Cyrus Todiwala & Café Spice Namasté Masala Bhaat

Vegetarian

The name of this recipe translates as masala rice, but this Maharashtrian speciality is much more than that. I grew up eating several versions in several different homes, each friend’s mother claiming to have the best grandma’s recipe. How could I not say to them all that each one was the best – after all, I was getting a feast and each one was truly spectacular. Masala bhaat is a type of vegetable pulao with a flavoursome combination of spices and nuts. It is best eaten with a thin daal, and of course a good pickle or chutney. The preparation may look daunting and the list of ingredients immense, but, believe me, it is worth a try. The tindli looks like a small marrow or gherkin and has a very sticky sap. If you cannot find any, use a courgette instead.

Ingredients

SERVES 4

5–6 black peppercorns

3–4 cloves

2–3 heaped tbsp desiccated coconut

1 stick of cinnamon or piece of cassia bark

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 heaped tsp sesame seeds

1 heaped tsp cumin seeds

4–5 tbsp sunflower oil or ghee

1⁄2 tsp black mustard seeds

large pinch of asafoetida

10–12 curry leaves

8–10 tindlis, topped and tailed and cut into 4 lengthways, or 1 courgette, diced

4–5 heaped tbsp podded green peas

1 medium aubergine, cubed, sprinkled with salt, rinsed and dried

2 medium potatoes, cubed

3–4 green chillies, slit into 4 lengthways

200g/7oz/1 cup good-quality basmati rice

1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric

1 heaped tbsp chopped cashew nuts

2–3 heaped tbsp skinned raw peanuts

2 tbsp butter or ghee

5–6 tbsp chopped coriander

freshly grated coconut, to serve

salt

Method

1 In a wok or frying pan dry roast the peppercorns, cloves, desiccated coconut, cinnamon, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, and half the cumin. Make sure you do this over a low heat so as not to burn anything. Once roasted, grind everything in a coffee or spice grinder. (You could also roast the spices in a preheated oven at 150–160°C/300–315°F/Gas 2–3 for about 30 minutes, then cool and grind.)

2 Pour the oil or ghee into a wide casserole and heat to as light haze. Add the mustard seeds, and as soon as they start to crackle add the remaining cumin seeds and the asafoetida. As soon as the crackling stops, add the curry leaves and all the vegetables, including the chillies.

3 Sauté for4–6 minutes, then add the rice and turmeric and mix well. Sauté for 3–5 minutes, then add the roasted ground spices, the cashew nuts and the peanuts.

4 Pre heat the oven to130°C/250°C/Gas1.Spread everything out evenly in the casserole and add enough water to cover the rice to a depth of about 21⁄2cm/1in. Season with salt. Once the water comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the casserole with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked and no liquid remains. Place the casserole in the oven for 20 minutes.

5 Remove the rice from the oven and spoon the butter or ghee on top, add the coriander and mix together gently but thoroughly. Serve sprinkled with the freshly grated coconut.

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