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