A few spices make the simple rice the center of the meal, inviting you to to reach for the fork.. that is ghee rice for me! Nei Choru or Ghee Rice used to be the staple of our mini household celebrations. Mom used to serve these with hearty sides like roasted coconut vegetables , or chicken . Her cauliflower or mushroom sides were what even the hardened non vegetarians could never get enough of!
Unlike the traditional rice casserole – Biriyani , ghee rice brings a little richness and flavor without all the extra work. This was one dish that both the vegetarians and the hardcore non vegetarians liked. Serve with any of your favorite spicy curries. One can have an uncle who finds a meal incomplete without a non veg dish and a aunt whose eyebrows go up at the mere mention of meat . What do you do when you have to have these to visit at the same time ?? Believe me there is a grand conspiracy at work here , ‘coz it seems to happen every time !!!
There, there I go rambling again ! Back to ghee rice , it is easy to make, especially so if you have a pressure cooker. For a leisurely healthy meal serve with a side of spicy yellow lentils or for a fancier meal serve with hearty vegetable curries or non veg curries. Here are a few of our favorite options – roasted coconut chicken , or spicy shrimp curry, raita (spiced yogurt) , dal and papad .
Undoubtedly I am a fan of ghee rice. For me the combination of mild spices makes the rice drool worthy without overpowering the other dishes. The perfect complement and enhancer for your curries and kabobs.
To sum up the recipe – saute the whole spices, sliced onion, ginger and garlic in ghee. To this the soaked and drained rice is added. It is stir fried until almost all rice has become dry. Enough hot water to cook the rice is poured on top and the rice is cooked till done. Sometimes extra onions , cashew nuts and raisins are fried and used as garnish.
Every family has its own variation of this recipe. If I were to make this dish in Kerala the rice of choice would have been – Jeerakasala or kaima. This particular rice variety is not as well known as Basmati , but has its own unbeatable flavor. Unlike Basmati it is small grained – much smaller than the regular rice. The Bangladeshi Kali Jeera and Jeera rice are the same. Another recipe where jeera works great is the kalathappam.
Often times I make ghee rice and masoor dal (the red lentils) for a quick Sunday lunch, when there is no time or inclination to make an elaborate meal. Two pressure cookers on each burner and 15 minutes of active cook time is all you need to make a delicious and satisfying meal. Now you see the draw of this dish.
This was a family dinner sometime back – Ghee Rice, Shrimp and Plantains in Roasted Coconut Masala, a salad of veggie ribbons and some papad for crunch. If memory serves me right – it was not a particularly pleasant week . Sometimes living with teenagers and other unmentionable age groups – can get a little tiring (!). Being on each other’s nerves and throats for days , it is a welcome change to be able to wind down and some meaningful conversation. Families – one may not be able to live with them, but one certainly cant not live without them !!
Here area few other rice dishes you might like :