This is actually a post about a tremendously yummy Indian pilaf–although I am sure it looks like an advertisement for cherry tomatoes. What can I say, when summer hits I start putting those deliciously sweet little guys on everything and anything.
This is a pilaf that caught my eye when I was looking for stuff to cook for my sister–only then I discovered she could not have the carbs. So I made it right after she left. I love Indian rice dishes that include legumes as they make fantastic one pot meals. And I especially love Indian rice dishes that call for parboiling the rice first, since inevitably something goes wrong for me when I try to cook rice in liquid and veggies. Usually it ends up a soggy mess.
This particular pilaf is from Hyderabad, the cuisine of which Madhur Jaffrey describes as combining the best of the Muslim influenced cuisine in India with the best of the aromatic and tart flavorings of southern India. It is the first time I have seen yogurt cooked into a dish this way, and the result was spectacular. I increased the yellow split peas, both for health and personal preference, and the entire family gobbled this right up.
One note about the photo of the casserole–I should have taken a picture when it was layered, before it was stirred, but of course I did not think to.
1 cup yellow split peas, rinsed in cold water
2 cups basmati rice
1/2 t ground turmeric, divided
4 T vegetable oil
2 medium-large onions, thinly sliced
2 T minced ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
7 T whole fat Greek yogurt
salt to taste
1/4 t cayenne or paprika
2 T ghee
2-3 T lemon juice, to taste
2 T milk (I used 1%)
1 1/2 T finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 T finely chopped fresh mint
2-4 fresh green chile peppers, finely chopped, optional
1/2 t garam masala
Cook the dal in simmering water with 1/4 teaspoon turmeric for about 30 minutes, until it is almost tender but the peas are still intact. Drain and set aside.
While the dal is cooking, rinse the rice until the water runs clear and leave it to soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Also fill a medium-large pot (at least 12 cups) with salted water and place on medium-low heat so that it will be ready when you need it.
Heat the oil in a large non stick pan over a medium high heat. When it is hot, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Stir fry until they are caramelized and reddish-brown, adding an additional pinch of salt halfway through. When they are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Put the ginger and garlic into the same oil and cook until lightly browned and fragrant. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric with 1 tablespoon of the yogurt. Stir and cook until most of the moisture from the yogurt has evaporated and what is left browns just a little. Add the rest of the yogurt, one tablespoon at a time, and cook the same way. Add the drained split peas, salt to taste, and the cayenne or paprika. Stir to mix and cook for 1 minute. Then turn the heat down to just maintain the warmth of the dish.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Prepare a large casserole dish by lightly spraying it with vegetable oil.
Bring the heating water to a boil if it is not there already. Drain the rice and add it to the water. Boil the rice until it is about 3 quarters cooked–it will be somewhat hard but should not be crunchy. Drain the rice and add half of it to the prepared casserole pan. Cover the rice with the cooked dal mixture. Cover the dal with the remaining rice. Drizzle the ghee over the dish and then cover it with the cooked onions. Sprinkle lemon juice, milk, cilantro, mint, fresh green chile pepper and garam masala over the top. Cover the casserole tightly and bake for 30 minutes.
Before serving, stir the casserole gently. Serve with chopped sweet tomatoes (in season) or chutney, if desired. I sprinkled additional minced chile peppers over the adult servings.