On A Mission

..to be vegetarian for nine days. People have told me, skeptically, before “Nobody can be vegetarian for just a few days”. It is possible though, especially in Hinduism where you can celebrate certain festivals by being vegetarian for a few days while those festivals are on. I’m vegetarian for Navrathri which means “Nine nights”. Navrathri is a festival that celebrates the Hindu Goddess Shakthi and her different avatars. Each day has its own significance.

Back home, my great grandfather started this tradition of having yearly prayers at a temple my family and extended family frequents, during this festival. My family and relatives still practice this tradition, until today. Usually on the 10th or 11th day (there are so many people wanting to have similar prayers at that temple so we have to wait in line :)) there’s a prayer that takes place in the evening. Years ago when my elder sister was learning Indian classical dance, she would perform during this festival. My whole family would be vegetarian for 9 days followed by the additional day or two that led up to the prayers.

Now it’s tricky to be vegetarian in a country where most of the dishes are meat-based: fish, beef, pork, and chicken. I’m a bit lucky as my office canteen has a vegetarian option every day. However, the best vegetarian food for me, is Indian vegetarian food. If my Mother read this, she’d be amused. I used to hate vegetarian food, but over the years, after being confused as a vegetarian (this whole not-eating-beef thing is quite confusing for a lot of people I know so they automatically assume I’m vegetarian, which is not really a bad thing), I’ve kind of gotten used to eating more vegetarian dishes. I don’t really mind it at all.

Warm chappatis served with Channa Masala, capsicum stuffed with paneer and cashews and then coated in gravy, garlic naan, Palak Paneer,.. *sigh* and then there’s Pulao, which I ate for three consecutive days while in Chennai. These type of dishes make me weak at the knees.

So in an attempt to re-create the Pulao I ate in Chennai, I randomly searched for some recipes online and then experimented with them. This is a bit of  a Franken-Pulao dish as:

  1. I don’t have a pressure cooker. Most recipes mention that this is needed. I used my rice cooker instead.
  2. I forgot to put in the capsicum and carrot I had bought for the dish. I think I was just too hungry 🙂

Everybody needs a little bit of motivation to get things done, so before we move on to the recipe, here’s a photograph to get you going.

Mushroom Pulao

Excuse the mountain of fried onions. It’s one of my weaknesses and I try very hard to resist it most days as I think it’s quite high in sodium. Actually, at dinner parties back home, fried onions are always used to garnish rice dishes. If you see somebody picking at the fried onions in an attempt to get more of it on their plate, that’s me; pretend you didn’t see.

I normally don’t cook with much measurement – which makes it hard for the bf to replicate dishes when he tries to cook without me. (We have that deal sometimes – I give him a recipe via e-mail, in the most formulaic manner I can think of, and he attempts to make it while I stay away from the kitchen or his apartment until the dish is ready to be eaten. The bf is pretty good at cooking; he has his own style but the food is always good.)

So, for this dish you need (feeds two hungry people):

  • Some mushrooms – I used champignon, about 10-12 medium sized ones. Wash, peel and slice them.
  • 1 cup of rice – I used Basmati
  • 1 medium onion, chopped – I used the maroonish coloured ones as I like how they are sweeter than white onions.
  • A handful of cashewnuts – I cheated a bit by using pre-roasted but unsalted ones.
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter) – since this is an Indian dish, the ghee is kind of crucial as the fragrance of ghee wafting through your kitchen is part of the “experience”. I have ghee in my genes – my mother used to eat plain white rice with ghee, as a child. I don’t cook with it often, but I still keep some in my fridge.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic paste – I used bottled garlic paste. 1/2 teaspoon is equivalent (roughly) to 2 medium cloves of garlic.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder – you could use 1 cinnamon stick if you prefer
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin (jeera) seeds
  • 2 small bay leaves (optional). I’ve once read that you shouldn’t eat bay leaves as they are bad for your digestion, not sure how true that is – but you can cook with it. Strange huh 😉
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut milk (optional). I used it because the IndianVegetarianKitchen recommends it 🙂
  • Salt and pepper according to your taste

Here’s the method:

  1. Heat a frying pan with the ghee and fry onions and garlic. When the mixture is fragrant, add in the cashew nuts.
  2. Toss the cashew nuts in the ghee until they are evenly coated.
  3. Add in mushrooms and cook thoroughly. You can decide how well you want them to be cooked but I usually cook my mushrooms until their juice comes out.
  4. Add in turmeric, cumin, bay leaves, and cinnamon; Stir thoroughly. Remove the frying pan from heat and set aside.
  5. Wash the rice and cover with slightly less water than necessary. This depends on the type of rice you are using and your rice cooker. Basmati is a bit special in that it can take up to double the amount of water in ratio to the amount of rice used. So, with this in mind, I put almost 1.5 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of coconut milk. It’s okay if the liquid is a little bit less as there is a small amount of liquid in the cooked ingredients. In fact, I think it’s better to have less liquid (and have to add a tablespoon or two of water later) than to have too much liquid and result in porridge.
  6. Cook the pulao as usual with the rice cooker.
  7. Serve with fried onions or sweet mango chutney.

Random fact: When I first moved to Norway and started cooking, I used to make mango chutney from scratch. These days I’m a bit lazy busy so I use bottled mango chutneys instead. Try Patak’s or Rajah.

Note: This recipe is a bit of an expriment. Please don’t be mad at me if it doesn’t turn out. To be on the safe side, I would recommend reading one or  two other Mushroom Pulao recipes to get a better idea of the general steps and measurements used. I’m quite reckless in the kitchen 🙂


8 responses

  1. YAY cooking post! I was vegetarian for 2 years before and you’re right, the best vegan food is definitely indian food. Sooo much flavor to it. I remember having yummy vegan food in Chennai and was amazed food can taste this good without the sight of meat. Anyway your mushroom pulao looks goooood! And great ot know you’re keeping the tradition going 🙂

    • For 2 years? Wow. How did you do it? Hm, I think vegan is without any animal products right? But yes, in Chennai I think it’s really easy to be vegetarian especially with so many pure vege restaurants. Do try the Mushroom Pulao. You can substitute it with paneer if you want and serve it with some nice curry.

  2. Yea coz my grandmom passed away so we had to be vegan for a month. I took a vow to be a vegan for a year and somehow it went on for 2 years. I was so slim then, lol. Oh but I did have egg though so not sure if considered pure vegan. Okay wll definitely try it when I can and god i love paneer!

    • Wow, two whole years. I’m really impressed. I really cannot survive without egg because I love bread and pastries 🙂 I’m sure it will taste exquisite if made with paneer. You’re tempting me now!

    • Impressive 🙂 I contemplate being vegetarian sometimes, but don’t have the guts for it. It’s kind of hard to eat out and at friends/relatives’ homes too :/

    • Here’s the recipe babe 🙂 It takes maximum 30 minutes:

      South Indian style Mango Chutney recipe:
      – Peel and cut 2 mangoes into cubes
      – Slice 1 big onion into long strips
      – Fry mustard seeds in some oil
      – When the seeds start to pop (you’ll hear a sound, or smell it a bit), add in onions
      – Once the onions get a bit soft, add the mangoes in
      – Add water

      Depending on how soft your mangoes are, you could start with 1/2 a cup first and see if the mangoes get softer. If the mangoes are really ripe, they will break apart when you press it with the spoon. That’s the kind of texture you want for your chutney. If it’s not, then you need to add more water, reduce the heat a little, and let the mangoes cook.

      – Once you’ve added the water, add tamarind paste (usually about 1 tablespoon), 1 teaspoon turmeric, some chili powder or cayenne pepper (if you want it spicy), 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (this depends on how sweet your mangoes are – if they are sweet, 1 teaspoon is good enough, just for the brownish colour, otherwise you might have to put a bit more to neutralize the mango’s sour taste)

      – Stir well, taste it to see if its up to your standards 🙂

      – If it is, switch off the stove and cool it before serving. Otherwise reduce the heat and let it cook for awhile more

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