Monday, 24 May 2010

Rice time

Its quite funny to notice that when it comes to comfort foods people go back to simple stuff. Like beans on toast. Apple crumble. I have never heard of one who cooks up, lets say, loin of venison with a blackberry and sloe gin glaze served with clapshot rosti and parsnip crisps (What?) or Warm wood pigeon tart, rocket salad and goats' buttermilk sorbet with wild garlic dressing (Do normal people eat like this?) or you have got to be Sophie Dhal, who does not mind making an omelette Benedict on a self indulgence day (what about a manicure instead?)

Talking about comfort food, rice is an absolute favourite of mine. That’s like going back to basics as I have grown up eating loads and loads of rice – like a 2 rice servings a day kind of childhood. (plus plenty of vegetables).

Last week, I was getting nostalgic about India. Specifically Kerala. To be more specific about food and sambar. But was not in a mood to go the lengthy way to make a sambar, rice and thoran combo. Instead I decided to try out my own version of sambar rice. Was it a success? Oh boy, see the pics to judge for yourself. Gordon (Ramsey, not Brown) could not have done better!

Here is a pic for you and the way I did it. No claims on authenticity.

For this sambar rice, the ingredients are:

Biriani Rice- 1 cup

Indian Red onion – 1

Big Green chilly (the mild one) – 1

Tesco’s grilled vegetables (frozen) – 1 cup (includes aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and cherry tomotoes – so versatile!)

Potato -1 medium size

Tamarind paste – ½ tsp

Asafoetida – ½ tsp

Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp

Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp

Curry leaves – some

Oil – 3 tb spoons

Salt – 1 tsp

And the star of the show, Sambar powder – 2 tsp

(For those who does not have sambar powder, try mixing 3/4 tsp coriander powder, ½ tsp chilly powder, ¼ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp asafoetida – but its worth buying a sachet of sambar powder from the asian stores for that authentic taste.)


In a pan, heat oil and pop mustard and fenugreek seeds. To this add chopped potato, green chilly and onions. Fry on low heat for a minute or so. Add asafoetida and curry leaves. To this add 2 cups of boiling water and the rice. Tip in the vegetables, salt, tamarind paste and the sambar powder. Give it a good stir. Close the lid and cook till the rice is fluffy and seperated.

Traditionally, it is cooked till the rice gets soggy. But I preferred a pilaf kind of consistency and wanted the grains separate. So if you like a traditional method, don’t go by this recipe.

But I have to tell you that this is the perfect Sambar rice I have ever eaten!

By the way, did I tell you that I got an invitation for ‘Britains Best Dish 2010’ competition? Details later…