My last few posts have been concentrated on the Tri-fecta extravaganza we held for my parents last week; toss in Easter and we had the Godmother of all Italian dinners. So now it's back to Indian cuisine and one of the dishes I served two weeks ago when Paula Wolfert came to dinner.
It's called Hyderabadi Pilaf and it is an absolutely "save your bacon" dinner party dish. Why? Because like all my favorite Indian party specialties it knows how to mind it's own business, and part of it can be made ahead of time and then finished quickly just before it's popped into the oven. Another point in its' favor is that the dal and rice mixed together in this dish form a complete protein which makes vegetarian diners happy.
Even though the dish is called a pilaf it's not what most people think of as a rice pilaf. As a matter of fact it is actually called Khichdi, or Khichuri and is related to the Asian porridge dish known as Congee and the dish the Brits brought back from the Raj known as Kedgeree. Either way it's cooked all over India in all sorts of different ways. This is one of them.
Hyderabadi Pilaf is my adaptation of a Madhur Jaffery dish I've been cooking for years.
The dish comes in two parts. The Rice part and The Dal part.
The Dal part can be made ahead of time and put together with The Rice part at the time of cooking. Just remember to warm it up before you put it into the dish.
The Dal Part 1
Rinse 1/2 cup of channa dal and soak it in about 3 inches of water for 1 and 1/2 hours.
Take the dal and the water it's been soaking in and put it into a heavy pot.
1/4 tsp of turmeric
Bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and turn down the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.
When the dal has softened but is not mushy, take it off the fire and drain it.
At this point, the dal can be set aside and kept for the next day.
If the dish is being put together in one fell swoop, here's what's next.
The Dal Part 2
Heat 2 Tbs of oil in a heavy skillet. When it's hot add in:
1 large onion, halved and cut into very thin half rings.
Saute them until they are a nice crispy reddish brown color.
Take the onions out of the pan with a slotted spoon and drain them on some paper towels.
Take the oil that the onions were cooked in and add:
2 tsp of finely minced and chopped ginger and
1 tsp of finely minced shallot
Saute these until they're lightly brown now toss in:
1/4 tsp of turmeric
1 Tbs of plain yogurt
Stir it well until the liquid in the yogurt has evaporated and it starts to brown slightly.
Add 4 more Tbs of yogurt one at a time until each has been absorbed.
When all of the yogurt has been added, toss in the cooked dal and
1/2 tsp of salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
Mix it up well and saute it for about 1 minute.
Soak 2 cups of Basmati rice in 2 inches of water for 30 minutes. Then drain it.
How to Put It All Together
Boil 12 cups of water, then add:
1 Tbs of salt
Toss in the drained rice and let it come to a boil again and then let it boil for only 5 minutes.
Drain the rice.
Pour half of the rice into a deep oven-proof baking dish. I use an Egyptian Bram.
Pour the dal over the rice, and then pour the rest of the rice on top of the dal.
Scatter 2 Tbs of butter cut into little pieces on top of the top layer of rice and
Sprinkle the browned crispy onions on top along with
2 tbs of lemon juice
2 Tbs of milk
1 Tbs of finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs of chopped mint
2 finely chopped seeded green chilies
1/2 tsp of garam masala
Now seal the baking dish tightly. Stretch tin foil over the top and crimp it around snugly so that it's well sealed. Place a lid on top of that.
Shove the whole thing into a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.