The one discussion that always comes to mind, from the days I use to linger around the family kitchen, was the one about the color of the curry. Yes, it was a discussion. If you have ever watched a Bollywood film, or come across a Desi wedding, you know we like vibrant colors. This love for color carries over to the dinner table. Like spice, color is an integral ingredient. Without beautiful color, the “most amazing” tasting dish is just “amazing”. Tragic, I know. Dramatic, for sure. But it’s serious! We had some major processing happening in the kitchen if the color of the curry did not have the right shades of red, yellow and brown. Either the onions fried a little too long, or not long enough, or the spices were over sautéed—there were a plethora of reasons being debated upon while attempting to recharge the color.
In the background, there was also some eye-rolling and chuckling happening by your’s truly. I understood it, I mean, a bright, yet deep golden-reddish-tan-orangish color is not always easy to create and when it doesn’t come out quite right, it’s not as visually appealing. Of course, after the first bite, you get over it, but there’s no initial wow factor—and we want the wow! If it tastes good, that’s all that matters right? Well, at least that’s what you say to appease the situation.
Stimulating the senses prior to taking the first bite connects us with what gives us life—our food. We shift into a state of awareness while our excited senses spark our own energetic nutrients. Our own pleasure, an ingredient we ignite, now becomes the energy we consume with every bite. Being in a positive mental state and in-tune with our food, in-turn connects us to our bodies. We become conscious of what we are eating and as a result, improve digestion. The positive energy from our pre-meal-stimulating-appetizers, ignites the flame we need, even after the last bite. So, when the color of the meal did not dazzle the eye, it was not in vain. Rather, it was being mindful of engaging multiple senses for a fruitful eating experience— from the initial bite to digestion. I get it..now. 🙂
This is one of the reasons why I love yellow rice! You can’t really mess up the color or aroma (just don’t burn it). There’s not a lot of balancing of various spices and ingredients. It takes just a few ingredients to add a little golden sunshine to your plate. The addition of whole garam masalas (heat inducing whole spices), make an already fragrant basmati rice seductive—enticing your appetite before the first bite! With the addition of masoor (red lentils), this can be served as a simple yet flavorful pilaf or my favorite drenched in a nice curry or stir-fry.
Soak Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 mins
You Need: a heavy pot bottom
- 1/2 cup aged basmati rice*
- 1/2 cup masoor (red lentils)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
- a combination of whole spices like: 2-3 cloves, 4-5 peppercorns, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 1-2 cardamon pods
- 1 heaping tsp of ghee, coconut oil (optional for kapha dosha)
Step 1: Wash the rice & masoor a few times (you want to gently massage it) until the water runs clear—about 2-3 times. Let it soak for at least 20 minutes and longer is fine too. It will reduce your cook time, the water required to cook it and make for a longer and separate grain.
Step 2: In a small pot add all the ingredients except for the rice/lentils and bring water to a boil. Drain the water used to soak the rice & masoor and add to the pot of boiling water as soon as it reaches a boil so not to let too much water evaporate. Bring to a boil again, lower temperature, cover and let simmer for 7-10 minutes.
Step 3: In about 10 minutes, check to see how cooked the rice is. If its 75% cooked, like the picture to the left and there is still a little water, lower the temperature even more. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes or so, or until the rice is cooked. At this point, if you are concerned about the integrity of your pot, you can put it in a 300-degree oven or on a tava, a double oven for 10-15 minutes.
If your rice is almost done and you still have quite a bit of water, strain it out to prevent mushy rice and the continue to “steam” for another 10 mins so all the water is absorbed. If most of the water has evaporated and your rice is still really raw, you will likely need to add a little more water. Keep in mind, steaming will cook the rice quite a bit, so don’t add too much water.
Step 4: Let rice rest for at least 5-10 minutes before serving, I like to uncover it so it doesn’t overcook.
Tastes: Sweet, Pungent
Serve: as a side, with a stir-fry, daal (lentil soup), khadhi (yogurt curry), veggie/meat curry
*Basmati Rice can vary from brand to brand. Cooking time and water content may need to be adjusted. I have found the basmati rice in bulk bins or sold in grocery stores differ greatly from basmati rice sold in S. Asian markets. The grain is usually shorter, less hard and does not have the same fragrance. When I use basmati rice bought in the bulk section, I find I need to adjust my method of cooking. If you are using bulk basmati follow the instructions on the package, you probably don’t need to soak it and may need to increase the amount of water to a 2:1 ratio. The rest of the recipe should work fine. As for the masoor, give it a good rinse prior to cooking.
*Pitta Dosha: If you have a pitta imbalance keep in mind red lentils and the spices are warming. I would recommend adding ghee to balance the heat and ensuring the rest of your meal balances the warming qualities. If you are in balance this rice should be fine, but adding some ghee is a good idea—it tastes good!
*Kapha Dosha: Monitor the quantity enjoyed, too much sweet can imbalance kapha. Balance is key.