On the 6th annivesary of my American Moments food blog, I'm sharing a simple rice dish called Venn Pongal. Savoury Pongal or Venn Pongal as its commonly called in South Indian cuisine is a mix of rice with lentils and topped with an assortment of condiments. It is usually served as a breakfast dish with fresh coconut chutney and a lentil curry called sambar. Again, ghee is usually used to increase its taste, but a vegan version is shared here. A sweet version of this rice pudding called Sakkarai (Sugar) Pongal is also enjoyed by many.
Ingredients (for 2)
Anu, a close friend of mine and a fellow member of our Book Club formed in the eastern part of Singapore, is an avid cook. I have known for many years and each time I go over to her place or she comes to one of ours, she'll bring one of her delicious treats. Once we savoured pizza toast using her own homemade pizza sauce, another time Anu made little dough balls using leftover dosa batter with a very delightful coconut chutney. Last week on Monday, we had a taste of her delicious Briyani using her own home made Briyani Masala.
We all cook for our family and friends but where do we have the time to make our masala powders from scratch? Roasting the whole spices and then cooling and later grinding them into a fine powder. And the proportions must be in the right amounts otherwise you will have in hand either a very bland masala or an overpowering one. I found Anu's Briyani Masala just right and very balanced. Not too spicy, not too pungent. Anu makes all her masalas from scratch - Briyani, Sambar and Rasam as well. She shared her Briyani Masala Powder recipe with me on Monday. Unfortunately, I will not be sharing the masala powder recipe here in this post as I am encouraging her (and empowering her) to start selling her masala powders to all who want a less pungent overpowering store bought ones. Hopefully, Anu will have a thriving home business selling spice powders soon!
This is how her Briyani Masala looked like :
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2-3 tbsps canola oil
1 cup Basmati Rice, soaked for 30 mins and drained
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 and 1/4 tsp of Anu's Briyani Masala
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (for the gorgeous red hue without the heat)
Salt to taste per your preference
1 medium sized potato peeled and cut into 1 inch long thick pieces
1 small sized carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch long thick pieces
2 long beans, washed and cut into 1 inch long pieces
A stalk of coriander leaves, chopped
1) Take a large pot and fry the onion and ginger garlic paste in canola oil.
2) Add the briyani masala, chilli powder and salt and stir for 2-3 mins.
3) Add in the vegetables and 1 cup water and stir and cook on low heat till water evaporates
4) Then, add in the drained basmati rice and stir gently ensuring you dont break the soaked rice. Stir till the oil is evenly coated on all grains of rice.
5) Transfer to your rice cooker. Add 2.5 cups of water and check for salt. Switch on your rice cooker and cook per normal.
6) Serve warm with plain dal and cucumber yoghurt raita.
I love rice. Period. If you ask me to go even two days without rice, I would go crazy. Its basically because I'm Asian and for all Asians, rice is a staple food. But the only catch is that too much rice, even brown rice, tends to lead to flabby arms, love handles, belly fat which doesn't seem to go away no matter how hard I tried. So, for the past 3 weeks I have reduced my rice intake to only 2-3 tbsps at every meal. Just so that I can trick my mind to believe that I am still eating rice! It seems to be working so far albeit rather slowly though I am often hungry. So I decided to try alternatives to rice firstly quinoa and after reading countless recipes on cauliflower rice, today I tried using that as an alternative.
My first reaction after I cooked Fried Cauliflower Rice? I went WOW! It was so delicious. And I mean out of the world delicious! I wished there and then that my travelling husband was there to try it. He would have been totalled blown away as well. Do you know what's the best part ? I could eat as much as I want!! They are no carbs here. Just the goodness of cauliflower, mushrooms and spinach! Next time I ought to add tofu to get my protein fix as well. I bought prepackaged cauliflower rice but you can easily make your own by processing cauliflower into little rice-like crumbs.
if you are amazed by the higher quality of the photos in this post as I am, I have to give credit to the camera feature of the latest Iphone 11... amazing HD quality! It even beat my DSLR camera!!
Ingredients (Serves 1-2)
1) 2 tbsps oil and another 2 tbsps oil
2) 5 cloves garlic, minced
3) 250gm white button mushrooms
4) A small piece of red capsicum sliced thin
5) 3 cups baby spinach
6) 300gm cauliflower rice
7) Salt, pepper and chilli flakes
8) 2 tbsps chopped scallions for garnish
1. First heat a medium sized pot and fry the garlic in 2 tbsps canola or any other veg oil.
2) Add in the salt, pepper and chilli flakes.
3) Add in the mushrooms and red capsicum strips at this juncture. Let them simmer till they are soft and cooked.
4) Your next step would be to add in the spinach. Let the whole mix cook on low to medium heat till all the water evaporates.
5) In the meantime, add 2 tbsps of canola oil into a skillet pan and fry the cauliflower crumbs for 5-10 minutes till its golden brown.
6) Once all the water has evaporated from the mushroom mix and the cauliflower rice is cooked, pour the mushroom mix into the skillet pan.
7) Mix and stir fry the cauliflower rice and the vegetables. Once all mixed well, taste for seasonings and add accordingly.
8) Serve warm with chopped scallions as garnish.
Jambalaya is a Louisiana origin dish of Spanish and French influence consisting mainly of meat and vegetables mixed with the rice. I decided to make a vegetarian version of this dish using whatever vegsetables I had on hand and kidney beans as a protein substitute for the meat.
This is a highly recommended dish to anyone who has only 30-45 mins to cook and is looking for a hearty meal to feed the family. And a big plus ? it requires only 1 pot!
Vegetarian Jambalaya (Serves 4)
3 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pounded
2 celery sticks, sliced thin
1/2 a large bell pepper, cut into big pieces
1 litre veg stock
1 can of tinned tomatoes
6-8 baby okras
6-8 baby corns
1 cup of Arboria rice
1 can of kidney beans
Salt & Pepper
Chilli Flakes or Paprika
1) First, take a large heavy pot and fry the onion, garlic, celery and bell peper for 8-10 mins till cooked.
2) Pour in the veg stock.
3) Add in the diced canned tomatoes. If you don't have any canned tomatoes, just chop up two medium sized tomatoes and add them to the pot. At this point, add salt, pepper and some chilli flakes for heat.
4) Next, add in the washed Arborio rice. Arboria rice is recommended when your dish requires a creamy texture. If you don't have this specific rice, any shortgrained white or brown rice will do. Keep stirring regularly to avoid the rice sticking to the base of the pot.
6) When the stock has reduced in quantity, add the okra pods and the baby corns. I don't add this too early as then the okra will overcook and turn mushy.
7) Next add in the kidney beans.
8) When the stock has been totally absorbed by the rice and vegetables, turn off the fire and let it cool slightly before serving warm, garnished with parsley leaves.
9) Enjoy this wholesome guilt-free, gluten-free vegan Hearty Vegetarian Jambalaya.
30 mins?? Impossible, you think? Yes, its possible. Using a kitchen equipment found in most Indian households. The one and only what we Indian cooks can't live without - the humble pressure cooker.
Pressure cookers are a godsend especially when we are short of time. Pressure cooking is the process of cooking food using water or any other liquid in a tightly sealed vessel called a pressure cooker. As the liquid boils, the trapped steam increases the internal pressure and allows the temperature to rise to a whopping 212 deg C! (See pic above) So, food is cooked so much faster and it saves time and energy. Almost any food that requires cooking in water can be cooked in a pressure cooker.
There are so many types of pressure cooker in the market. Cylindrical, pan shape, aluminium or non-stick base etc. The market is flooded. Purchase one based on your family needs.
30 min Vegetable Rice involved quick preparation and cooking. There I was wondering on a weekend afternoon at 12 noon what to cook for my family for lunch. I have seen many online videos about cooking our food in a pressure cooker and decided on this option, knowing the risk very well. Since its my first attempt, it can either become overcooked (too much water) and everyone will be having vegetable spiced porridge for lunch or worse undercooked (without enough water) and having carcinogenic burnt food instead. Not much of a choice I had at 12.15, didn't I? With a quick prayer I began....
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1.5 cups Basmati Rice (mix of brown and white)
3 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped small
1 heaped tsp mix of ground ginger and garlic
1 green chilli, cut into 3
1 red chilli, cut into 3
2.5 tsps Veg Briyani spice powder (I used National Brand Veg Briyani Spice Powder)
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 cup of mixed frozen vegetables - peas, carrots, corns and french beans, thawed
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup of chopped mint and coriander leaves
2.5 cups water (split into 0.5 cup and 2 cups)
Salt per preference
200gm cubed cottage cheese (paneer cubes) - optional
Extra coriander leaves and a handful of roasted cashews for garnish
1) Firstly, wash and soak the Basmati rice for only 15 mins. Preparation of vegs will take up roughly 10 mins.
2) While the rice is soaking, heat the pressure cooker and fry the chopped onion, ginger garlic mix and both the chillies in oil for 5mins on medium high heat.
3) Add the Veg Briyani spice powder and fry for 2 mins.
4) Chopped tomatoes go in next. Stir often after adding them in, to prevent food from sticking to the base especially if you are using an aluminium pressure cooker. Fry for 3 mins.
5) After the tomatoes have cooked and turned mushy, add in the mixed vegs, coriander and mint leaves. Add 0.5 cup water and let the whole mix cook for 5 mins.
6) By now, the 15 mins would have been up. Drain the soaked rice and keep aside.
7) After the vegs have been cooking for 5 mins, add in the soaked drained rice.
8) Combine everything and add the cubed cottage cheese. I added these cubes for addition of protein. Its optional if you have boiled eggs and or other source of protein on the side. Do not add these cottage cheese cubes too early as they are very soft and will dissolve easily.
9) Add 2 cups of water and mix again.
10) Cover and cook on high heat. Once you get a first whistle, reduce fire to medium heat and wait for 2 whistles. Switch off the fire and let it cool down completely.
CAUTION - do not open the pressure cooker when it is still hot. The pressure inside is highly compressed and can be explosive. You can get badly hurt.
11) After it has cooled completely, open the lid and this is how it should look.
12) Enjoy scrumptious Vegetable Rice made under 30 mins!
Hi guys! I'm Nilofar Iyer and I have shared my dishes here for you to cook for your own family and friends with love and most importantly with their long term good health in mind.