Hello from November where I’m going to tell you about the weather because it’s 18 degrees Celsius which is 65 in Fahrenheit (yay/nay?). This is not normal but neither is the Cubs winning the World Series but they did it last night!!! All you science haters (how is this even real) can blame them. The other reasons for the myth of climate change cannot be worse. Holding up a ball of snow? Check.
Matt has been a Cubs fan since he got into baseball as a kid so last night was a big one for him. I started watching it last year and I enjoyed it way more than the NFL, another sport I learnt in the first two years I moved here. So far both teams in both sports that I’ve followed have won their respective championships. You can call me good luck charm or something.
Sports has always been a big part of my life. My sisters and I have played and watched cricket and badminton almost every evening when we were younger. I remember the days when I made it my mission to catch every football game on TV (the one actually played with feet and the round ball). I had a favourite national team (Netherlands), club (Arsenal) and I knew all the moves. My father never complained during this because news and sports were his things in our one TV house. He would always watch whatever random programme was on the two sports channels we received through our cable operator. He would come in, change our entertainment channel and say, “Fashion TV, fashion TV.” To be fair, my sister the channel-surfing queen watched a lot of *say it in a whisper* “Eff …fashion TV”.
Learning baseball and American football after my move here was easy. Once you notice the patterns it’s a breeze. Someone I work with recently asked me if I liked watching sports. I’d never been asked that before but as if I was prepared to answer my whole life my answer was yes. I can watch almost any sport except golf, billiards and bowling without getting bored. All that talk about “women not understanding sports” is stupid and the “WOW. I am surprised you know who that is,” is not a compliment. You won’t ever see me blush over that. My sisters and I were taught from a young age that sports is fun and if you can, play.
That said, it is a wonderful day and true to word, I’m going to play with the two fluffy puppies, who have been excellent Cubbie mascots all season. Watching them run always puts me in a great mood 😉
Pulao is a Sunday staple in my home in Goa. I posted it about it in 2013 and I had cooked it a totally different way from this. I have become much more confident in my rice cooking since then. When I moved to Bombay to go to college I thought I would miss eating pulao but A Myra, who was my landlady for three years, followed this very same tradition in her home. Her chicken pulao was A+. I still dream of it. Sunday feasts are part of the Christian cultural tradition that sees the faithful observe the day as one of celebration. I’m not sure where the day of rest comes in. All the food from the moment we woke up was nothing short of a feast. I know it’s not Sunday but this is the kind of food I wish was an everyday thing. My mother keeps her recipe very simple, using prawns sometimes and others only onions and tomatoes. I wanted to layer in more flavours so I added extra things you see below. How biryani-ish of me.
You will be adding in whole spices here so if you want try to pick them out before serving or just play the “find the elaichi (cardamom)” game we played as children. It was the WORST. Cardamom might be having its moment in the sun in America but you haven’t truly tried it until you sink your teeth into it mid-bite of the perfect morsel of rice, prawn and chutney.
This one pot meal goes best with a pickle or chutney on the side.
Serves 2 or 3
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 3 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
- 1/2 red onion (1 cup), cut into half-moon slivers
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 clove sticks
- 5 cardamom pods
- 5 peppercorns
- 1 stick of cinnamon (3-5 inches long)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/2 tsp haldi (turmeric)
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
- Salt, to taste (I used a little more than 1 tsp kosher salt)
- A large handful of fresh mint (1/2 cup or more), roughly chopped
- 1/2 lemon, cut into smaller wedges
- 1/2 cup raisins
Rinse and drain the basmati rice four or five times to get rid of some of the starch. The water should appear somewhat clear before you stop the rinsing. Cover the rice with water and let it sit for 30 minutes on your kitchen counter. This helps the rice cook evenly once it’s in the pot.
Add 2 tbsp of the ghee or oil to a medium-sized pot and place it on the stove on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions to it. Fry them for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally until they turn deep brown especially along the edges. Add the bay leaf, clove, cardamom, peppercorns and cinnamon stick to the pot along with the garlic and stir around for about a minute. Add the butternut squash and let it cook, stirring every now and then for about five minutes. If you notice the onions are browning too fast, you can turn down the heat a little and stir more frequently to ensure they don’t burn. Though you must know this deep brown colour is the most perfect step in building flavour.
Add 1 tbsp of ghee or oil to the cooking ingredients. Drain the rice and add it to the pot along with the chilli powder and stir around for about two minutes, allowing it to soak in some of the flavours that have been cooking prior to its addition. Add the stock or water to the pot and give it all a few big stirs to help it come together. Add salt according to your taste and depending on how much is in the cooking liquid. Let the pot come to a boil and as soon as it does, turn the heat down to low and cover the pot. Resisting the temptation to peek, let the rice cook for 12-15 minutes or until the rice grains are tender and separate from one another. You can turn the burner off at the 12 minute mark and let the rice steam off the stove for ten more minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and push the lemons into the rice. Top it off with mint and raisins and serve at room temperature with green chutney or raita or whatever vegetable side dishes you may have on hand.
Marinate 450 gms or 1 lb of cut chicken thighs and/or breasts with ginger-garlic paste as it’s done in this xacuti recipe and add it to the pot after adding the whole spices. Let it brown before adding the rice and the cooking liquid.
With prawns (baby ones work best)
Add the shelled, deveined prawns after adding the whole spices. Stir for about a minute before adding the rice and the cooking liquid.
Add the peas about 5 minutes before the rice is done cooking. Cover the pot and let it all cook until tender.