Pea Pulav (Basmati Rice)

No Indian meal is complete without the fragrant Basmati rice. And, in our house, no birthday or celebration was complete without my mom’s flavorful pea pulav – an aromatic dish made with long-grained Basmati rice and green peas, and flavored with cardamoms, cloves, and other spices. It was inviting enough to eat on its own, no sides needed. When I make it for a Sunday-special lunch, I will often mix in other vegetables and have a delicious meal on-hand in no time at all.

Interestingly, each of the spices have a health benefit – so why not take a couple of minutes and add flavor and nutritional benefits to plain ol’rice:

  • Bay leaves are a rich source of vitamins A, and C, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, promoting general health
  • Cloves are rich in antioxidants and minerals and known to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, and aid in digestion
  • Thanks to it’s anti-inflammatory properties, peppercorn improves circulation, reduces joint pain and also helps combat high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases
  • Cardamom helps improve oral health and may have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Turmeric is said to ease joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Basmati Rice
  • 4 tbsp Ghee (or vegetable or olive oil)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 Peppercorns
  • 1 inch Cinnamon stick
  • 4 Cardamom – crushed
  • 1 large Onion (chopped finely)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 cup Green Peas
  • 1/2 cup Carrots (diced) – optional
  •  1 tsp Salt
  •  2 cups Broth ( veg, chicken or beef) – For perfectly separated rice – use the same cup to measure the rice and the broth

Instructions:

  1. Wash the rice very gently and drain all water. Rinse twice more so that the water is clear (this removes the starch from the rice). Drain water completely each time
  2. Place a large pan on the stove on medium heat
  3. Add the ghee to the pan
  4. Once the ghee is hot, add the Bay leaf. (Note: If the bay leaf sizzles immediately, you know the oil is hot. If not, wait a few more seconds, until you start to see the leaf sizzle)
  5. Add the rest of the whole spices to the ghee – cloves, pepper corn, cinnamon and cardamom
  6. Fry for 30 seconds
  7. Add the onions and fry for 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent
  8. Add the turmeric powder and stir for another minute
  9. Add the rice to the pan, and fry for 1-2 minutes
  10. Add the stock, salt, and stir once, very gently
  11. Let the stock come to a boil then reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid
  12. Let the rice cook – will take about 10-12 minutes
  13. After 10-12 minutes, check rice. If all the water is evaporated, turn off the flame. Keep the container covered – allowing it to sit covered for 5 minutes
  14. Fluff the rice and vegetables with a fork and serve

Hakka Noodles

Ever so often I crave Indo-Chinese food. More often than not, after a late night at work, my friends and I would grab Indian-style Chinese food from one of the street hawkers. Hakka noodles, Gobi (Cauliflower), Schezwan fried rice and Chili Chicken, were our staples. If you were lucky, there were no queues. If not, you stood around salivating waiting around the cart for your order to be ready. It’s amazing how the hawkers could serve all these dishes within 20 -30 minutes. They had no more than 1-2 huge woks over kerosene stoves, where they turned out one dish after another. The sizzle, the smoke, the pouring of all the sauces and mixing of all the flavors….ooh, I still salivate with the memories. While the kids’ favorite American Chinese dish is Orange Chicken from Panda Express, they equally enjoy Hakka Noodles while Nilesh and I are transported back to the streets of India.

Hakka Noodles is an Indian-style noodle dish. The noodles are made from 100% durum wheat. The typical vegetables are cabbage, carrots, capsicum (green peppers). I’ll often add mushrooms, spring onions, and edamame or green peas to get as much vegetables as possible. I also avoid too much of soya sauce and rice vinegar to keep the sodium lower. Feel free to adjust that to your liking.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 packets – Ching’s Secret Veg Hakka Noodle
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 small red onion sliced
  • 4 spring onions – chopped
  • 2 medium carrots -shredded or chopped
  • 1 green pepper (capsicum) – chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup mushrooms (white) chopped
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soya sauce
  • 4 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp green chili/ red chili sauce
  • 0.5 tsp pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Follow instructions on the noodle packet to boil the noodles. When the noodles are ready, drain the water. Add 2 cups of cold water, drain again and then toss with 1 tbsp of sesame oil to prevent noodles from sticking. Keep aside.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp of sesame oil in a large wok
  3. Add the red chili flakes, ginger, garlic, red onions and the whites from the spring onions. Fry for a minute.
  4. Add the mushrooms. Fry for another minute
  5. Add the remaining vegetables. Stir-fry on high flame for 2 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked but yet, retain their crunch
  6. Add the tomato ketchup, soya sauce, rice wine vinegar, green/red chili sauce, pepper power and salt
  7. Stir till the sauces are well combined with the vegetables
  8. Add in the noodles and mix gently till well combined
  9. Garnish with the remaining spring onions
  10. Serve hot and enjoy

Goan Beef Curry (Ninja Foodi / Stove Top / Pressure Cooker)

Every Sunday morning after 6:30am mass, we’d go to see Nana and Papa (my maternal grandparents) who lived close to the church. The best part was the breakfast that followed – hot parathas, sunny-side up eggs, with beef “sidish” (i.e. curry). And Marie biscuits to dip into a cup of tea. But I digress. I didn’t realize a sidish actually meant side-dish until much later when I moved to North America. Nana’s beef side-dish, was a thick beef curry – spicy, tangy, and so delicious and the perfect accompaniment to eggs and parathas. It also made a great meal with a side of cauliflower and her aromatic rice pilaf.

SERVINGS: 4 – 6

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 2 tsp Cumin seeds
  2.  2 inches Cinnamon stick
  3.  10 cloves
  4.  10 black peppercorns
  5. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  6. 1 tsp red chili powder
  7. 8 large garlic cloves (peeled and roughly chopped)
  8. 2 inch ginger piece (peeled and roughly chopped)
  9. 1/2 onion (roughly chopped)
  10. 3 tbsp vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar one I run out of my stock of Goa vinegar. Regular vinegar works too)
  11. 2 medium potatoes (chopped into large cubes)
  12. 1 serrano pepper (or 2 green chilies (Indian or Thai) slit long
  13.  1 tsp sugar
  14. 3 tbsp oil
  15. salt to taste
  16. 2 lbs stewing beef
  17. Water

Method:

  1. For the ground masala:
    • In a small food processor, grind the first 6 ingredients until smooth
    • Add to that ingredients 7 through 10 and grind until smooth
  2. Add oil to a medium-sized non-stick pan or in a pressure cooker. When oil is hot, add in the ground masala, (keep the food processor aside, you’ll need it later) and fry on medium flame, until you see the oil start to separates from the ground masala – you’ll see it on the edges of the masala. About 2-3 minutes
  3. Add the beef chunks to the masala, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes
  4. Add half a cup of water to the food processor, swirling to get any masala remnants and then add to the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes
  5. If using a pan to cook on stove-top:
    • Add 2 cups of water, stir gently, bring to a boil, then cover and cook for 20 minutes
    • After 20 minutes, remove cover, add the potatoes, salt and sugar, and cook for 20 minutes
    • Go to step 7
  6. If using a pressure cooker:
    • Add another half cup of water, stir gently
    • Add cover of pressure cooker
    • Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes
    • When the time is up, immediately release the pressure
    • When the pressure has been released, add in the potatoes, salt and sugar. Place the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Pressure cook on high for 4 minutes
    • When done, immediately release the pressure
  7. Check meat for tenderness
  8. Adjust the salt, if you like
  9. Serve with Goan pav, bread, over rice, or with chapatis/parathas


cilantro lime rice

The best rice ever for a Mexican meal. Easy and quick to make, you’ll be saying good-bye to Chipotle with this rice. I’ve made this with brown and white rice, and the kids just love it! Perfect with Mexican food.

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Juice from 2 limes (about 4 tbsp)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth, or optional)
  • 3 cups water (if not using chicken/vegetable broth, use 4 cups water)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 tbsp fresh finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat
  2. When oil is hot, add the bay leaf
  3. Add rice and stir so that grains are covered with the oil – about 1 minute
  4. Add chicken/vegetable broth, water, salt
  5. Bring to a boil
  6. Cover and cook for 15 mins (or check instructions on your rice packet)
  7. Turn off stove and keep covered for 5 minutes
  8. Uncover, sprinkle the cilantro over the rice along with lime juice
  9. Fluff the rice with a fork, mixing in the cilantro and lime juice
  10. Serve hot or at room temperature

SANTA FE Chicken (crock pot/ Ninja Foodi/ Instant pot)

At the end of a busy work day, I am usually too drained to cook a meal. Given that we try to eat low sodium, healthy meals, I’m constantly trying to figure out meals that are quick and easy to put together (easy enough that Nilesh can put it together too ;-)). And the Santa Fe Chicken comes to the rescue – made with corn, black beans, peppers, tomatoes and seasonings – all pantry staples. Put it into the crock pot, and 4 hours later, you’ll have a good, healthy meal. I served it over Cilantro Lime Rice, topped with low fat cheese, Greek yogurt (a great alternative to sour cream), chopped scallions and cilantro – your family will love this and you’ll be making this again!

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz (1-1/2 lbs) chicken breast
  • 14.5 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 oz frozen corn
  • 14.5 oz can fat free chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted and chopped (optional)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 6 fat garlic cloves, minced fine
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili powder (or cayenne pepper powder), or to taste
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Instructions:

  • Heat oil in a pan and add chopped onions and minced garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes till the onions soften.
  • Transfer this mixture to the slow cooker along with all the other ingredients.
  • Combine chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, corn, cilantro, poblano pepper, red pepper, half the scallions, cumin, chili powder, and salt in the crock pot / Ninja Foodi/Instant Pot
  • Season chicken breast with salt and lay on top.
  • For Crock Pot: Cook on high for 4 hours.
  • For Ninja Foodi: Cook with Slow Cook option on high for 4 hours
  • For Instant Pot: Cook with High Pressure option for 25 mins – quick or natural release
  • When cooked, remove chicken and shred
  • Return chicken back to the Slow Cooker/ Foodi/ Instant Pot and stir
  • Adjust seasonings to taste
  • Serving hot over cilantro lime rice or with tortillas, with your favorite toppings