13 May 2017

Vegetable Soup

It came out well. I also give you a mini mini mini tour of my tiny kitchen.

09 February 2017

Someone asked me how to get separate rice like you get in the Indian restaurants. I responded as I did below:

First of all, realise that restaurants frequently undercook 1/4 of their rice, and toss it through to give it the illusion of being even more separate. Also, they use enough fat to drown a whale. If we all did that, it would come out like the restaurant too, but we'd also turn so fat that we'd never walk again.

Here's your best bet.

You need a pot with tight fitting lid. You need rice that's a good brand of basmati. Not all basmati is created equal. If you want the best of the very best, get yourself Tilda basmati rice. It will always come out longer, fluffier, and better tasting than any other brand. While you practise, you can use whatever.

In a saucepan, add just enough oil to coat the bottom. You don't need huge heaping amounts, but just enough to lubricate the rice. Heat it up over medium heat, with the lid on, checking frequently for the state of the oil. The oil should be hot enough that a bit of smoke escapes the surface. Add in 1 cup of rice. If you really feel like washing rice is essential, feel free to do so before you heat the pot, but I've skipped that step, and my rice comes out lovely. Add a generous sprinkle of salt. Why? Because like any starch, rice absorbs salt from the cooking water, and tastes really good when it does so. If you're watching your salt intake, just do a couple of hefty pinches. Rice needs some salt to be its best.

DO NOT USE A SPOON ON THE RICE. In fact, don't use any stirring utensil if you can help it. Instead, toss the rice in the oil by making the tossing motion with your saucepan. Why? Because if you mess with the rice with a stirring implement, you risk breaking up the delicate grains.

Continue cooking and tossing until the rice is opaque. It will no longer be translucent, but become a brighter white than opaque. Once the rice smells slightly nutty, and has a uniformly opaque look, add 1 cup + 1/4 cup of boiling water, and crank the heat to as high as it'll go. Why boiling?

You want the water to come up to the boil as rapidly as you can. It seems to help keep the oil onto the surface of the rice, rather than washing off into the liquid, and making the rice stick to the bottom of the pan, or each other. As soon as the rice hits a full rushing boil, lift the pot off of the stove, and swirl it around for 3 seconds. Loosely drape a square of parchment paper, aluminium foil, or a damp towel over the pot's opening, and slam on the lid. This will ensure that the seal is tight.

Drop down the heat to as low as the stove will go, and place the pot back onto the heat. Set a timer for 12 minutes if it's an electric stove, or 15 minutes if it's a gas stove. Why? Because an electric stove takes a longer time to cool down than a gas stove. You will have the pot sat on the residual heat longer on an electric stove. The gas stove will only have residual heat on the metal parts, meaning that the rice will need direct flame a bit longer.

At the end of the cooking time, turn off the heat, and DON'T TOUCH THE LID OR THE POT. The rice is still cooking, and needs time to finish steaming. There will be a bit of water that needs to absorb into the rice. Set a timer for 12 minutes for electric, and 10 minutes for gas. Leave the pot alone, and walk away.

At the end of the waiting time, go ahead and remove the lid, and any tightening measures you've done. Dump it out aonto a large platter (I use my cookie sheet, because it's huge), and gently press it out into as flat a layer as possible with a silicon spatula. Let it cool for about 30 seconds, and gently toss with the silicon spatula. It will fluff up beautifully and the whole thing will smell awesome.

Or, use a rice cooker.

11 January 2017

Catching up with old friends

My friend Pete had a Monday evening off, and it was a flimsy excuse (but a good enough one for us!) to get together. He's the one who took the lovely picture of the food. Go say hi to him. He's a cool vegan guy. I suggested we get together for dinner. Mikeypod realised that he was also free on Monday night, and said he could come as well. Perfect.
cucumber and tomato salad, garlic sesame broccoli, red lentil daal on brown basmati rice, green beans curry
Photo Credit: Peter Teoh https://plus.google.com/+PeterTeoh

It's been a long time since we got together. Between scheduling and work, it's been almost impossible to coordinate a time when we can all hang out and eat. I knew that the meal had to be good and filling, while still tasting amazing. Pete had some green beans, broccoli, and red lentils. He also had  box of those campari tomatoes. They taste good all by themselves. 

I brought over the brown rice and the cucumbers. I generally dislike brown rice, but in the hands of people who know how to cook it properly, I quite like it. I especially like it if I have some kind of stew to pour over it. That way the texture isn't quite as much of a turn-off. 

The red lentils were a basic daal: mustard seed, cumin seed, sesame seed, turmeric, onion, garlic, and ginger. I fried some dried red chilies, but that's an optional step. You can skip it, or add it directly to the tarka, and it'll still be fine. Pete made the brown rice. He is without a doubt one of the people who is good at making brown rice. 

The broccoli was super simple. I peeled the stems and cut the florets into long pieces with the long stems attached. I blanched it in boiling water for about a minute or two. I drained off the boiling water, and rinsed it under cold running water. I then fried some garlic and sesame seeds in hot oil, and tossed the cold broccoli in that mixture with a bit of salt. I did this last step just before Mike arrived, so that it'd be hot off the stove. 

The green beans are a typical South Indian preparation. You chop them into small pieces, and stir fry them with a tarka made of mustard seeds, asafoetida, and sesame seeds. I didn't have any urad daal or curry leaves, so I skipped it. I didn't have any fresh grated coconut, so I skipped that as well. 

The salad is a basic combination of cucumber, tomato, onion, lemon juice, and cilantro. Since all three of us like cilantro, I put lots of it in. If you don't like cilantro, try basil instead. It's equally delicious. 

I think all three of us had second helpings of everything, because it all came out so well. I had help, so the whole thing took about 45 minutes to make.