture and tastes heavenly. This rice is very versatile. I’ve paired it with Indonesian style chicken or with Chicken satay or with the 10 minute Tilapia curry.
4 cups cooked rice, Brown rice is great here (I used Basmati rice, any long grain rice will work)
2 cups desiccated unsweetened coconut (finely shredded)
4 dried red chilis
1 tablespoon split Urad daal (black lentils)
1 tablespoon Bangla Chana daal (yellow split peas)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/3 cup raw peanuts or cashews
3 tbs coconut oil
In a wok or large skillet heat the oil and add the lentils, mustard, cumin seeds, salt. Stir fry for a few minutes until flavors are released. Add the nuts and stir fry another minute or so then add coconut and cook about 2 minutes. Coconut will start becoming toasted and start smelling wonderful. Add the rice and stir fry gently to incorporate. Serve warm. Great as a leftover by itself or with other dishes.
Palao, Polao, Pilaf….whatever way you want to pronounce it, it basically means “yummy rice” (that’s my translation). I’m Asian, which means I make a lot of rice, eat a variety of rice and think of ways to incorporate rice into stuff that probably shouldn’t have rice. We love rice so much, we even make pasta out of it! That’s good news for all those trying to eat Gluten-free. This is a simple go-to vegetable rice dish. It can stand alone as a main dish or is great eaten with any Egg Curry dish or even a Chicken Korma.
Here’s the recipe:
Vegetable Rice Palao
3 cups uncooked Basmati Rice
6 cups water
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 pound frozen mixed vegetables
5-6 Cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
2 Bay leaves
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 tsp Red Chili powder
2 tsp Cumin
5 whole garlic cloves and 1 1/2 inch ginger – grate together into a paste (I usually make a large quantity and keep it in a mason jar in the fridge)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Wash Basmati Rice until the water runs clear, this gets rid of the excess starch and makes a better end product. Set aside. Heat oil in a large 5-6 quart heavy bottom pan, add chopped onions and cardamom, cinnamon sticks, cloves and bay leaves. Stir fry until fragrance is released. Add salt, cumin, turmeric and chili and stir fry a few more minutes. Add the garlic and ginger paste last so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add frozen vegetables, golden raisins and then the cashews (keeps the cashews from breaking into little pieces) and saute an additional 2-3 minutes to incorporate the flavors. Add in washed Basmati rice and gently stir to incorporate all the spices without breaking any of the rice grains. Add the water and bring to a gentle boil, turn down the burners on low and cover. Let rice cook on low until all the water is incorporated and rice is tender, should be about 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat and fluff gently with a serving spoon to incorporate all the vegetables evenly. Serve warm.
As a dietitian I get asked all the time about gluten-free recipes and food ideas since so many people it seems, either are diagnosed with Celiac Sprue or have developed wheat or wheat-related allergies. One of the great things about food from different parts of the world, especially South Asia is that a variety of non-wheat based flours are used in cooking. In any Indian, Bengali or Pakistani grocery store you will find “Besan” which is chickpea flour, split gram flour (a type of lentil), rice flours, potato flour and a myriad of other flours. They are routinely used for everyday cooking in a variety of ways. They are much less expensive to buy at an ethnic store than at a “specialty” or “health-food” store. Not only are these delicious but they add a depth of nutritional content that is not found in traditional processed all-purpose wheat flour. One of the complaints I hear about those having to go gluten-free is the lack of breads and crackers that taste delicious. I recently made some homemade Thyme and Rosemary crackers http://kolpona.com/2012/03/21/thyme-and-rosemary-edam-crackers/ and decided that I could make a variation of that using non-wheat flour and the results were truly, truly delicious. The rice flour adds a crunch to these crackers that make them so addictive that I must confess I ate most of the crackers by myself. It was a little embarrassing.
Here’s the recipe:
Gluten-free Goat Cheese Garlic and Cheddar Herb Crackers
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup of goat cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried thyme
1 whole clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour (Besan)
1-2 tsp water (use only if the dough is not coming together)
In a medium-sized bowl cream butter with an electric mixer. Add in herbs, garlic and cheese and continue mixing until well incorporated. Slowly add in both the chickpea and the rice flour, add the water if needed for the dough to come together. I did not add any salt to this recipe since goat cheese is pretty salty. You can add some kosher salt to taste if you’d prefer. Roll into about a 9″ log and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and cut the log into 1/8 to 3/8 inch rounds with a sharp knife. Place on a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack before serving. Makes about 24-28 crackers but you can tell others it only makes 6 (which is what I had to do because I ate most of them myself)
South Indian Lemon Rice is one of those quick and easy dishes to prepare when you have some left over rice on hand or need to make a quick side dish that goes well with a variety of main dishes. I love the fresh flavors and the unique taste of the curry leaves along with the crunch of the toasted cashews and split gram lentils. No wonder it’s such a popular dish all over the Southern part of India. The key to the flavor of this dish is keeping it at a high heat and allowing each ingredient to toast and pop to add to the depth of taste. You have to work fast though and have all the ingredients nearby because it can burn really fast. Recent studies have linked Turmeric with lower incidences of Alzheimer’s disease and as a great anti-inflammatory agent. In this dish the Turmeric gives it that light, golden color with a hint of flavor that does not overshadow the lemony taste. A great way to get in some added health benefits while enjoying great taste.
Here’s the Recipe:
Lemon Rice~South Indian Fried Rice
4 cups cooked rice (I prefer Basmati Rice)
5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
5 dried red whole Chilies
1 tablespoon Split Gram yellow lentils
1 tsp raw Sesame Seeds
3 tablespoons Golden Raisins
1/4 cup raw unsalted Cashews
1 lemon, zested
Juice from one lemon
1 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
2 tsp Kosher salt
10-12 fresh Curry Leaves
In a large wok or frying pan heat oil and stir fry mustard seeds and dried chilies until mustard seeds begin to pop. Add in Sesame Seeds, lentils and salt and stir fry another 50 seconds. Add in Cashews, Raisins and Turmeric stir fry a few seconds before adding in curry leaves and then the zest of one lemon and the juice of the entire lemon. Stir to blend flavors and add in cooked rice, tossing well to coat. Serve hot as a vegetarian dish or as a great side dish.
There are so many ways to cook rice, the possibilities are endless. The continent of Asia alone has about a thousand variations. I love how the same spices used in slightly different combinations can produce a totally different taste. Nasi Goreng is an Indonesian style of fried rice. There are many different ways of making Nasi Goreng, some people add prawns, steak or chicken, others add a variety of vegetables, basically whatever is leftover and on hand. But some of the basic spices don’t change. The key to Nasi Goreng is using Kecap Manis or Sweet Soy Sauce.
Kecap Manis is made from fermented soy, date palm sugar (jaggery) and several other spices. It is quite thick and has several layers of flavor that is very different from regular soy sauce. It is delicious. The other must have items in Nasi Goreng are red chilis and Sambal Oelek. I like to use both.
Sambal Oelek is a red chili paste found in any Asian super market (same place where you’d pick up some of the Kecap Manis). Cumin and Coriander are also used. This adds a slight smoky flavor and balances out the sweetness of the Kecap manis and the heat of the red chilis.
Even though garlic, cumin, coriander and chilies are regularly used in South Asian cooking, when combined with the Sambal Oelek and Sweet soy sauce it completely changes the taste. This dish is widely eaten in Malaysia, Singapore and of course Indonesia. Served hot with that wonderful fried egg on top, it is amazing. You can’t stop eating it!
Here’s the recipe:
6 cups cooked rice (preferably overnight)
2 large eggs
Salt according to taste
6 tablespoons cooking oil
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1 onion, finely chopped
2 red chilies, seed removed and sliced finely
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 tsp Coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tbsp Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)
2 tsp Sambal Oelek
3 Stalks of celery, chopped
1 whole tomato, seeded and chopped
½ cup frozen green peas
4 finely chopped scallions
Additional eggs to serve over rice
1 large onion, thinly sliced (for caramelized onion)
In a large frying pan or wok heat oil and add 1 large onion very thinly sliced (using mandolin really helps to keep it very thin). Cook until onions are dark golden brown in color and place in a paper towel lined pan.
Beat the eggs in a bowl until foamy. Add a little salt according to taste. Set aside. Use a food processor to process the onion, chili, tomato, Sambal Oelek, garlic, sugar, cumin and coriander until it became a thick paste.
In the same pan that the onions were caramelized earlier add the processed paste and cook until it is fragrant. Add the vegetables except for the sliced scallions and stir fry for a few minutes. Make a well in the middle of the pan and add beaten eggs. Stir fry eggs until cooked and mix in with the rest of vegetables. Finally add in the cooked rice and a more cooking oil if necessary. Add the Kecap Manis (Sweet Soy Sauce) and scallions and continue frying for another 30~60 seconds, until it is well incorporated. Finally add caramelized onions and toss.
Scoop from the wok onto a plate and serve with a fried over-easy egg on top. If using as a side dish then serve without the egg on top.
Every year during the months of January through March the first crops of rice are harvested and readied in Bangladesh. The first fresh rice harvest is used in making many different kinds of desserts called “Pitha”. The tastes are delightful and the season is especially nice and cool. I loved this time of year growing up, not only because the weather was great but because we got to eat all kinds of Pithas that we never got to enjoy at any other time of year. Even though we have access to rice flour all year long, it’s especially nostalgic for me to make Pithas in the early part of the year, just because it reminds me of my childhood when things were simple, uncomplicated and filled with simple joys of being with family and friends.
This particular Pitha is called “Pati Shapta” which loosely translated means to make flat and roll. Which is exactly what this is; a Bengali crepe!
Pitha (Crepe part):
6 cups All Purpose flour
2 cups Rice Flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
10 cups water
Sift together all- purpose flour, rice flour, salt and baking powder together. Add sugar to the mixture and mix well. Add beaten eggs then slowly add the water whisking to prevent any lumps. The mixture should be a rather thin batter.
8 tablespoons of butter (1 stick)
2 Large Cinnamon sticks
5-6 Cardamom pods, crushed
1 ½ cup Sooji (Farina)
1 Cup Desiccated Coconut (just look for smaller flakes instead of long stringy flakes)
¾ cup brown sugar (or date palm sugar otherwise known as Jaggery, if you have that handy)
1 quart half and half
Let’s start with the filling. In a heavy bottom 5-6 quart dutch oven heat butter until melted. Add Cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks and stir fry until fragrant. Add the Shooji (farina) and cook over medium high heat stirring constantly.
When the color reaches a light toasty brown color and begins to smell nice and toasty (about 6-8 minutes), add the desiccated coconut flakes and stir fry another 3 minutes. Slowly add in the half and half to the mixture and continue stirring. Mixture should start thickening very quickly.
Slowly add brown sugar ¼ cup at a time and tasting as you go along to make sure the sweetness is not too much. You can add more sugar to make it sweeter or less depending on taste. Continue stirring until all the liquid is absorbed and the filling becomes a soft paste like consistency. Kind of like smooth peanut butter. Take out the Cinnamon sticks, remove from heat, cover and set aside.
Heat a 5 inch non-stick frying pan over medium high heat, brush the bottom of the pan with a little bit of vegetable oil and pour ¼ cup of batter in the middle and quickly tilt the pan in a circular motion to coat the bottom of the pan and place on back on the heat. Little bubbles should start appearing all over the batter. Within 35 seconds or so, the crepe should be ready (do not flip it over).
Take off the heat and place about 2 tablespoons of filling on one edge of the crepe and roll it into a tube.
Lightly flatten. You can enjoy it warm or at room temperature. Makes about 50 Pithas. Since each person will at least eat two, it will serve about 20-25 people.
Kitchuri is a very Bengali dish. Made with rice, lentils, vegetables and sometimes even some meat thrown in. It’s the South Asian version of a casserole. The variety of “kitchuri” is as limitless as each cook’s imagination but two things remain a constant, rice and lentils. Growing up in Bangladesh, eating Kitchuri was a delight because we usually ate it at picnics or outings, sometimes cooked over an open fire. Often the kitchuri would have seasonal vegetables, or leftovers from the day before added to it. I knew whenever I smelled Kitchuri cooking that good things were going to happen that day.
On a recent trip back to Bangladesh, Kitchuri took on a new meaning. We visited Child Sponsorship Programs and villages where lives were literally being saved. Children ate one meal a day during school, often it was their only meal. The meal always consist of Kitchuri because of the high nutrient content and an additional source of protein such as eggs or chicken or fish. Cooked in a giant pot, the humble Kitchuri had taken on a super hero role!
2 cups Basmati Rice
1 cup red lentils
1 whole spanish onion, chopped
3-4 serrano chillis, chopped
2 whole cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
4 cardamom pods, crushed
3 whole cloves
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp red chili peppers
4 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup oil
salt to taste
4 cups water
1 1/2 cup Assorted chopped vegetables , such as zucchini, shredded carrots, English peas, yellow squash
Wash rice and lentils thoroughly until water runs clear and set aside. Heat oil in a large 5-6 quart pan and add onions and Serrano chilis. Saute 2-3 minutes. Add cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and stir fry another 3 minutes or so until all the flavors are released. Add 1 tsp of salt, turmeric, cumin and chili powder along with garlic and stir fry another 2 minutes. Add all vegetables and 1/2 cup of water and stir fry for a minute or two before adding the rice and lentils and the rest of the water. Bring mixture to boil, stir then turn down temperature to low and cover pan. Let simmer and cook until all water is absorbed about 10-13 minutes. When all water is absorbed, rice and lentils should be nice and tender if additional water is needed, add it at this point and cover pot for another 5-6 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Take out cinnamon sticks and bay leaves before serving.