I am always reminded of the importance of rice on my trips home to Asia. Rice is an important food source in most Asian countries and is enjoyed as much as three times a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner (and not to mention snacks in between).
The sheer variations of different rice cultivars is immense. My favourite is the aromatic Basmati rice. Basmati rice is a variety of delicate and aromatic long grain rice mainly grown in India and Punjab. Cooked grains of Basmati rice are characteristically not glutinous due to its low starch content ( and low glycemic index makes it suitable for diabetics). Cooked Basmati rice can be uniquely identified by its fluffy appearance, fragrance, well separated grains and nutty flavour. It is aged from 6 months to one year and is available in white and brown varieties.
It was always reserved for special occasions such as dinner parties, birthdays and Deepavali in my parents' home. The price for basmati rice in Malaysia is up four times more than regular long grain varieties (hence the special occasions). Basmati rice is to be washed until water runs clear ( usually 4 times), soaked and then drained for at least 10 minutes before cooking to ensure fluffy rice.
Saffron & Lemongrass Rice
1 1/2 cup basmati rice
1 3/4 cup water / stock
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tb ghee / clarified butter or butter
a pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp salt
4 small shallots/red onions
2 cloves garlic
1 lemongrass - cleaned and 2 outer layers removed
1 tsp minced ginger
Puree ingredients in a food processor and set aside. I used a mortar and pestle instead.
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods - lightly crushed
1 star anise
almonds or cashews - dry roasted
Wash and soak basmati rice in water for 30 minutes. Drain rice ( Drain for at least 10 minutes by placing rice in a sieve).
Heat ghee in a medium sized pot and saute cinnamon stick, crushed cardamom pods, cloves and start anise until fragrant. Pour in pureed ingredients and saute well for at least 5 minutes - stirring constantly.
Add in drained rice and saffron - stir well. Pour in water/stock, milk and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting and cover pot. Rice should be cooked in once the water has evaporated. If rice is uncooked ( as sometimes could be the case with old rice) add a few tablespoons and cover pot. Garnish with fried onions and roasted nuts. This dish goes well with chicken kohlapuri,
Gobi Mattar / Cauliflower & Peas
Cucumber & Shallot Raita
Mattar Panner/Indian Cheese & Peas ( for vegetarian option)