Feb 18, 2009
Chilli and Rice - Desi Style
We moved back to India, unfortunately, after our tongues were already used to "American" food. More so in the case of my brother than me. He was 12 and I was 5 when we made it back to the motherland. Back then India didn't have a booming IT industry, in fact I'm not sure India was very open to foreign investment in the country (that changed after Manmohan Singh became our finance minister in '93, I believe. Point to be noted, I barely passed my history and civics exam).
Back to our geographical and gastronomical dilemma which is definitely far more important to a 5yr old. My mother is the greatest cook I know for her signature dishes. She presented us with yummy Mexican and Italian food all homemade with Indian ingredients. We only ate non-veg (chicken) when we went out so at home, it was always vegetarian.
Meaty chilly was out of the question but what my mommy concocted to this day wins out over any other version. Also, it's definitely not chilli, but hey that's what we call it around here. This combination of beans and rice was a hit at all potlucks and at school. A little explanation may be needed for the school comment: we had to take packed lunches to school and no, we didn't have any indoor cafeteria to eat in. We would all pick out spots under trees all over the school grounds. No matter the weather (except during monsoon seasons), we always had to eat out. Half the fun was trying to avoid getting sand in the food and...failing. I would always have lunch with at least 3-5 girls and we would all sample each other's fare and let me tell ya for this chilli, I made sure mom had leftovers for me at home. This is evil, but it eventually became a weekend dish for our family but i'll be honest, it was because cheese was finally available at the local market and it was so much better to eat it hot instead of cooled.
I present to you now the recipe (after all that rambling, it better be good...)
For the beans:
1 can pinto beans [ causes gas <_<>_>] or black beans
4 Roma tomatoes, boiled (can substitute with canned whole tomatoes, but umm, eew) + 2 roma tomatoes, fresh cut lengthwise like french fries
1 medium sized red onion
1-2tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp red chilli powder
1tsp corriander powder
1tsp cumin powder
1 serrano chilli (finely chopped, but for those highly allergic to capsaicin, just slit down the middle and be done with it)
salt to taste
For the rice (oh SO good)
1 cup Basmati Rice
Salt to taste
1 bayleaf [interesting and true fact: Indian bayleaf aka tej pata is the leaf of the cinnamon tree! so the flavor is little milder]
4 pepper corns
1/2" cinnamon stick
1-2 tsp Oil
1 medium sized red onion, finely chopped
1 serrano chilli pepper
1/2-3/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/4tsp or even lesser i.e. barely a pinch of turmeric powder (this is bitter and a little goes a long way)
1 roma tomato - cut lengthwise (like french fries)
salt to taste
Take the 4 boiled tomatoes and squeeze the pulp out of them. Strain this so you can throw out the seeds and skin. You could just use canned tomato puree or tomato paste too, but there's nothing like freshly squeezed tomatoes.
In a pan, add oil to coat the bottom (1 tbsp). Once it has warmed up, add the chopped onion, chilli powder, corriander powder, and cumin powder. saute until the oil separated out again, but not until the onion carmelizes (important!!).
Now add the tomato puree and the sliced green chilli pepper. The mixture will be a little watery so let it simmer for abotu 20-30minutes uncovered.
After it thickens up a bit, add the 2 fresh roma tomatoes and salt to taste. let it simmer for about 1-2 minutes.
At this point add the can of beans. Once you see it boil, you are done.
Cook the rice and allow it to cool down and separate. I use a rice cooker to cook rice, so y'all should get one of these gadgets too. But the general rule of thumb 1portion rice: 2 portions water. I add a little less than 2 portions water because i like my rice al dente. And for this dish, al dente is important.
In a saucepan, add oil to coat bottom. let this heat up a bit but not until it starts smoking.
To the oil add the spices: pepper corns, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom.
Once you hear a nice satifying cackling sound (this means, the oil is now infused with the flavors of these spices) add the chopped up onions and green chilli.
Saute for 2-3 min (very important, do not let the onion carmelize) and add the tomato and salt to taste. At this point, also add the chilli powder and turmeric powder.
If this mix appears a little dry, and it will, sprinkle in some drops of water and cover for 2-3 minutes. the mix should be cooked by this time.
To this semi-saucy mix, add the cooked rice and mix thoroughly. As you mix it, the rice should take on a gorgeous golden yellow color with streaks of red.
Taste it and add salt if required.
Rice is done.
On your plate, place the rice and chilli along side each other. top off the chilli with cheddar cheese and allow it to melt in the heat.
Serve with lettuce, tortilla chips, and pico de gallo
Also can garnish with fresh coriander/cilantro leaves.