Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hyderabadi Rice Pilaf Cooked in Rustic Clay

 When planning a company dinner I always like to go all out. I also like to have some dishes on the table that are relatively easy to set up and prepare. It's important to have a variety of tastes, textures and colors on the table in an Indian meal.  My favorites are the ones that get off the stove top and tuck themselves into the oven out of the way and leave me in peace. If they look good when they come out of the oven, that's also a plus!
 One of the easiest ways of making food look stunning coming to the table is the dish it's served in. Even better, if that dish is the same one it's cooked in. Less washing.
 If you haven't gathered it by now, I'm nuts for clay. One thing I've learned is that there are as many types of clay pot as there are cooks in love with them. My favorite clay look is Rustic. The rougher, more down home the clay pot, the better I like it. All of my clay pieces fit the bill, and as they say about shoes, I believe about clay: You can never have too many clay pots!
These are just a few of my beauties. I lean heavily to the natural browns and blacks. The exception is the muted smokey grey green of my Clay Coyote Casserole.
  One of my very very favorite pieces to cook with is my Bram from where else? Bram Cookware.
  On New Years Eve I cooked a goat biryani in it.The other day I used it for a Hyderabadi Rice Pilaf.
  This dish is one that I've been making for years. It's an old Madhur Jaffery recipe. It's easy, tasty, feeds a lot of people and works with either a meat or veg meal.
  The reason it works so well and can even be taken as a main course with a few veg side dishes, is that it is a dish that combines both rice and dal!
    To make this dish, start with the Dal.
1.) Soak 1/2 cup of channa dal in 3 inches of water for 1 and 1/2 hours.
2.) Dump the dal and the water it's soaking in, into a pot
3.) Add 1/4 tsp of turmeric
4.)   Boil the dal.
5.) When it's boiling, partially cover the pot with the lid and turn down the heat.
6.) Simmer the whole thing for about 30 minutes. The dal should be almost tender but not mushy. Drain it.
  At this point you can set it aside. This part can be done several hours ahead which makes things insanely easy.
 Now for the Rice
7.) Wash 2 cups of rice and soak it  in about 2 inches of water for 30 minutes. Then drain it.
 Now for the Onions
8.) Peel, halve and thinly slice 1 large onion
9.) Heat about 2 Tbs of oil in a skillet and stir fry the onions until they're crispy golden brown.
10.) Remove them from the oil and drain them on a paper towel. Set them aside for later.
 Save that oil!
11.) Chop 2 tsp of ginger
12.) 1 tsp of finely chopped garlic or shallot
    Stir fry the ginger and garlic/shallot in the oil the onions were cooked in. Cook until they're light golden colored.
13.) Add in 1/4 tsp of turmeric and
14.) 1 Tbs of yogurt
Stir the yogurt around until most of the liquid evaporates.
15.) Add 4 more Tbs of yogurt one at a time stirring each one in carefully.
16.) Put in the drained and cooked dal and
17.) 1/2 tsp salt
18.) 1/4 tsp kashmiri chili powder
 Mix it up well and cook the dal for about 1 minute.
  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  In a large pot boil 12 cups of water.
 When there is alively boil going on add in
19.) 1 Tbs of salt
20.)  Add in the rice and bring it all to a nice boil once again.
21.)   Boil the rice for 5 minutes only, then drain it.
    Next, Prepping For the Oven
22.)   Put half of the rice into an oven-proof  casserole dish
23.)    Pour the cooked yogurty dal on top of it
24.)  Layer the rest of the rice on top of that.
     Dot the top of the rice with
25.) 2 Tbs of unsalted butter cut into little pieces
26.) Scatter the fried onions over the rice
27.) Sprinkle 2 Tbs of lemon juice over the rice
28.) 1 Tbs of chopped fresh mint
29.) 2 to 4 finely chopped green chilis
30.)  1 Tbs of finely chopped  fresh cilantro
31.)  1/2 tsp garam masala
   Once your toppings are on the rice, you're set for the oven. This dish is cooked in the manner the Indians call Dum.
 This is a way of bake-cooking  where the dish is partially cooked, then sealed into the pot with a lid and finally a ring of flour water bread dough for a tight seal.
In cooking with clay, I was advised by Paula Wolfert that I might not want to take the chance of damaging my clay pot while breaking the dough seal. Instead of the bread dough, I place a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil on top of the dish, crimping it around the sides for a tight fit. I place a heavy lid on top of that. It seems to work perfectly.
  Once the casserole is sealed and lidded, pop it into the oven for 30 minutes.
    It makes a brilliant presentation when the top is popped at the table. Somehow I always expect 4 and 20 blackbirds to fly out, but that's just me.
   This dish is a real star. Serve it up, serve it in clay for a beautiful presentation. And did I mention it also rocks cold, picnic-style the next day?


  1. This looks spectacular. Are the insides of the clay pots glazed? I was curious if they are hard to clean.

  2. you sure have a nice collection of pots! no wonder the dish is so good as well

  3. @ my mans belly,
    the bram is glazed inside unglazed outside. I clean it with warm water and a scrub of either kosher salt or baking soda. The important thing is no soap as it might penetrate the clay and also to sudden temperature shifts in cleaning.they're not hard to clean. Paula Wolfert did tell me that when cooking in clay, keep one pot for meats, one for poultry , another for fish.
    My Joyce Chen pot is fully glazed and can be put in the dishwasher,,they say though I've never done it.

  4. You are NOT kidding when you say you like to go all out! You are such a talented dedicated cook!

  5. This looks SO great!! I think my new life's ambition is to get to come to one of your dinner parties, no joke!! I really do appreciate and admire someone who likes to go all out.



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