Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tomato Rice - Reminiscing the hostel life and an old companion

Until I got married, I was pretty much bound to the same city I was born and grew up in. I had not moved out of Mysore until I graduated. It is a good thing, life was undisturbed and I got the opportunity to make and keep friends for a long time but at the same time I missed going away from home, staying in a hostel and just the basic movement. Infact, I was hoping not to get my first choice of college (which happened to be in Mysore) when I got the Engineering admission :-), but destiny willed it differently. I went to a college less than 20 minutes drive from home on my 2-wheeler. Looking back, I am glad I stayed put during those years and got to enjoy a little more of home as I have done a lot of moving and relocating since graduating and getting married.

So, my hostel experience is very limited and I spent about an year at one of the premier institutions in Bengaluru and stayed in a PG hostel. I was excited and terrified the first week. For all the anticipation of staying on my own, the new surroundings were very intimidating especially when you were surrounded by complete geeks working on their doctoral and post doctoral research. But what made it all easy and interesting was the work, my lab mates, Prof and the girls I befriended during my stay in the hostel.

There were 4 different food mess (:-) es on the campus and one of them catered pure vegetarian and yours truly signed up there. The first couple of weeks when I didn't know anyone (the only other girl who worked with me in the lab used to commute from home), I would be the first one at the mess in the morning, grab a quick breakfast (3 days in a week it was bread toast which made it easy for me to carry it on my walk to the lab) and come back as late as possible for dinner on my way back to the room. It was a set menu for each day of the week and one dinner that I really looked forward to was on Thursday nights - a Tomato rice with a watery peanut chutney and potato chips. There was something very soothing (other than the fact I was close to the weekend and a possible Mysore trip) about that meal and I always relate A-mess and tomato rice as synonyms.
Coming to the old companion part in the title - it is an old cook book I have had ever since I got married. We were a group of young people, guys and gals, very loud and enthusiastic, all starting on the journey of our careers, working long hours and having a gala time. A couple of us were recently married and used to exchange notes on our weekend cooking experiments and our respective mom and mom-in-laws cooking expertise. During this time, I chanced upon a cookery book by Vasantha Moorthy called 'The Vegetarian Menu book'. The reason I like this book is because she actually classifies different dishes and groups them by meals just for two, family of 4 and others which was extremely helpful for a novice like me as I had just started out in my own kitchen. I made my first Tomato rice from this book but went on to adapt and change as I felt confident about my cooking. I still have the book intact with me after all the moves we have done and the pages of the book also hold many a paper cuttings and recipe print outs.
Here is a recipe for Tomato rice - magic recreated from a Thursday night dinner at IISc and guided by Vasantha Murthy. It is mildly spicy and very fragrant and makes a good main rice item just for two or a party of people.
What do you need to make Tomato Rice? 
1.5 cups rice - I use sona masoori
4 medium sized ripe tomatoes - preferably juicy variety
1 medium onion - I used red onion
1 clove garlic - optional
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves
4-5 black pepper corns
3 green chilies (adjust to taste)
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen green peas
handful of fresh cilantro
3 cups of water (adjust based on your rice)
1.5 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tblsp cooking oil
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf/Tej patta/pulav patta
How do you make Tomato Rice? 
  • Chop a quarter of the onion into big chunks and keep aside. 
  • Chop the remaining onion into thin long strips.
  • Wash and chop tomatoes into big chunks. 
  • Dry roast cinnamon, cloves and pepper on medium heat until you get the roasted aroma - 2 to 3 minutes
  • Take the roasted ingredients, garlic and green chilies into a mixer and pulse it a couple of times to break the contents down. 
  • Add the big chunks of onion, garlic, cilantro and chopped tomato to the mixer and blend into to get a smooth juice. 
  • You can add water to aid the blending process but make sure you do not exceed the water specified above to get a nice, fluffy end product. 
  • Heat the oil in a wide pan and roast the cumin seeds.
  • When the seeds sizzle, add onion and tej patta and fry till onions are well roasted and crispy, keep aside. 
  • You can cook the rice in your rice cooker or pressure cooker or an open vessel. I prefer the rice cooker method for this dish as I don't have to control the time it cooks in a pressure cooker or baby-sit the rice in an open vessel.
  • Wash rice with 2 changes of water, drain the water, pour it into the container you will cook it in. 
  • Add the ground tomato juice, salt, green peas, half of the crispy onions, remaining water to the vessel and cook until rice is done. 
  • Mix before serving and top it with the remaining crispy onions and a side of sweet and spicy peanut chutney and potato chips. Ymmm, you are home.. 
  • Be aware of the amount of water you use between grinding and cooking, the ratio of rice to water should be controlled for the right consistency 
  • If you are using frozen peas, thaw them in hot water and add it to the rice to cook.
  • If you are using fresh green peas that are not very tender, microwave in a cup of water for 5-7 minutes before adding to the rice. 
  • Adding ghee fried cashew nuts as a topping enhances the taste and also makes it heavy. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice tasty and healthy rice dish. thanks Sattva

Jay said...

wow..looks delicious
great recipe..:)

Tasty Appetite

Jay said...
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