Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vaishnav Cauliflower pilaf

Last week I checked out couple of Vegetarian cooking books from the library and stumbled across this gem of a book - The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi.
Yamuna Devi is an American turned Vaishnav follower of Srila Prabhupada - the founder of ISKCON as is widespread now. She learnt the Vaishnav/Vedic way of cooking or Lord Krishna's cuisine as she calls it from her Guru, brahmin temple priests and lavish royal kitchens. In Vaishavs cooking is considered to be a spiritual experience - much like meditation, a means of expressing love and devotion to their God and this is exactly what she brings to the book.
Reading the book itself gives you this easy , mellow and peaceful feeling , the respect for ingredients and fresh produce, willingness to explore the power of each spice and flavor that you use - the aim is to cook ordinary food , extraordinarily well..
The beauty of it is that none of her recipes even use Onion, garlic - things we consider staple for the ubiquitous 'Indian Curry' .. and I have to call this synchronicity - this week is the Jain Paryushan that I try to follow and out of innumerable items that I can or should give up , onion and garlic are the prime ones.
So this week has been a meditation in cooking experience for me and here is the first recipe from the book. I have tried to copy it verbatim just to give a feel of her language and minutiae of the holistic process of cooking as depicted by her. I think Im converted!
Yamuna Devi's recipe for Rice and Cauliflower pilaf :
For the cauliflower:
1/4 cup fresh or dried coconut loosely packed
1 tbsp miced hot green chillies
1 tbsp scraped fresh ginger
3 tbsp coarsely chopped coriander
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tbsp fresh grated black pepper
1 tbsp oil or ghee
1 small cauliflower , washed , trimmed and cut into medium pieces
salt to taste
For the Rice:
1 cup basmati rice
1 tbsp oil or ghee
1 small bay leaf
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 and 3/4 cup water
1 tsp raw sugar
To cook the cauliflower:
  • Combine the coconut,green chillies, ginger , coriander and yogurt in a blender. Scrape into a bowl and mix in turmeric, black pepper and salt.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan till hot but not smoking.Drop in the cauliflower flowerets and stir-fry for about 5 mins or till slightly browned.Pour in the yogurt mixture and stir well. Reduce the heat slightly and fry until the vegetable is dry and half-cooked.
  • Remove the pan from heat and transfer the contents to a small bowl. Wipe the pan clean . (Notice the attention to detail and the quaintness of it :) )
To cook the rice:
  • If Basmati rice is used , clean ,wash ,soak and drain as explained . (This is addressed separately - Rice is cleaned in water and soaked for 10 mins and then the water drained and kept aside to be kept later. The rice is air-dried for another 10 mins before we cook it.)
  • Heat a tbsp of oil in the pan over moderate heat. Fry the bay leaf, cumin seeds,mustard seeds till the seeds pop. Pour in the rice and stir-fry for 2-3 mins.
  • Add the water and sweetener , raise the heat to high and bring the water to boil. Stir in the seasoned cauliflower , reduce the heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer gently, without stirring for about 15 mins. Turn the heat off and let the rice sit, covered for 5 mins to allow the fragile grain to firm up. Just before serving, remove the cover and add a tbsp of ghee/butter and fluff the piping-hot rice with a fork.
The rice was amazingly soft and fragrant and each cauliflower floweret had a subtle and delicious taste to it . A great success and Ive already bookmarked other recipes to try soon.


  1. This sounds like a gorgeous recipe, beautifully aromatic and flavorful despite no onion nor garlic. Thanks for introducing me to Devi's cookbook.

  2. So involved yet so simple. Love the way you described it too in the beginning. :)
    I have eaten a few times at ISCKON and loved their food. Will surely check out the book. :)

  3. I am vaishnav too, may be i'll this pulav next time :) i have eaten at isckon many times, my bro used to study in isckon when younger, love their food, it tastes heavenly!