Saturday, June 6, 2015

Baker's Corner: Vegetarian Baked Rice





It's time for another guest post by You-Know-Who. Okay....that just made him sound a little evil! hahaha ☺ But jokes apart, after having the twins, blogging has gotten about ten thousand times more difficult than it used to be. I have had no choice but to constantly bug my husband to keep his contribution towards my blog going (which he does and which is why I love him so much...tee...hee). 

I got back from India with the girls three weeks ago and boy! was it a marvellous two-month long holiday. Travelling with them was much easier than I expected and despite teething and the dreaded 6-month growth spurt, they adjusted remarkably well to the constantly changing environment. Right from getting their ears pierced to their cradle ceremony, naming ceremony and attending a wedding, they were basking in all the attention during all the social events. Thank heavens stranger anxiety hadn't kicked in yet! They were all over the place and on many occasions I had to stop and make sure both of them were accounted for! I never expected to enjoy myself so much during this trip but I did and I'm incredibly thankful for that. Anyway, more on our escapades of the past two months in a later post....

Given my newfound 'first-time-mom-of-twins' status, elaborate cooking is pretty much out of the question now. I had help in some form of the other during the first 6-months of the girls lives but now I'm on my own (until the husband gets back home from work that is). Caring for the little ones is a full-time job with little time or energy for anything else. Any cooking that I do has to get done within 30 mins tops (earlier would be even better!). So now our weekly dinner menu features stuff like sandwiches, salads, wraps, pasta, dal, mixed rice, instant dosa, upmas, and such.....you get the drift right? I spend more time and effort steaming and pureeing an assortment of fruits and veg for the girls! The only exception is during weekends when their daddy is around and he can keep them occupied while I get busy in the kitchen.

Last weekend, for a change, we decided to have something special for brunch and hubs offered to make this baked rice which has been a speciality of his. This is his own version and after many minor improvisations over the years, it has evolved quite a bit. In the past, we've used this recipe as a way to use of whatever vegetables we had sitting around in the fridge. This dish is extremely versatile and you really needn't bother too much about following a recipe or using the exact same ingredients mentioned. You can use a mixture of carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, sweet corn, baby corn......whatever you like. If you like it bland, you can skip the jalapeños and dry red chilli flakes. We are spice junkies so we tend to add quite a few fiery elements into all savoury dishes that is prepared at home. This time round, we didn't have jalapeños so we haven't included it. The same goes with the cheese. You can use whatever cheese you like but the baking kind (mozzarella) would give the dish nice color and texture. I wouldn't recommend using leftover rice for this dish coz it just wouldn't taste as nice (but maybe that's just me). Apart from its adaptability, this is a great dish for dinner parties too. You could prepare individual ramekins of this creamy baked rice for each guest. Just imagine how happy it would make them 

Okay handing over the person in charge now.

More later!

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Hi readers! Looks like I don't have to say much about today's dish. My wife has done most of the talking for me (as is the case most of the time!) 

As mentioned earlier, you can tinker with this recipe as much as you want. I just want to specifically mention one thing - be careful about how you season this dish. You don't want to over salt the rice since you have to keep in mind that the cream mixture will be seasoned with salt and the cheese that you use to layer the rice is also salty. Tasting the rice before it goes into the oven is important so you can make sure the seasoning is bang on. 

Until next time! 

Vegetarian Baked Rice

Preparation time: 15-20 min
Baking time: 20-30 min
Total time: Under 1 hour
Recipe Level: Easy
Serves: 2-4
Recipe source: A mishmash of several recipes

Ingredients: 

1 cup of raw rice 
1 bell pepper, chopped into medium-sized pieces (I used half each of a green and yellow pepper)
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
1 bunch of baby spinach, cleaned and chopped (can substitute broccoli for another variation)
1 onion, chopped
3-4 mushrooms, roughly chopped (I have used Swiss brown mushrooms)
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1-2 jalapeños, de-veined, seeds removed and chopped, Optional
A few spring onions, chopped, Optional
1/2 cup of fresh cream
2 tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup of grated cheddar
1/2 cup of grated mozzarella 
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp dry red chilli flakes, Optional
Salt to taste
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf

Method:

1. Add the butter to a pot and melt. Add the bay leaf. Add raw rice and fry in the butter for 2-3 mins. Add the appropriate amount of water (usually ~3 cups), salt to taste and cook the rice till done. Once cooked, keep aside and cool. Remove the bay leaf.


2. Prepare all the ingredients for the rice as shown. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't have jalapeños and spring onions so I didn't add them in.


3. In another skillet, add the olive oil and heat. Add jalapeños (if using) and garlic and fry for a minute.

4. Add the onions and fry till translucent.

5. Add the bell peppers and fry for another 2 mins.

6. Add spinach, mushroom and sweet corn kernels. Add salt and fry for 3-4 mins.

7. Add the cream, Italian seasoning, black pepper and red chilli flakes, mix for a minute and turn off the heat

8. Add the grated cheddar and spring onions (if using) to the mixture and combine


10. Add the cream mixture to the rice and mix well. Take care not to mash the rice.


11. Taste the rice and adjust the seasonings

12. Transfer the contents to an oven-safe casserole dish

13. Spread a layer of the sour cream evenly on top of the rice


14. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the entire surface. I used a 3 cheese blend for enhanced flavour.


15. Place the casserole into a preheated oven at 210 deg C

16. Bake until top layer of cheese has fully turned golden brown (usually takes around 20-30 min)


17. Serve hot!



I
Notes:
  • Generally 1 cup raw rice will yield 3 cups cooked rice so if you want to try this recipe with leftover rice you could
  • You can use whatever variety of mushrooms you like. White button mushrooms are perfectly acceptable. I have used Swiss brown mushrooms coz that is what we generally buy
  • Sweet corn kernels gives nice juicy bursts of sweetness so try to include that as a default ingredients
  • Adding red bell peppers imparts additional color to the dish. I didn't use it because we didn't have any at the time

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