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 on our family dinner table a few days back – Ghee Rice, Shrimp and Plantains in Roasted Coconut Masala, a salad of veggie ribbons and some papad for a bit of 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 (!). After being on each other’s nerves for days, it is a welcome change to be able to wind down and have some meaningful conversation. Families – one may not be able to live with them, but one certainly cant not live without them !!
- 2 C Jeera Rice /Basmati Rice
- 2 - 3 Tbsp Ghee
- 1/2 Tsp Cumin
- 1 Tsp Fennel Optional
- 4 - 5 Green Cardamom
- 4- 6 Cloves
- 2 Inch Cinnamon Stick
- 1 - 2 Bay Leaf
- 2 Inch Fresh Ginger
- 4 - 6 Cloves Garlic
- 1/2 C Onions Sliced thin.
- 1 Tsp Black Pepper Optional
- 3 3/4 C Warm Water
- 1/2 Tsp Salt To taste
- 2 Tbsp Raisins
- 2 Tbsp Cashew Nuts
- 1/4 C Onion Sliced
- Wash and soak the rice in plenty of water for 30 minutes. Drain.
- Slice the onions, crush or thinly slice the ginger and garlic.
- Heat a thick bottomed pan or pressure cooker and add 2 tbsp ghee to it. If not frying the garnishes skip to next step. When the ghee has become hot add the cashew nuts and fry till brown. Drain from the ghee and reserve. Add the raisins to the ghee and stir fry till puffed up. Drain and reserve. Add the thinly sliced onions for garnish and fry till golden brown. Drain and reserve as well.
- If needed add 1 more tbsp of ghee to the pan. Add the whole spices and saute till their aroma fill the air. Add sliced onions, ginger and garlic. Saute till the onions become translucent. Add the drained rice and fry for few minutes till the grains begins to look dry. Add warm water (see notes) and salt. Close the lid and cook till done.
- Cool in the pan for 20 minutes , transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle the fried garnishes on top.
- If using pressure cooker, follow the standard cooking time for rice.
- Amount of water required varies by rice - typically for basmati and Jeera I use a little less than twice the quantity of rice by volume - ex: 3 3/4 C water for 2 C rice.
- You can make this with any non sticky raw rice. Rinse, soak and drain the excess starch. Fry and cook in enough water as required for that specific variety
- Other spices that can be used are - star anise, mace (javetri), fennel,
and black cardamom.
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