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rice fieldsPrevious Story: Lemon Rice

"Ma, are there any other quick and easy mains rice dishes or have I learnt them all now?" Hosh asked.

"Learnt all rice dishes?" Isha laughed, "You haven't even started. There is so much variety in food, as different cultures prepare the same staple foods differently and with different spice combinations."

"According to Wikipedia, of more than 50,000 edible plant species in the world, only a few hundred contribute significantly to human food supplies."

"Just 15 crop plants provide 90% of the world's plant food. The top three alone - Rice, maize and wheat - make up two-thirds of human plant food consumption, being the staples of over 4 billion people."

"Let me teach you another rice mains dish today which will look quite different and colorful compared to the rice dishes you have cooked till date, even though most of the same ingredients are used."

"Tamatar Basmati is quick and easy to make yet it turns out looking rich and tasting delicious. Basmati fragrance is compromised a bit because tomato has a powerful flavor, but the dish gets compensated for that as tomato also lends the dish its rich color lavishly."

He watched a Youtube video of a Japanese farmer planting rice in his small paddy as she wrote down an Ingredients List for him. It read:

  • 1 cup Rice (Long grain or Basmati)
  • 2 cups warm Water
  • 1 small tin of pulped Tomatoes
  • 1 Cinnamon stick (2 inches long, break into 2-3 pieces)
  • 1 crumpled Bay Leaf
  • 2 fresh green Chili
  • 2 tablespoon Oil or Ghee
  • Chopped fresh Coriander (or Parsley) leaves to garnish
  • Salt to taste

As he had been doing already, Hosh washed, drained and dried the rice. As always, he had selected to use a sauce pan over double in size the quantity of rice, as rice expanded when cooked.

"Slice the green Chilies round or lengthways and de-seed," Isha said, "Leave seeds in if you wish your dish to be hotter. When I am cooking for sensitive European guests, I don't use the chilies at all."

"Sieve fresh tomatoes or blend to a fine pulp in the food processor, or use a pulped can. Put oil, ghee or butter in a sauce pan, and fry for a couple of minutes the Cinnamon stick, Bay Leaf and Chilies."

"Other vegetables can be added to this dish at the stage after frying the Cinnamon stick and Bay Leaf, if you so wish. Then add tomato pulp, rice, warm water and salt."

"How long will it take to cook Ma," asked Hosh, "and how will I know when it's done?"

"Bring to boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes," she said, "or until rice has cooked and the water has evaporated. If the rice is not cooked yet because of added vegetables, add more water and let it simmer till it is cooked."

"Standard tests as before to check if rice is cooked. Then remove the rice from the heat, leaving the lid on for another five minutes to allow the rice to firm."

Chicken Biryani tomato rice"Just before serving, lightly spread and rake up the grains for presentation," she concluded.

"Then garnish with fresh coriander, slices of raw onion, boiled eggs, lime or lemon. The choices are endless."

He followed her instructions to the letter, but the proof of pudding is in its eating.

'Yes!' his mind silently proclaimed at the dinner table that evening, when he saw his father spontaneously lift the rice bowl to his nose, smell its fragrance and go Mmmm.

Isha noticed it too. A slow smile spread on her face.

Next Story: Spicy Khichdi

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