cooking at home

Indian home cooking is very humble and simply prepared with seasonal vegetables, lentils, legumes, herbs and seeds. I agree that spices are a soul to the cuisine, but everyday dishes require very few of them.

Restaurants usually serve curries that are mostly based on a single red sauce, tossing in different vegetables or koftas, twisting and turning the same sauce into myriad of items that are required to fill a menu. So for many, Indian cuisine is 'curry'.

I guess they would want to play safe and stick to catering a tried and tested palate. There are few exceptions though like 'Tamarind Bay' in Boston that offers an insight into the regional fare.

If you were to take a walk along the culinary path, you would discover that each region that dots the map of India is as diverse as the language they speak and the cloth they wear. Each one has many fascinating stories to tell about its rich heritage leaving little or no trace as you move onto the next one.

For instance, I’m from Hyderabad. It is only a small part of a state called Andhra Pradesh. Since Mughals and Nizams ruled this city for hundreds of years, the cuisine here slowly evolved soaking in the aromas of Persia, flavors of Mughlai and cooking methods of Awadh, all the while seasoning it with a good dash of local spices.

If you walk a few paces into the next town, you’ll be surprised that the saffron scented Biryanis and the sweet delicacies of Hyderabad are nowhere to be found but of course you are sure to discover some local delights that tickle your taste buds.

I’ve been meaning to share simple recipes that I cook at home, but somehow just now getting to it. Probably eagerness of Stephanie and few friends is quietly prodding me… Thank you, friends! (* u *)

Rice is a base to most of the accompaniments... so, I thought I would start off with a very easy way to cook rice.

For every day use, we get medium-grain rice called 'Sona Masoori' from the Indian groceries.
But for pilafs and any special rice dishes we use Basmati rice which is very aromatic and blends well with the fragrance of spices.

Even without a rice cooker you can easily cook rice on stove top just as my grandma used to do it on her open stove in our backyard. The smoke from the twigs and dung cakes crackling in the fire underneath used to bring out an earthiness to the rice that is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.


Rice - 1 cup
Water - 1 ½ cups (also depends on the kind of rice you are using and the type of pan)

~Sauce pan with a heavy base is preferable to avoid scorching the rice at the bottom.

Wash rice. Washing the rice removes loose starch & makes the grains less sticky. (I rinse it only once so as not to wash away the nutrients)

Soak it for 30 min. to 1 hr. Soaking allows the moisture to reach the center of the grain quickly. When the outside and inside of the grain is cooked at the same time, it improves the texture and the rice doesn’t get mushy.

Discard water. You can use a sieve or strainer to drain the rice.

Boil water in a sauce pan. Then pour rice into it.
When it comes to a boil, cover the sauce pan and let it simmer on low heat. It probably takes 15min.

When the rice is done, turn off the heat. Keep it covered for another 10min. and let it steam some more.

Then take a fork and fluff the rice and transfer it to a serving bowl.

~You can add a few drops of vegetable oil or butter to the water if you feel that your rice is coming out a bit sticky. Adding a tsp of lime juice helps too.

~If your sauce pan is not very deep, leave a slight opening (very tiny slit) while covering the pan to avoid boiling water from spilling over.
When some of the water is absorbed, then you can cover the pan completely.

~You can always add little more water towards the end, if you feel that you want it cooked some more. Some like the grain to be firm and some like it very soft. I’m sure after one or two trials you’ll know how you want it to be.

~You can add some salt (maybe 1 tsp) while the water is boiling if you want to season your rice. Taste the water to check for the saltiness. I don’t add salt when cooking plain rice that we eat with the side dishes.

~Whole wheat rice can be cooked in the same way with little bit more water. Soaking the wheat rice for a longer period reduces the cooking time.

Thank you so much for patiently wading through this lengthy post with me ( ' u ' )
Next week I’ll post a simple rice dish flavored with cumin seeds and a very easy 'moong ki dal' (yellow lentils) to go with it.

Have a lovely weekend! (: v :)


Stephanie said...

I'm so excited you're going to share some wonderful cooking with us. My family is very happy I've tried my hand at Indian cooking, thanks to you.

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

I confess 75% of the posts I "read" I don't read everything from them. Time wouldn't permit, really. But I always like reading all of your written info. I found this especially interesting, especially the part about what we think of as Indian food. My daughter, if you remember, went to school in the east with a melting pot of girls, many from the middle east/India and areas. She learned to absolutely LOVE and I mean LOVE Indian food. Authentic of course. She is always trying to find a good Indian restaurant. Not really something to be found in Utah. She loves rice, especially basmatti. Anyway, I'm always wondering what to serve (and what not to serve) my husband's friend from India that eats dinner with us once a month. So, next time he comes I'd like to make some rice and vegetables along with a meat dish. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Especially because I do not like curry myself! ;-)

Jane's Fabrics and Quilts said...

Oh this is wonderful, I just love rice and there sure is a science to the way it is cooked, mine ALWAYS bolis over, now I know what to do! I am looking forward to your next post!!

Martha said...

I use a rice cooker -- I do not boil the water first, and I have never soaked the rice first. I want to try this -- I am assuming that you discard whatever remains of the soaking water, so the 1 1/2 cups refers to the water boiling in the pan. Is this correct?

I'm excited to try your recipes, Pratima. Thanks for doing this -- it is such a good idea!

Avinash Shahdadpuri said...


Your post reminds me of how my mom would go about cooking her rice. People like me take shortcuts,do skip some of those steps and as a result compromise on the end result :). It's a lovely post. Keep them coming :)

May be one of your myriad Rasam recipes can follow the ubiquitous rice :)

Hope you are enjoying the spring :)

sewplay said...

Thank you so much Pratima. I'm really looking forward to your installments! My attempts at Indian cooking have not been too successful and I love the food. I've just bought a book, but found it very confusing (and a bit complicated) without the cultural background. It's a great idea! Kathy

Candace said...

Wonderful post, Pratima! Mr. S. and I always use Basmati and our rice cooker. I love the taste of it just plain by itself! We're looking forward to your next cooking lesson!