Our tastes at the table, I suppose, are a reflection of our choices, food and beyond. I come from good South Kanara stock. My people LOVE rice. I've walked to my dodappa's house, some distance from the paddy field we parked the car in. We've balanced on the mud dividers between rice fields... the earth warm and squelchy under our feet.
Every meal featured rice in all its versatile splendor. Fluffy little mountains on a banana leaf. Spongy idlis. Crisp dosas. I marvelled at the women who cleaned and washed the rice, ground it to precise coarseness, steamed it, waited for it to cool, cooked it, flavored it and served it. Even tucked it into little packages to sustain us on the road. And then disappeared to do it all over again for the next meal, the next clutch of guests. What a labor of love!
I confess that my own adoration of rice has not been steadfast. I've experimented with brown rice, substituted with barley, fallen headlong in love with israeli couscous. My list of sins is long. Sigh.
But every once in a while, I return to the fold. Some things work best with white rice. Nothing else quite hits the spot!
I came across this recipe for Cabbage Rice many years ago in a cookbook by Tarla Dalal. Its one of those iron-clad, infallible recipes. And is strangely popular to boot! It has grown to be one of the cornerstones of my quasi-traditional menus!
The rice is flavorful and easy to put together. Just sauté all the ingredients and let them pressure cook. You can make it as spicy or as bland as you'd like based on whether its summer or winter and who you're going to make it for. I've usually served it with plain yoghurt but any raita will work.
Heres what to do:
1. Chop up about 2 cups of cabbage. Add vegetables of your choice. I've chucked in cubed potatoes, carrots, beans, cauliflower florets and peas.
2. Soak 1 cup of rice.
3. Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Throw in a stick of cinnamon, a bay leaf, a couple cloves and a couple pods of green cardamom. Whole spices are critical.
4. When they're hot and smoky, add a tablespoon each of minced giner and garlic. Cover your eyes and forget about ever smelling pretty for your dinner guests. Add a chopped onion.
5. Start throwing everything in: add cabbage and other vegetables. Add a quarter cup of coconut. Fresh grated will go a long way, but if all else fails, use the dry kind.
6. Time to get the spices going. Add turmeric, salt to taste, 2 teaspoons of cumin powder and a pinch of coriander powder. If you like your rice good and spicy, add one or all of the following: red chili powder, garam masala or biryani / pulao masala.
7. Add the soaked rice and 1.5 cups of water. The rice is now spicy enough to float a nail. Add a dollop of yoghurt and pressure cook. (It is usually done at the first whistle)
8. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon and chopped coriander. Serve hot with yoghurt.
United in the love of rice, join us at Sharmi's for JFI-Rice!