Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cooking In The Garage: A 'Zero' Pulao

The kitchen as we knew it has been demolished. The kitchen that we now know is in the garage. These are interesting times.
The microwave oven, a rice cooker (borrowed), a waffle maker, and a toaster oven are all I have. Though a mixer and a food processor are available, they are a pain to use as there is virtually no counter space and the only dish washer is the manual kind (read: the husband).
These are the chronicles of our meals prepared and enjoyed in the garage.

A recently acquired cookbook was No-Oil Vegetarian Cooking by Sanjeev Kapoor. While I'm not a fan of the extremist freestyle of cooking (fatfree, sugarfree, carbfree etc.) there are times of extreme indulgence after which a 'free' meal is not such a bad idea.

One recipe from this cookbook immediately caught my eye: Chole Pulao.
But with the kitchen and its contents in a wild disarray, locating the book was a herculean task.

So I had to do what I do best, work on winging the meal.
As is true with all improvised meals, a happy outcome is not guaranteed. But in this case, the results were extremely satisfying. The combination of anardana, mint leaves, and yogurt made it very chaat-like. Here I use the term chaat in a very generic way. For me cooked chana, mint, yogurt, anadana and some sev and crushed puris (of the pani-puri type) sprinkled on top is chaat-like. Purists will frown, I know.

A few days after the pulao was made, I found the book and noticed that I had deviated a lot from the original. Frankly, I would've deviated in these places anyway. For example, the original recipe called for saffron and kewra in addition to the mint. That seems a bit much! For similar reasons I would've omitted the ginger-garlic paste.

Here is the modified recipe. Since I was winging it, the quantities are at best approximate. But this is quite a forgiving pulao, so if one uses more yogurt and less mint...Pfff.

The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook features several 'zero' soups. Soups that have insignificant quantities (almost zero) of fat and are much lower in calories are called 'zero' soups. This pulao falls in the same category and hence the name.

2 cups chickpeans (chana), cooked
1 cup rice, washed
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 ½ cup nonfat yogurt
2 tsp anardana powder
10-15 stalks of cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp (or less) red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 green cardamoms
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
1 cup assorted vegetables (I used cauliflower and carrots)
salt, to taste

Coarsely chop the mint leaves.
Mix all ingredients except the rice and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
In the rice cooker pan, layer the rice and chana-mixture starting with the rice at the bottom.
Add about ½ cup of water. The quantity of water needed to cook the pulao will depend on how watery the chana-mixture turns out and also on the rice cooker. I started with ½ cup water, expecting to add more along the way; but eventually didn't add any.
Cook till the rice is done.

Notes: Though the consistency of the pulao was satisfactory, the next time I make this pulao I'll probably cook the rice first, layer the the slightly cooled rice with the chana mixture and bake it for about 30 minutes (or till it heats through).

Usually when I make such pulaos, the quantity of rice is almost half that of the beans. Equal quantities of rice and beans should work as well.

The garam masala is an optional ingredient, I didn't add any nor did I miss it. But next time I'll probably add dhana-jeera powder.

Rice Cooker
Initially I borrowed a rice cooker from my friends N & M. Since I hadn't used one before didn't know what to expect. But it turned out to be quite a versatile appliance and I am now using it to make making pulaos, daal, several daal-rice one dish meals, soups, steaming vegetables etc. It became so indispensable that I had to get my own.
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