Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Achari Chole Pulav - pulav made with freshly roasted pickle spices

I promise I won't talk about weather today, not even the declared emergency in the Southern states and the layers of ice.. I am completely done with (just reading about and hearing of) the weather this year, I can't imagine how people affected directly are managing. I personally am enjoying the temperatures here with a little bit of snow thrown in for variety last weekend which by the way is completely gone and the roads are safe and clear.

Now onto other interesting topics :-). After having worked at my last company for 6 years, 2 of which remotely (yep, I was the working woman in my pajamas :-)) which kind of explains the flexibility I had to do other things, I finally bid adieu to that work and have accepted an offer to work in the Marissa Meyer style :-), I get up, get dressed, go to an office and work. I am on that 'in between' 2 weeks right now before starting off in another 10 days. Working from home while has its perks also comes with its list of woes, first & foremost from people asking me incredulously, "How do you do that?". It is simple really, just draw the lines on what can and cannot be done during your work hours and you will keep the productivity high come rain or shine :-). That was a phase of life, I accepted and enjoyed but it is now time to change some gears, I am looking forward to my new stint, will keep you all posted.
Obviously this is a change and like all changes it will take some time to become used to. Does that mean I am going to stop blogging? Heck, no, not a chance. This activity has brought so much of personal satisfaction I can't even begin to describe it to anyone, it has been an anchor on bad days and made me feel like a soaring bird on better days. As I start my new adventure, I might skip some beats but I am sure things will fall into place like they always do. Until then, my dearest readers, please hang in there with your support, visits and feedback.

I am using these 2 weeks of break to read, read and read a lot of books that were on my list (like I am either starved or will never again get time in my life to read :-)), it feels like old days in school and college when the first thing I would do after every set of exams was to go to the library and get an armload of books and sit in a corner of the big yard and read to my heart's content. One thing, I couldn't do then was to ever sleep without finishing a book, so there were many long nights. I haven't been able to do that in many years but finally did that last few days :-) and it felt so.. good.

I got a few books this past week, while some are worth talking about, a few were bad choices and better left alone. If there is one thing I would say without an instant's delay when I asked what I like most about this second home of mine is the public library system here. Coming from India, I had spent most of my childhood and young adulthood in libraries I thought had a great collection. My parents being voracious readers themselves, got us books to read from every possible place. If there was a library in the neighborhood, I definitely had been there at some point. But nothing had prepared me for the experience of the easy accessibility of public libraries I find here. They are free, they have huge collection and are every where. DD literally grew up in those cozy rooms filled with shelves of books since she was a toddler. The first thing we would do when her summer vacations started every year was to go the local public library and sign up for summer reading though she didn't need any incentive for reading. I am glad she enjoys reading just for the fun of it.

So back to the list of books I enjoyed recently, here are some. Hope you like some or most of these, do let me know and we can strike a conversation.
ElseWhere by Richard Russo
This is a memoir, a beautiful story of the author's relationship with his mother. Having been brought up by his single mother, it traces how the dependency equation changes as they grow older. The mom is someone who is born and grown up in a small industrial town that is in ruins and wants to get away, but as the memoir unfolds you will see that it is not from that town she wants to really get away but doesn't feel settled and happy anywhere else either. There is a heart breaking diagnosis he makes post her death which seems to give him some understanding of things. For me, all that mattered was the bond that is forged between the mom and the son. It is not a light read definitely, tugs you down at places but I enjoyed it very much. So I went ahead and got another book from the same author, 'Nobody's Fool', haven't started it yet.

And the Mountains echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Having read his earlier two books, I was waiting for this one to come out but didn't get a chance to get my hands on it until now. There are some books you cannot read in a hurry, they have to be slow reads, pondered over, felt in the bones and that is the only way to enjoy them. KH's books are like that, you cannot read them at one stretch because the subject invariably is heavy at the same time you cannot read a couple of pages (like I am doing my next one here), leave it lying on the night stand and return after a few days/weeks. Like his previous novels, this is set in Afghanistan too but the characters take you around the world to Greece, Paris and California, the story is told in first person by different characters and you can almost feel their life and see it unfold infront of your eyes, very vivid, almost graphic description - that is the power of his narration.

American Pie by Peter Reinhart

Well, there had to be atleast one food related book, right? I was looking for his other book 'Bread Baker's apprentice' but all the copies were out and I am on a hold list for it. I first saw a PR's pizza recipe in a magazine and made it at home last year, it was an instant hit and I fell in love with this master's recipe and techniques. Also, I gradually found out that he is one of the most revered baker, baking instructor and is most passionate about pizza making. This book has recipes at the end (I haven't gotten there yet) but what interested me is his search for finding the roots of this pie and find the best of it. There is a lot of travelogue and history associated with each place he goes to and it is as delicious as a perfectly baked pizza' :-). I am still savoring it.

Back to the recipe today, what I have is a very aromatic, tangy and spicy pulav that is so simple to make you will be licking your fingers longer than it took to actually make the rice. I saw this recipe in a cookery book by one of my favorite chefs who passed away recently - Tarla Dalal. I really salute the lady for her versatility and the sweet nature that seemed to exude in her TV appearances. However, I have found that I do not personally enjoy her recipes when made exactly to the Tee but take an idea from her, apply some of my own personality, the dish will invariably be a hit. This is what I mostly do with TD's recipes, a little change here, an addition there, some variation and I am good to go. This achari chole pulav can be made on any day with some basmati rice, a can of garbanzo and some spices. There are no vegetables here and hence is perfect for the day when you have just cleaned up your refrigerator and not yet restocked it.
For a South Indian by birth and nurture like me, pickle masala has a different connotation than what it includes in North Indian pickles. Mustard, red chilies and fenugreek are the common spices but North Indian pickles add some more. While I do not necessarily enjoy these spices in pickles, I have realized I love those flavors in curries and this rice. TD's recipe asks you to just roast the whole spices in oil but I feel they make a better impact when coarsely powdered to release their flavors. You can do it either way.
What do you need to make Achari chole pulav? 
1.5 cup basmati rice
1.5 cups cooked garbanzo beans/chole
1 cup long sliced onion
2 Tblsp oil
1 cup yogurt (slightly sour and a day old works best)
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste, remember pickle has loads of slat already)
1/2 Tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup chopped mint
1 Tsp mango pickle/thokku (use good quality flavorful pickle for best results)
2 green chilies
Achari masala:
1 Tblsp mustard
3/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds/methi
3/4 Tsp nigella seeds/kalonji
1 Tblsp fennel seeds/saunf
4-5 red chilies
How do you make Achari chole pulav? 
  • Soak rice for 25-30 minutes.
  • Wash and rinse in 2 changes of water.
  • Make a coarse powder of the achari masala.
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or pressure pan, add cumin and bay leaf.
  • Once cumin sizzles, add onion, let brown slightly and turn limp, stir once or twice.
  • Add the ground powder and roast for 30-45 seconds.
  • Add chopped mint, yogurt and pickle and mix well.
  • Add chole and let it cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes to get the flavors to the core of garbanzo beans.
  • Add the washed rice, give a gentle mix and add 1 cup of water(See NOTES below).
  • Cover with a tight fitting lid, simmer the heat and cook for 15 minutes. 
  • Open the lid and check if it needs additional water, adjust accordingly, cover back and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes. 
  • Switch off & let it sit for 10 minutes before opening the lid again and fluffing the pulav with a fork. 
  • Steaming hot, bursting with flavors pulav is ready to serve. 
  • Basmati rice especially when soaked before cooking takes less water, you will also need to count the amount of liquid that is already in the pot as yogurt. Adjust water accordingly. I would start with that 1 cup and sprinkle a couple of spoons if the rice looks very dry at the end of the first 15 minutes of cooking. 
  • The quality and taste of the pickle you use matter a lot in this rice, mango pickles (just the masala part with no mango pieces) work best especially the Andhra avakkaya or the thokku. Original recipe uses green chili pickles as an alternative.
  • You can add paneer cubes marinated in the pickle flavors to this pulav for added protein and taste. Toss paneer cubes in 2 Tbsp of yogurt mixed with 1/4 Tsp of the pickle masala powder and a pinch of salt, keep aside for 20-30 minutes. Add them towards the end of cooking process. Use directly if you have fresh paneer or toast them lightly in oil if using the frozen variety. 


Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Congratulations on your new job, Nagashree.
I am in love with the flavors of this pulao...Looks delicious

NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice pictures and mouth watering recipe indeed. tomorrow i will prepare chole sure.
happy Valentine's day to all sattvaa readers .enjoy .