Rice Dishes

Tahiri -Slow cooked Basmati Rice With Black Spices

 

Summer might be officially gone in many of the states but in my part of the world, the temperatures are still in nineties.Though the sun sets early now & morning sun has started to feel cozy and relaxing, days are still quite sunny & hot. However, it rained last weekend. We hardly get any rains out here, I think the last bit was long back in May, so whenever it comes pouring down, its time to rejoice .Usually, its super lazy day with TV or book on the couch, comfort food to fill up and loads of chai.

I literally wait for the summer to end to make some dishes.The wet & cold weekend (yup the temperatures dipped to 64 ,made me crave my grandmother’s tahiri which is one of my favorite things to make as the autumn sets in. Not missing the chance I got last weekend, this rice dish was our comfort meal. The best part being that it is a one pot meal, it has the perfect amount of spice and is loaded with satiating goodness of starchy vegetables and leftovers taste all the more better! Just few minutes of preparations & you are all set for a soul satisfying meal. It really need no side dish even coz its so much flavorful on its own, just a bowl of plain yogurt or green chutney/pickle/papad will be more than enough. If you really want to indulge, add a dollop of cold butter or ghee over the steaming bowl of rice, let it melt and find its way right to the bottom on its own & you are good to go! The best part about this dish is the bottom burnt layer of rice which is achieved by a technique called  dumpukht  (see recipe).

My best memories of eating tahiri are of Sunday lunches when we sat on charpai(cot) under the bright winter sun amid the home-grown decor of winter vegetables in my grandmother’s vegetable garden. I remember picking up fresh stalks of young garlic and onions right from the ground and eating it with tahiri.A mention of those winter lunches takes me back there and brings in the nostalgia of the food relished during those years and times spent with family.

The trio of vegetables that go into tahiri which is a speciality dish of  state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is standard – white potatoes, cauliflower & peas.These vegetables go so well with the warmth of black indian spices – cumin, black cardamom, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg .The spices are fresh ground into a paste and then rice & vegetable are cooked on along with the paste for long to bring about the depth of flavors. The result is a aromatic pot full of comfort.

Tahiri is not pilaf, its cooked low & slow by a technique called dumpukht or indirect slow heating. What differentiates it from biryani is the fact that unless you make kacchi biryani, the rice & meat/ vegetables are separately half cooked, layered & then cooked to perfection. In tahiri, rice & vegetables cook cook together and finished via dumpukht cooking. 

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Vegetable Tahiri/Tehri

Dum cooked basmati rice & tri of winter vegetables in a fresh ground spice psate of indain black spices.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian

Equipment

  • Wide mouthed, heavy bottomed pot with lid/iron kadhai with lid, Cast iron griddle

Ingredients

Make the Spice Paste

  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp cumim seeds
  • 1 black cardamom, pods only
  • 1 tsp corinader seeds
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves

For The Tahiri

  • 1/4 cup mustard oil
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 4-5 whole dried red chillies
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 10-12 cauliflower florets
  • 1 large potato peeled and  cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice washed
  • 1.5 cup water
  • Cilnatro, Ginger Julinnes etc to garnish

Instructions

Make the Spice paste

  • Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend of a paste. Dont make too fine or too coarse paste. Set aside.

Make the Tahiri

  • Heat 2 tbsp Oil in the pot/kadhai. Add the cauliflowewr florets and potatoes and brown them for a few minutes. Take out in a plate and set aside.
  • Add the remainig oil to the kadai and heat up. Temper the oil with bayleaf, whole nutmeg and dried chillies.
  • Next, add the sliced onions. Cook the onions till they are nicely brown. About 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat and add the ground spice paste. Cook the onions with masala till you see oil seperating on sides.
  • At this point, add all the vegetables along with washed rice. Gently combine everything. Remove from heat & pour the water required for cooking the rice into the pot, add the salt and give everything a stir. Let the rice soak for 30 minutes.
  • Once the rice has soaked, place the kadai on medium stove. Cover the pot & bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, and let rice cook for 10-12 minutes (or the time required for your rice variety to get 95% cooked). Proceed to dum cooking as mentioned in the next step below.
  • While the rice is cooking, heat up a cast iron skillet or griddle ( large enough to hold the kadai ).Once the skillet is hot, reduce heat to very low, place the kadai over the skillet & let the rice cook for another 10 minutes on dum (indirect slow cooking technique).We want the bottom layer of rice to crisp up & get browned (almost). Dum cook for aboyt 25 minutes or longer depending on how crisp you want the bottom layer.
  • Once dum cooking is over, switch off the stove leave the kadai on griddle undisturbed for another 15 minutes.
  • Fluff up the rice, garnish with chopped cilantro & ginger julinnes. Serve with raita, pickle, papad etc.
Appetizers/Snacks

Achari Paneer Tikka – Skewered Indian Cheese With Pickling Spices

 

 

Achari comes from the word “Achaar” which means pickle in Hindi. Tikka is any kind of boneless meat or vegetables baked or roasted on skewers. Pickles in India are a serious business involving lots of spices, lots of oil & lots of solar energy. Achari is a method of using the pickling spices to make curries. The spice mix is pungent and resonant with bold flavors from fenugreek (methi dana), mustard (raai) & nigella(kalonji) seeds.These spices are not hot, rather they are pungent, quite bitter and have a very strong aroma.In pickles, they ferment over a period of time & give a tangy taste. In curries, they lend a really unique & piquant taste. Achaari preparations don’t taste like normal curries, the taste is acquired & unusual, but at the same time can be very very addictive. Having said that, this should not stop you from trying these skewers coz they are different and really delish. Give these tikkas a chance – trust me it will take you straight to India.You just need to stock up on few spices which last forever from indian stores.


 

Ingredients (Serves 2-3) 

  • 400 gms /14 oz paneer ( Indian cheese, pierced with a fork,cut into 1” cubes)
  • 1 medium orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 10-12 grape tomatoes, whole
  • 1 medium red onion,diced
  • Oil for brushing
  • Lemon Wedges, Cilantro for garnish
  • 10-12 bamboo skewers

Notes:-

  1. Paneer is easily available in Indian stores under different brands.
  2. Paneer can be replaced by extra firm Tofu or Halloumi /Any cheese which can withstand grilling or roasting without melting.
  3. You can use any vegetables of choice here – zucchini,mushrooms work great. Just ensure that the cooking times of vegetable dont vary much.
  4. Dice the vegetables smaller/thinner than paneer, coz it takes less time to cook than veggies.
  5. For the Non vegetarian Version– Use boneless & cubed lamb, mutton, beef, chicken(dark portions) or shrimp.

For the Marinade:-

  • 1/2 tsp each of cumin, fennel, coriander & brown mustard (raai) seeds
  • 1/4 tsp each of nigella & fenugreek seeds
  • 4-5 dry red chillies or red pepper flakes (adjust to tolerance)
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 tbsp plain, thick greek yogurt, slightly sour
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp mustard oil (preferable for better taste, can be substituted with canola/olive/corn oil) 
  • Salt to taste 

Method:-

  • If using bamboo/wooden skewers soak them in water for atleast 2-3 hours.
  • Soak the cubed paneer in enough warm water seasoned with salt for about 15 minutes.Once soaked, drain and pat dry with a paper towel. 
  • In a small sauce pan, on high heat, lightly dry roast all the seeds under the “For the Marinade”.Roast for about 20 seconds or till you smell the aroma.Remove into a small bowl and let cool.
  • Next, in the same pan, roast the whole red chillies for about 20 seconds.
  • Tip the cooled, roasted spices along with red chillies into mortar or coffee grinder. Grind to a smooth powder to get a achari spice mix.
  • In a bowl (big enough to hold the marinade & ingredients), combine the yogurt, achari spice mix, ginger, garlic,oil,lemon juice & salt.Whisk well to mix.
  • Combine the paneer with the achari marinade,toss gently, cover the bowl with a cling film and set to marinate for 30 minutes,refrigerated. 
  • Add the vegetables to the marinade 5 minutes before ready to cook the skewers. This is important to keep the moisture of vegetables intact.
  • Once marinated, thread the marinated paneer & vegetables on soaked bamboo skewers. Brush with oil on all sides.
  • Cooking the Tikka :- I grilled the skewers on high for 4 minutes each side. You can cook them in my broiler till the paneer edges started to turn brown.About 10-12 minutes.You will need to flip them sideways to cook on all sides. Alternatively you can cook them in a skillet/griddle (about 8-10 minutes)
  • Serve warm with green coriander-mint chutney and flatbreads or rice. 

Notes:-

  1. If using red meat or chicken for making this recipe, marinate the meat overnight or atleast 6 hours to get better flavors.