Rice forms a very important part of the Indian diet, either as a side dish - as it's frequently viewed in the West - or as the main part of the meal, served with spicy gravies, raita, pickles and bread.
The best rice to use for most savoury dishes is basmati. Before cooking, pick it over for gritty bits and wash it well in several changes of cold water before leaving it to soak in fresh water for 30 minutes.
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 2 cups water
- 1½ teaspoons cumin seed
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Pinch salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 cardamon pod
Wash the rice in several changes of cold water then leave it to soak in fresh water for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cumin, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and cardamom. Stir fry gently until they start spluttering. Add the drained rice and salt to taste and mix well. Add the water. Bring to the boil, cover and leave to simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked (about 10 minutes).
Serve as an accompaniment.
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 2 cups water
- 6 tablespoons oil
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ cup peanuts
- A few curry leaves
- 3 green chillies
- Salt to taste
- ¼ - ½ cup lemon juice
Wash the rice in several changes of cold water then leave it to soak in fresh water for 30 minutes. Drain. Bring 2 cups water to the boil and add the rice. Return to the boil and simmer, covered, until cooked (about 10 minutes).
While the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a wok and add the mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the turmeric and peanuts. Stir fry gently until the peanuts are golden brown. Add the whole green chillies, curry leaves and salt to taste, and fry gently for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and stir. Pour this into the freshly-cooked rice and mix well. Serve immediately as an accompaniment.
Biryanis evolved from a combination of Persian Muslim and Indian cooking, and are reserved traditionally for festive occasions.
- 1½ cups basmati rice
- ¾lb button mushrooms
- 1" root ginger, peeled and grated
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes
- ½ cup yogurt
- ¼ cup milk, skimmed preferably
- Pinch saffron
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cloves
- 2 green and 2 black cardamons
- 1" piece cinnamon stick
- 1 blade of mace
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- Handful coriander leaves, finely chopped
- Handful mint leaves, finely chopped
After washing it, put the rice to soak in cold water for at least half an hour.
Quarter the mushrooms. Make a paste of the ginger and garlic using a pestle and mortar. Whiz the tomatoes in a liquidiser. Whisk the yogurt until very smooth. Warm the milk and put the saffron to soak in it.
Put about 4 cups of water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, mace and salt. Drain the rice and add it to the pan of boiling water. Cook for about 8 minutes until the rice is almost done. Drain.
Heat some oil in a frying pan and add the onions. Stir fry until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger paste and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the chilli, coriander, peppercorns, cumin and turmeric and stir. Add the pureed tomatoes and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
Add the yogurt, garam masala and half of the coriander and mint leaves. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and more salt to taste. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Alternate rice and mushrooms layers along with the remaining coriander and mint leaves and the saffron milk in a dish with a tight-fitting lid. Finish with a layer of rice.
Place the dish in a pre-heated oven, 170oC, gas mark 3, for 10-15 minutes. When hot, serve with raita and chutney.
- For a meat biryani, replace the mushrooms with cubed chicken or lamb. Saute the meat with the garlic and ginger paste for 5-10 minutes, depending on the meat used. It should be about half-cooked before you start adding the other ingredients.