This spicy rice pulao brings back memories of Nagpur summers, weddings and my grandparents.
I have a soft spot for Maharashtrian food, after all my dear mother is a Maharashtrian. She would cook a lot of these dishes for us when we were growing up. Later on I spent quite some time with my grandparents in Nagpur. It is during this period that I truly learnt what marathi food and culture is all about. Our grandparents would take us along with them whenever they attended marathi natak ( marathi plays / theatre ), marathi comedy shows, go and see performances of marathi dance and songs and also attend all our relatives marriage ceremonies. It is here I was first introduced to Masale Bhat, one of the main dishes in nearly all maharashtrian wedding feasts.
Most of these wedding would be of someone we were related to but I had never met before. Most of the time the relation to that person was a long and complicated one.
Now if that wasn't enough to spin our heads, calling some relatives Bhau Kaka and Tai Maushi surely confuses a child. I mean who is he, is he a Bhau ( brother ) or is he a Kaka ( uncle ). How can he be both? Same with Tai ( elder sister ) Maushi ( Aunt ). Now keep in mind our Tai Maushi is how my mom addressed her, so to us she becomes Tai Maushi Aaji ( elder sister aunt grandmother !!!! )
Anyway, once we escaped the introductions, we would make a beeline to the dining rooms, here we would be greeted with the aromas of the wedding feast. With rumbling tummies we would grumble at the lengthy process of the marriage ceremony. Luckily since we were kids we always got to eat first. There was always two kinds of service, one was the "table" service where we would get to sit and eat on chairs and tables, and the other service was the "sit down" service, where we would literally sit on a mat cross-legged on the floor and eat in either banana leaves or steel plates.
I loved it when there were tables and chairs as compared to eating sitting cross-legged on a mat. You see when you sit down the food has to travel twice as long to reach your mouth as compared to when you sit to eat on a chair and table. At that time I had not yet mastered the act of picking up the rice from the plate and then carrying it all the way to your mouth without losing more than half the morsel on its way. Thus it would take me twice as long with double the effort to eat the same amount of food !!!
Anyway back to our dish Masale Bhat. This would always be part of the wedding banquet. This spicy rice dish studded with vegetable and huge chunks of cooked potatoes was one of my favorites. I came across this recipe of Masale Bhat from a cookbook called Essential Marathi Cookbook by Kaumudi Marathe. This book has an amazing collection of Marathi recipes like Vada Bhat, Bhadang, Dhape Pohe, Patal Bhaji, Dhirda, Methamba and Aluchi Vadi etc. The best part is that they are all written in english .
This recipe is really easy to make and it turned out an authentic tasting Masale Bhat transporting me back to those marriage halls. Even my non-marathi husband and my in-laws enjoyed this dish very much.
I would like to dedicate this dish to my Grandparents, to thank them for always being there for us, teaching us so many things and enriching our lives in so many ways. We love you.
1 cup long grained white rice ( I used basmati rice )
1/2 cup sliced ivy gourds/ tindora / tondli / kundru ( or any other vegetables like green peas, eggplant,carrot and or french beans )
1/2 cup thinly sliced potatoes
3-4 green chillies, sliced in half
1/2 - 3/4 tsp cayenne powder / red chili powder ( I personally used just 1/2 tsp, if you like more heat, go ahead and use 3/4 tsp )
4 tbsp yogurt / dahi
salt to taste
For the Masala powder / Spice powder
4.5 inch cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds / dhania seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds / jeera seeds
1 tsp royal cumin seeds / shah jeera ( I did not have this so I just used 1/2 tsp cumin / jeera seeds instead and added it to the above cumin measurement making it total 2 tsp cumin seeds )
For Seasoning / Tadka
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder / hing
3/4 tsp turmeric powder / haldi powder
3-4 tbsp grated fresh coconut ( if using frozen, do thaw it beforehand - do NOT use sweetened coconut )
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves / coriander leaves
15 - 20 cashew nuts roasted in a little ghee
ghee / tup as required
- Wash and drain the rice. Set aside.
- Place all the masala powder ingredients in the grinder / mixer and grind to a fine consistency.
- In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil.
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil. When hot, first add the mustard seeds, after they pop, next goes in the hing closely followed by the turmeric. ( Once the mustard seeds pop you have to work fast so as to not burn the seasoning / tadka. Make sure the fire / heat under the saucepan is medium low )
- Immediately add in the potatoes, saute for 2 minutes and then add the Ivy Gourd pieces and saute for another 2 minutes.
- Next goes in the green chillies and drained rice. Saute this for another 2-3 minutes, then stir in the salt, chili powder, masala powder and yogurt / dahi. Stir it all together.
- Now pour in the 2 cups of boiling water. Cook all this over medium heat, uncovered, till the water is boiling.
- Then lower the heat( I set mine on the lowest setting ) and cover your saucepan ( leaving a small gap for a little steam to escape ) and cook till all the water evaporates and your rice and vegetables are fully cooked. Stir with a fork once or twice.
- When done serve Masale Bhat garnished with cilantro leaves, grated coconut, cashew nuts and last but not least drizzle it with 1 tsp of hot ghee or even 1 tbsp of it !!!!!!!!