Usually, through the week, I'm lucky enough to have someone who does the cooking for us. Of course, often on weekends, I like whipping up a little something in the kitchen. but then there are the times when I'm not really in the mood, with a mad weekend of errands or worse, some work left over, and my cook is unwell or has other commitments. Those are the days when I have to perforce cook, and typically those are the busiest days as well, when I want to make something that gets done without too much effort and yet tastes good to kids, hubby and of course, foodie me. Of course, the better alternatives are there too - eat at my parents' place, for instance!
However, to resume, on days when I need a fast yet nutritious meal, I turn to the vast repertoire of rice dishes from Karnataka. Some of the veg combos are ones my mom whipped up or came up with, given the veggies available up north, and some are traditional but all taste good! I usually keep vangibhath powder on hand, making once in 2-3 months or so, and it stays pretty well if you don't add the dessicated coconut, which sometimes can turn rancid and give off that oily smell. So all it takes is to cook up some fluffy Basmati rice, and assorted veggies, add the powder and some tadka, mix it up and dig in!
Here's a couple of plates I made up a few weeks ago:
Peas and fenugreek greens ( Methi-matar) with rice, served with Beetroot or cucumber Tzatziki.
This works very well with kids, particularly the beetroot tzatziki because the zingy fuchsia colour, spiked with the fresh green of coriander leaves makes for an intriguing looking accompaniment. VangiBhath Powder
Handful Chana Dal
1 tbsp Urad Dal
1 tbsp coriander seeds
5-6 dried red chillies
Handful dessicated coconut
Pinch Heeng ( Asafoetida)
1 inch piece of cinnamon bark
Handful curry leaves
Roast the chana dal in a bandley (wok), using very few drops of oil. Keep aside to cool and roast the urad dal in the oil left over. Keep aside to cool.
Roast the coriander seeds and the red chillies until the chillies turn shiny and give off a warm smell.
Roast the cinnamon bark, curry leaves and the heeng for 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. Put the dessicated coconut into the warm pan and let it roast a little in the remaining warmth of the pan.
Grind the ingredients together finely. Add a little turmeric and mix well. Store in an air-tight jar for upto 2 months. If storing for longer, do not add the dessicated coconut - that can be added each time you make the dish.
Prepare the garnish:
Heat 2-3 tsp oil and add 1 tsp black mustard seeds. When they explode, add curry leaves and about 15-20 cashew nuts broken into quarters. When the cashews are browned, the garnish is done.
Assemble as below:
Make fluffy rice ( about 1/4th cup uncooked rice per adult for flavoured rice dishes).
Add vegetables - the usual suspects include 2 inch long, thin slices of eggplant ( Baingan) , cucumber, diced medium, tinda diced large, methi and matar ( fenugreek greens and fresh peas), green bell peppers with cucumber or eggplant, or by itself with fresh peas. The vegetables need to be cooked in a typical Karnataka tadka - 2 tsp oil with mustard seeds. pop the cut veggies into this after the mustard seeds have exploded, and let them cook until well done.
Top the rice with the vegetables, and heap the Vangibhath powder on top ( to taste). Add the garnish and salt to taste.
Mix well, ensuring that the vegetables, salt and spice mixture are evenly distributed through the rice.
Serve hot or at room temperature with raita/ Tzatziki on the side.
1 beetroot, grated ( raw)
1 red onion, chopped fine
handful coriander leaves, chopped
1 cup yoghurt ( home made curds)
1-2 green chillies, chopped fine
Salt to taste
Mix all the other ingredients together and top with the chopped coriander for contrasting colour.