Tomato Rice – With Vegetables. Simple,wholesome,easy!

My interest in genetic manipulations aside, today was a bang on start crazy day. Thunderstorms kept me awake and up and fidgety from an ungodly hour. Clearly the singing of ” brown paper packages ” works only in movies. Bright and early and in this case it was  bright and early and a wee bit cranky cause of all the missed sleep, missed school bus and more! There was this real need to whip up breakfast, lunch dinner and after school snack in about an hour’s time. Make that for 4 please!

For those days when you want something quick and easy, nutritious and guilt free, lip-smacking but not having to do gob smacking work and of course if you absolutely need to clean only one pan or pot, then this works wonders.

Tomato Rice - With Vegetables. Simple,wholesome,easy!

 Please, while I absolutely and fervently hope to use and definitely advocate the utilization of fresh vegetables, a steady supply of fresh frozen organic ones are at hand too as a lifesaver / stopgap for me.  This recipe is so versatile that you can add and reduce the number of vegetables or combinations of it based on the contents of your refrigerator or rather your freezer.

Tomato Rice - With Vegetables. Simple,wholesome,easy!

 Best summarized by  Curnonsky on cooking, perfection, and simplicity “In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection.” Presenting a simple one pot meal that is so perfect that you just need an accompaniment of cool cucumber raita and roasted papad, and you have a winner on your hands.

Perfect cooked and fluffy rice - rich in taste simple in prep
Perfect cooked and fluffy rice – rich in taste simple in prep

 Prep time : 10 min  Cook time : 20-25 min Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:

 Rice:

  • Long grained / Basmati Rice : 2 Cups

 Vegetables and Herbs:

  • Onion: 1 medium or large, chopped or diced fine
  • Tomatoes : 2 medium-sized ones, diced fine
  • Peas and Carrots : 1/4 cup ( frozen or fresh, diced)
  • Mint sprigs : a few, chopped roughly to yield 2 Tbsp.
  • Fresh Curry leaves: 2-3
  • Grated Ginger : 1 tsp.

 Whole spices:

  • Cardamom : 1( cracked open)
  • Cinnamon stick: 1 inch
  • Bay leaf : 1
  • Cloves: 2
  • Mustard seeds: 1 tsp.
  • Cumin Seeds: 1 tsp.
  • Fennel seeds: 1/2 tsp.

 Masala Powders, Salt and Oil

  • Sambar Masala powder: 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala Powder : 1 tsp ( optional)
  • Red chili powder : 1 tsp.
  • Salt : 1 – 1.5 tsp.
  • Oil : 2 Tbsp.

 Garnish :

  • Fresh chopped cilantro : 2 Tbsp.

 Method:

  • In a wide saucepan or deep skillet ( must have lid) add in the oil and on heating add in the whole spices. The spices sizzle and yield an aroma that is quite good. Add in the curry leaves and grated ginger now.
  • Add in the chopped onion and sauté then very well . Add in the chopped mint, followed by the peas and carrots. Stir for a good couple of minutes so the carrots and peas start to stew a bit.
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes next and sauté for a minute or two and then add in the salt. Based on how juicy your tomatoes are, the next step  will take any from a couple of minutes to about 5 or so. Let the juices of the tomato and veggies reduce a bit.
  • Add in the Sambar masala powder, Garam masala powder and chili powder. Stir very well and let it remain for a minute to shuck off its raw taste.
  • Meanwhile wash the rice very well .
  • Add in the washed rice to this tomato and vegetable mix in the pan. Stir in the rice very well so it gets coated with the spices, oil and vegetables.
  • Add in 4 cups of water ( 2 cups of basmati rice is usually cooked in about 4 cups of water to yield soft , fluffy grains. You might need to adjust the water based on the rice used) and cover and cook for about 15 minutes or so. Do not stir in between. Do cook on medium heat as well.
  • Once done , fluff up the rice, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with cool raita  and fresh roasted papad.

Banana Walnut Cake – So awesome, Light , Fluffy and Nutty!

Planning your day around possible thunderstorms is a bit like planning a scientific experiment with a ton of variables thrown in. An experiment, that is fun but the outcome  is so unpredictable . To cut a long story short, it was the ” boy who cried wolf “.. while the huge thunderstorms didn’t show up, what did was  a reminder from mother nature that she  was the  one in charge . And we were blessed with blistering temperatures hitting near ninety ..Lovely !!

And of course when temperatures hit that high,  the stock of sorry looking bananas get even more sorrier. read natural organic progression .. more dark brown spots appear ( more like the pounds that magically appear on self ). 🙂 Well, I cannot just dump nearly half a dozen bananas out. They were just overripe and more sweet than the youthful ones. But no amount of cajoling could get my 3A’s to venture near them. And then inspiration stuck, or rather the thought in the back burner   just jumped several hoops ahead to make itself shout ” Make banana bread / cake “. Sure, sounds easy, but here is the cinch, I have never baked this one. Yes, I have baked so many more kinds, but banana bread/cake, the easy peesy one, I have never attempted to do so. Well partially because , I had a good friend who would treat me to her delectable version quite often and partly because it’s banana bread. And well honestly a fruit smoothie would be so much easier. Just throw in the bananas, add a couple more fruits, a dash of honey and there you have it. But no, the itch to bake set in and I do need to scratch it. Call me stubborn, but my friend , let’s just call her D ( you know who you are , sweety), had this heavenly version and  I just wanted to try it. After about  half an hour of searching,I did manage to locate the one. Here is the version, that she primarily used. (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/a-number-1-banana-cake/)

This is the one I based this experiment upon,  but of course my pantry ingredients decided the kind that went into the batter mix. Seriously, I was in  no mood to go shopping to the grocery store in the sweltering heat, just because I did not have buttermilk. The ones’ marked in Asterix, are variations of the original recipe.

Alright , folks, this is my version of the ingredients that went in:

  • 2.5 cups of self rising flour* ( notice it is self rising, why? cause I did not have the regular one ,and seriously a little bit of baking powder should technically make the cake more airy. In any case, my gripe about the run to the grocery store , well I stood my ground )
  • 1/2 cup of  unsalted butter .( You can substitute this with almond butter for a more nuttier taste I suppose )
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup of milk* ( the original recipe called for butter milk. Well, I decided to use milk here 🙂 . Why.. well no buttermilk and seriously, thought milk would be an awesome choice. I used 1% milk of course.)
  • 1 and 3/4 cup of sugar* – I used brown granulated sugar entirely
  • About 5 medium ripe bananas  * mine were pretty spotty brown ( the original recipe calls for 4. But I suppose an additional banana would do no harm )
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • A generous pinch of saffron *( I know I am obsessed with saffron )
  • A generous pinch of caradamom powder *
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup of skinned sliced almonds*
  • A pinch of cinnamon powder *

( Whew, don’t let the exhausting list fool you. I just emptied those nuts that were sitting in the pantry. And decided to add in a few flavors  to enhance the mix. More like, once I get started, I just cannot get to stop myself from adding a dash of this and dash of that ).

Alright, now that the stage is set, lets get the gooey good stuff going.

Prep work:

  • Preheat the oven / 350 deg
  • Grease and flour the pans of your choice. the original recipe called for two 8 inch pans. I used one 8  inch round and one 9 inch square pan.

Let’s get the party started …

  1. Sift the flour,baking soda and salt together and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter,sugar and eggs.
  3. Add in the pureed bananas,,cardamom powder ,cinnamon powder and saffron strands.
  4. Add in the flour and whip up the gooey mixture.
  5. Fold in the walnuts and almonds

Let’s cook them:

Stick those pans in the preheated oven and bake them at 350 deg for 30 min.

The results:

Holy mackerel ! Honest to goodness yummy light and fluffy and airy goodness in squares and circles. Beautiful brown goodness, perfectly baked and crunchy walnuts. The aroma filled the entire kitchen and brought the oldest scooting down to the kitchen.. all the way form the attic. 🙂

Texture : Very very soft ( possibly the baking powder in the self rising flour combined with the baking soda, did wonders) and porus.

Aroma : Fragrant cardamom and hint of cinnamon with saffron emanating creating the wonderful fusion with bananas.

Serve it up..the kids devoured it it warm with the cool combination of whipped cream. Yummy!

Verdict: Just awesome !.. And like I always believe, great cooking results is mostly achieved by right combination of ingredients and the freshness of  your stock. And of course, the right chemistry !!!