Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Birthday cook-up round up 3: Kanu Festival tamarind & coconut pullao

Photo courtesy of Lea at Aloha Mahalo

A few years back, when back in Scotland for a sad occasion, one of my uncles had an jolly Easter BBQ and we were invited. It was a bit of an eye opener, as I don't recall even knowing what a barbecue was back in the 1970s, before we emigrated to Australia where, of course, barbecuing is a way of life (g). Well, it seems the Scots have taken to barbecuing in a big way. And not just in terms of slapping a steak on the grill. My uncle's spread had all manner of Indian goodies as well, including a potato dish that I may be reduced to begging to get the recipe for (g).

Anyway, Indian food has been creeping into my repertoire ever since, and I knew I wanted something Indian on the menu for my big party this year. I toyed with a lemon rice dish sharpened with citric acid that I found in a treasure of a book called The Indian Kitchen. But I held back because I had a sharpish recipe in doro wat and injera.

I also thought about Bombay potatoes, which I have promised, but not quite got round to making for my dear friend H. But I just knew that my Japanese and Iranian guests would miss their rice if I didn't have it on the menu.

So instead, I went with this lovely sweet and sour stir-fried rice dish with the works from Najmieh Batmanglij's inspirational Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. Najmieh khanom tells us that the dish is offered for thanksgiving at the Kanu Festival in January. Well, February is close enough, right? Plus who can resist tamarind and spices? Not me, anyway.

The dish is also chock full with sesame seeds, desiccated coconut, sultanas and fresh coriander, making every mouthful an adventure. It also contains asafetida, a flavouring agent that's a bit on the nose (hence the "fetid"), but like all these things, brilliant in small quantities. It is available in Japan from Ohtsuya in Ueno, but can be left out if you can't find it.

Kanu Festival tamarind & coconut pullao

2 cups of rice (long-grain basmati, for preference)
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup raw peanuts (or salted peanuts, rinsed of their salt (g))
1/2 cup sultanas (or raisins)
1/2 tsp ground asafetida
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
green chillies, seeded and sliced, to taste
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
2 tsp salt
1 packed cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
2 cups chopped fresh coriander

1. Cook rice by the absorption method .

2. In a wok or medium-sized non-stick pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat, add the peanuts and raisins, and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3. In the same wok, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat until very hot and add the asafetida, mustard seeds, coriander, cumin seeds, black pepper and sesame seeds, and cook for 10 seconds until aromatic (keep a lid handy to catch any seeds that try to pop out). Add the chillies and stir-fry for 20 seconds.

4. Add the tamarind, sugar and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the cooked rice and dessicated coconut, and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the sauce blends thoroughly with the rice [S: this can take a while; be patient]. Adjust seasoning, adding more sugar or tamarind paste as necessary (the rice should have a distinct sweet and sour flavour). Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes longer.

5. Remove from heat, uncover, and add the nut mixture and chopped coriander. Fluff the rice gently with a fork. Transfer to serving dish.


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