Monday, November 23, 2009

The Daily Grind

One day I learned a simple cooking technique that turned out to be one small step for me, one giant leap for my culinary skills. This is it:


Grinding fresh spice pastes- in so many recipes, this is a step that takes the dish to a whole new level. In India, many kitchens are equipped with "mixies", compact grinders that can reduce tough whole spices to dust and churn fried onions to a silky paste. I haven't invested in one of these, but for now, my small inexpensive coffee grinder allows me to make spices pastes and powders that are quite satisfactory. Although mine is a Kitchenaid model sold in the US, there are 3 words written on this machine that make me quite confident about its pulverizing abilities: "Made in India".

My countdown to the new year continues, and recipe #38 is alambi bhaat (mushroom rice) from Enjoy Indian Food. Meera unstintingly shares recipe after authentic recipe; this blog is a goldmine of regional Indian food. Mushroom rice is a very inadequate name for this dish; with fresh coconut and spices and the umami flavor of mushrooms, the aroma nearly made me swoon.

The main modification I made to Meera's recipe was to use a whole box (10 oz, 5-6 cups) of mushrooms for 1.5 cups rice, because we love the flavor of mushrooms and they cook down so much. I also made a single spice paste instead of the two in the original recipe because if there is a short cut, you can be sure I'll take it.

Here is my shorthand recipe for alambi bhaat, to get the detailed recipe (and see a pic of the finished dish), look at Meera's post.

1. Fry
-coconut
-coriander seeds
-peppercorns
-garlic

2. Grind the above to a fine paste with
-ginger
-cilantro
-green chillies. Set aside.

3. Fry onions, add turmeric, red chilli powder, garam masala.

4. Add mushroom slices, fry for several minutes.

5. Add the spice paste, soaked rice, water, salt. Cook. Add lemon juice at the very end.

Meera wasn't kidding. As soon as I took my first bite of this bhaat, I was flooded by a taste memory. It does taste exactly like the prawn rice (kolambi bhaat) I remember eating as a kid. This one is a keeper!

I served it with a radish-cucumber salad for a fantastic dinner.

So, tell me, what should I cook next?

16 comments:

  1. Nupur, I shud say you are such an inspiration!!! Man! how do you find the time for all this - cooking, knitting, reading, hosting parties, blog hopping, mini outings on weekends, and I guess you work too??? :) truly amazing!!

    I don't have any suggestions for what you should cook next, but I do have another suggestion - another blog for your artistic affairs!

    ~Meera.

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  2. yummy..and congrats saw your blog in the best Indian cooking bloglist!congrats and keep it yp..!:)love your posts..

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  3. how about something south indian next?

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  4. What should you cook next? Hmmmm...... how abt some authentic maharashtrian dish?

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  5. Thanks so much, Nupur, for trying out the recipe. It feels great. You made my day. :-D Thanks so much. Have a great thanksgiving.

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  6. enjoying every post Nupur and awaiting the next. i love mushroom and thanks for introducing me to this new recipe.

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  7. That spice mixture would make any kind of bhaat tasty.

    I'm going to be selfish now and suggest any Ethiopian dish as one of your 40 recipes (as Ethiopian is one of my favorite cuisines). I've tried the lentil wot from your blog and it was super delicious.

    Mamatha

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  8. Love your blog. How about trying a partially healthy snack for the next leg of your cook-a-thon? My mother was inspired by your microwave sabudana khichadi ..she came up with this...soak a cup of regular roasted and salted peanutsn (TJs) in water for about 1-2 minutes. In another bowl mix gram flour besan (around 2 tbsp) with a tbsp of oil, a pinch of baking soda + chilli powder+amchur powder+garam masala+salt. Add enough water to make a thick slurry/paste to coat drained and dried peanuts. Line a plate with parchment paper and nuke/microwave till the peanuts are crisp ...depends on the power of your microwave. 2-3 minutes works for a plateful of peanuts. Leave on the kitchen counter for a minute after nuking so that the masala peanuts get crisp. Enjoy!

    Thanks for blogging :-)

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  9. You are so right- even with few ingredients - some freshly ground spice/paste can just transform a dish.

    What should you cook next- hmm..homemade gnocchi? Or Arachivittu Sambhar? (if you haven't made this before, that is)

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  10. The sight of the paste in the pictures is soooooo refreshing! And i smiled when i read the word "mixies", it screams nostalgia!

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  11. Indian mixies are something!
    Tell me, do u use ur coffee mill for pastes? wet grinding?

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  12. Nupur, you are really great. Can you please post a pic of your coffee grinder in which you do wet grinding. Please, please, please.
    Thanks in advance.

    Su

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  13. i have the same question as Manasi - can you do the wet pastes in a coffee grinder?
    cook next - hmm how about something for a vegetarian thanksgiving? Something non-Indian? I am racking my brains planning a menu and need some help! :)

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  14. Nags- I do have avial on my list; will make that in the next week or two when I have the necessary vegetables on hand.

    Rujuta- Yes, that is what I am cooking right at this minute :)

    Madhuli- Good to see you here!

    Meera- My knitting and crochet stuff has a good home on Ravelry.com so I don't need another craft blog. Thanks for all your kind words.

    Meera/Enjoy Indian Food- No, we all should be thanking you for your fantastic recipes! Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

    Sayantani- Thanks- mushroom lovers will love this dish :)

    Mamatha- You're right, this paste is very versatile. Hmm..Ethiopian, there's a thought! I'll work on it :)

    Anonymous- Thanks for sharing your recipe! I make something quite similar; I posted it years ago here. I love the term "partially healthy" :D

    Lavanya- Are you a mind reader?? You must be! In fact, arachivittu sambar is very much on my list, for this weekend in fact. And to be honest, I also have a couple different gnocchi recipes in the bookmarks!

    Musical- I know, mixies are the best ;)

    About the spice grinder- Yes, I do use it for wet pastes as you can see in the picture. But do this at your own risk since the model is designed for dry grinding. It has worked for more than a year for me as a wet grinder so I just go ahead and use it ::shrug:: but I take no responsibility for broken-down grinders! The model I have is pictured here.

    Anonymous- There will be 3-4 vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes coming up, starting tomorrow.

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  15. i love the coconut, coriander, pepper combo!

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  16. Hey Nupur, I'm about to try this recipe of Alambi Bhaat and have a question for you.
    When you say coconut - do you mean dried coconut or wet coconut? I guess both would give different tastes.

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