Fall is that time of the year when nature puts on a brilliant show of colors. It is the transition time from long summer days to cold winter nights. It is the way nature acquaints us to store and save for the winter.
Today, the kids are having a blast soaking themselves in water, playing in their water table, as I am soaking myself in the fall season. I am invigorated with the melody of the chirping birds heading home, the sweet scent of the flowers in my garden, the vibrant colors of the leaves and the cool evening breeze caressing me. With this beautiful picture painted in my mind, I am heading towards my kitchen to make a meal as kaleidoscopic as the fall season. I am making pudina(mint) pulav. It is served with raita, a yogurt side dish. The pulav is topped with caramelized onions to add a hint of sweetness in every bite.
Ingredients for Pulav: Basmati Rice 1 cup Water 2 cups Oil 2 tablespoons Mustard seeds 1 teaspoon Bay leaves 4 Turmeric 1 teaspoon Onions chopped 1/2 cup Vegetables (Carrots, Beans, Potatoes and Peas) 2 cups Garlic 2 cloves Ginger 1 inch piece Pudina(mint) chopped 1/4 cup Chopped cilantro 1/4 cup Green chillies 3 Grated coconut 1/2 cup Garam Masala 2 teaspoons Salt 2 teaspoons
Method: Pressure cooker: In a pressure cooker, steam one cup basmati rice with two cups of water up to 3 whistles. Allow it to cool completely.
Blender: Put garlic, ginger, pudina(mint), cilantro, green chillies and grated coconut into the blender. With minimum water start grinding it to a paste. Add water as necessary to make it a smooth paste.
Pan: Chop carrots, beans and potatoes lengthwise. In a large pan heat oil and add mustard seeds. Allow it to splutter. Add bay leaves and turmeric. Add chopped onions and saute until transparent. Now add the vegetables and saute for a minute or two. Sprinkle some salt and cover the lid. The vegetables will soften from the steam. Stir frequently to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan. If it is sticking sprinkle water and close the lid. When the vegetables are 3/4 cooked, add the ground paste and keep the lid open. The water has to evaporate and the masala needs to stick to the vegetables. Once all the water is evaporated add prepared basmati rice. Gently mix the rice and vegetables to coat with masala. Add salt and garam masala. By now the kitchen is filled with the flavorful aroma and your taste buds cannot wait to relish it. Do it a favor by tasting the pulav for salt and adjust the taste.
Ingredients for Raita: Yogurt 1 cup Water 1/4 cup Onion 2 tablespoons Tomato 1/4 cup Green chillies 2 Cilantro 1 tablespoon Salt 1 teaspoon
Method: Whisk the yogurt in a bowl with water. Add fine chopped onions, tomatoes and slit green chillies to the yogurt. Season with salt and garnish with chopped cilantro.
Ingredients for garnish: Olive Oil 2 tablespoons Sliced onions 1 cup Onion ring 1 Cucumber 3 pieces Pudina(mint) 3-4 leaves
Heat oil in a wide bottomed pan for maximum contact of the onions with heat. Add sliced onions and saute for a minute. Turn the heat to medium and let the onions caramelize. Onions are naturally sweet, the process of caramelizing pulls out the intense flavor and sweetness from it. Stir the onions around every 3-4 minutes to give every slice a chance to brown. It takes about 12-15 minutes.
Serving suggestion: Lightly brush a ramekin or any small bowl with oil. Fill it with pulav till top and level it. Invert the ramekin or bowl on to the serving plate. The oil with help the pulav slide easily onto the plate holding the shape. Place an onion ring on it and fill the ring with caramelized onions and pudina(mint). Serve with raita and cucumber slices.
This pulav is flavorful, aromatic, colorful and a blithe to the eyes and taste buds. While the pudina(mint) endows to the freshness of the pulav, the garlic and cilantro contribute the sweet aroma. The ginger adds zest and heat along with the chillies.