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 packed1 tbsp miced hot green chillies1 tbsp scraped fresh ginger3 tbsp coarsely chopped coriander1/2 cup yogurt1/4 tsp turmeric1/4 tbsp fresh grated black pepper1 tbsp oil or ghee1 small cauliflower , washed , trimmed and cut into medium piecessalt to taste
For the Rice:1 cup basmati rice1 tbsp oil or ghee1 small bay leaf1 tsp cumin seeds1/2 tsp mustard seeds1 and 3/4 cup water1 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.