Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Palak Rice - a post Holiday quick eat

Hey everyone, hope you all had a good Thanksgiving break if you reside in the US or a great weekend otherwise. We had a wonderful time, enjoyed our vacation and came back yesterday early morning. Everything about the tropical heaven from swaying coconut trees to the fragrant jasmines reminded me of home the entire time. We did some hitherto not done activities as a family and liked it very much. Have loads of pictures to sort through, I will post some on the blog or on the Facebook page, look for them in the coming weeks. Until then, here is a quick preview of some of the tropical beauty.
Before we left for vacation last week, I made sure I had emptied the refrigerator except for a few things that either was not going to go bad or I couldn't get to despite my best intentions. While it felt great to not waste any produce, it also meant I had to go shopping as soon as I came back. So when our travel got a little sticky and we ended up reaching home the next morning instead of the prvious late night, I just couldn't get to the stores and had to make do with whatever I got from scraping the bottom of my refrigerator tubs. All I had left was about a quarter bag of spinach, some green chilies, cilantro and ginger. As there was much to catch up on the work front, I made a quick palak rice that fits snugly with a lunch box menu or a hot plate serving.
We love our greens especially Spinach. There used to be a time when I didn't accept a non sticky spinach when I initially came here. Spinach symbolized a slightly okra-like sliminess in India and also the bunches we got home from the greens patch next door always had loads of soil sticking to it :-). Nammamma kept them in a bucket of cold water the previous evening to wash away the dirt before she picked the leaves and separated the stems for cooking. When I got the first bag of baby spinach here which also had a label  'triple washed, ready to use', I was one of the doubters. It took a while to get adjusted to the new Spinach but I have grown to love them over the years especially the reduced part of cleaning and chopping (if you are one of those super pressed for time, go ahead and get the chopped frozen ones to make life easier :-)). For me convenience plays a big role but as long as there is no compromise on the taste or nutrition.

Back to the Palak rice, this is a very flavorful rice, perfect for when you have little time and still craving for home cooked deliciousness. It is a one pot meal with minimal frills attached to the cooking, while the really basic version (like I have below) is perfectly suited for a thread bare refrigerator supplies, you can definitely jazz up this rice with additional veggies or spices if you are so inclined. I have some variations in the last section if you are interested. Try this and let me know how you liked it.
What do you need to make Palak rice?
2 cups rice (basmati or other long grained rice soaked in water for 30 mins)
4 packed cups of cleaned palak/spinach
2 Tblsp oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
handful of cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans
Whole spices:
2 pieces of 1 inch long cinnamon
1 green cardamom
4 black peppers
3 cloves
To grind:
1/4 cup cilantro
4 green chilies
piece of ginger
1 Tblsp grated coconut
How do you make Palak rice?
  • Blanch palak for 2 minutes in boiling water, strain the water and reserve it.
  • Puree the palak once it cools down.
  • Dry roast the spices for a minute until they are warm, take it aside into a blender jar.
  • Add green chilies, ginger, coconut and cilantro to the blender and make a coarse paste. Use a couple of table spoons of water you have reserved.
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or pressure cooker, add sliced onions and salt and cook on medium heat until onions first turn limp and then start to brown up.
  • Add the blended mixture of spices, pureed palak and mix well. Taste and adjust salt or spices to your liking.
  • Wash the soaked rice and drain it. Add the rice to the pan, measure 3.5 cups of reserved water and add it. Add the chickpeas if using.
  • At this stage you can transfer all the contents to a pressure cooker or rice cooker or continue to cook in the same vessel with a tight fitting lid. Cook until rice is done and fluffy.
  • You can add a handful of mint while making the paste but I prefer the mild taste of palak in this rice and not necessarily turn it into a pulav. Choice is yours.
  • If you have a ripe tomato on hand, either slice and sauté them with onions or grind them with the masala. This adds a little tartness to the rice and enhances the taste.
  • Skip the chickpeas if you don't have them (I usually keep some boiled beans in the refrigerator or a ready to use can in the pantry), instead you can garnish this rice once done with ghee roasted cashews or paneer/tofu cubes - yummmm. Or add a handful of green peas or other beans of choice.
  • Do not throw away the palak blanched water, use it wherever you need liquid/stock as it is full of nutrients.
  • If you are using the open vessel method, bring the heat down to low and also ensure the bottom of your vessel is heavy and thick.
  • Soaking rice for 30 minutes helps reduce the cook time, this can be done while you are prepping the rest of the things.
  • Blanching palak removes the raw smell of the leaves. As soon as you switch off the stove after boiling the leaves, take them out of the water and run cold water on them to retain the rich green color of the leaves. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wonderful write up and mouthwatering Palak rice . after a long trip it is good you eat greens. nice recipe.

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Very flavorful and healthy rice

Ram said...

Super tasty and healthy, Attention into details is very thoughtful