Thursday, May 1, 2014

Recipe of the month: Methi Pulao (Fenugreek Leaves Pilaf)

Usually whenever I'm on holiday in India, I don't venture into the kitchen very often. I take full advantage of my mum and MIL indulging me by preparing all the kinds of food that I like *grins* As a result, I end up overeating ridiculously and come back to Singapore lamenting about my increase in weight (which always happens by the way). I don't mind my own cooking but I find that I relish food much more when I'm not the one doing all the work! Before I sound like a pampered princess, believe me when I tell you that I do make it a point to cook on at least a few occasions when I'm home. I usually bake when I'm in my parents house in Mysore because I'm the only so-called baker in my family and my mum feels happy when her unused oven gets jolted out of its stupor. In my in-laws place, I usually go the Indian route and make a snack, a vegetable gravy or some rice preparation. During my last visit, I unexpectedly found myself with ample free time so I did manage to cook a couple of dishes. 

I am a huge fan of greens in general and can eat them every single day. I love fenugreek, mint, basil, dill, coriander, spinach, taro, bok choy and I use them extensively in my cooking. Fenugreek leaves (also called methi), are one of my most favourite greens. I use it to make rice preparations, dry side dishes, curries (check out my methi paneer), chutneys and dosa. What is good to know is that methi is said to have a range of health benefits, particularly towards the hair and skin. Most Indians use fenugreek seeds, fresh fenugreek leaves and dried fenugreek (kasoori methi) in a variety of dishes. 





One of the dishes that I cooked in my in-laws place during my recent trip back home was this methi pulao. I always used to make methi pulao a certain way by sautéing onions, tomatoes, ginger-garlic-green chilli paste, fresh methi and finally flavoring the rice with pulao masala. Sometimes I would throw in a handful of fried potatoes for good measure. But then I came across a recipe that was quite different from my own and I decided to check it out. This recipe has fragrant basmati rice, sauteed fresh methi, crushed ginger-garlic and whole spices cooked in coconut milk, ultimately garnished with caramelized onions and fried cashews. It is subtly spiced, rich, flavourful, not overpowering and most importantly, showcases the unique flavour of methi. All you need is a simple raita and your meal is ready. This dish doesn't really need any gravy or curry to go along with it since the rice has enough flavour to take center stage. I find that any pulao made using pulao or biryani masala for flavouring can taste kind of generic so once in a while, a dish like this makes for a refreshing change. I know sometimes it takes a lot to suppress the urge to throw in some masala powder or the other while preparing Indian dishes but for this rice, I request you to please control yourself! hahaha Whenever I've cooked this dish for family and friends, I have always gotten compliments for it so take my word for it when I say the outcome is delish. 

Here is the recipe. I didn't include step-by-step photos because the procedure is relatively simple and straightforward. So, the next time you feel like incorporating greens into your main course, you can consider making this rice....lemme know how it turns out!



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Methi Pulao (Fenugreek Leaves Pilaf)

Preparation time: 10 min
Cooking time: 30 min 
Serves 4
Recipe level: Easy
Recipe Source: Adapted from here 

Ingredients:

2 cups long-grain basmati rice 
2 bunches of fresh methi leaves/fenugreek leaves, washed and finely chopped 
2 medium red onions, sliced long and thin 
2 tbsp of ghee
a handful of cashew nuts, split
3 green chillies  (or adjust according to spice level)
1-inch piece of ginger 
5-6 cloves of garlic 
1" piece of cinnamon 
3 cloves 
3 green cardamom pods 
1 bay leaf
1 cup (~200ml) of thick coconut milk 
2.5 cups of water
Salt to taste 


Method:

1. Wash the rice under running water and soak in water for 20-30 mins. 
2. Pluck the methi leaves and thin tender stems from the thicker stems, wash them thoroughly, chop finely and keep aside. 
3. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pot and add the sliced onion. Fry until the onions are caramelised. Keep stirring the onions otherwise they will not uniformly brown. Once they turn a nice deep brown (not black!), set aside. 
3. To the same pot, add the cashew nuts and fry until they turn golden. Set aside along with the onions. 
4. Grind the green chillies, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom into a coarse paste (no need to add water). Put the pot back on heat and add 1 tbsp ghee. Once hot, add the bay leaf and fry the ground paste until the raw smell disappears. 
5. Add the chopped methi leaves and fry until the leaves start to wilt.
6. Next, add the drained rice and fry for 1-2 mins. Next and the coconut milk and top up with 2.5 cups of water. Add the salt and give it a good mix.
7. Cook covered on low heat until all the moisture has evaporated and the rice is cooked. Keep in mind that the rice should be cooked through yet remain as separate grains. Leave the rice alone as it is cooking and suppress any urge to stir it! 
8. Once done, switch off flame and leave the pot at room temperature for 10 mins. Then sprinkle the fried onion and cashew nuts. Stir as gently as possible so the rice doesn't turn mushy. 
9. Serve hot with papad and a simple raita. 





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Notes:
  • If you get the extra-long grain variety of basmati rice, use it in this recipe for an even better outcome
  • You can either use store-bought coconut milk or you can make your own coconut milk at home
  • The reason I advise you to keep the pot of rice aside for 10 min before adding the fried onion and cashews is that the rice will be very hot immediately off the flame and hence will have a greater tendency to go mushy when you mix it
  • You could make this rice with mint leaves as well. You can grind a large bunch of fresh mint leaves along with the ginger, garlic, green chillies, whole spices with half a cup of water to form a smooth paste and proceed with the recipe. 



Cheers,


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