Basmati Rice with Saffron, Spices and Okra Croutons
Although I have not studied with Julie Sahni I have learned to prepare many of her wonderful dishes from her telvision presentations. I know her to be one of the foremost teachers and writers of Indian cookery. Interestingly she came to the United States from India to study architecture and received her master’s degree. She, in fact, developed a career in architecture for ten years before she realized that cooking was her true calling. I must credit her with the crispy okra croutons in the next recipe—the epitome of umami.
DESLIMING OKRA (yes, de-slime-ing). They said it couldn’t be done. But they were wrong. If you think of okra as slimy, think again. You are going to love these crisp okra croutons adorning aromatic basmati rice.
1 t quality saffron roasted, crumbled and loosely packed
2 T warm milk
2 cups basmati rice*
1 ¼ t salt
2 T peanut oil
5 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks, 2-3 inches long
Soak saffron in milk. Wash the rice well in cold water and soak in a bowl with 5 cups of water and ½ teaspoon salt for 30 minutes. Drain. Heat oil on medium heat in a 2-3 quart pot with a tight-fitting lid. Put in the cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks and stir a few times. Add the rice, frying and stirring about a minute. Add 2 ¼ cups water and ¾ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. [While the rice is cooking make the okra croutons.]
Remove cover, fluff rice with a fork and pour the saffron milk over the rice. Run the fork through 2 or 3 times. Cover and continue cooking another 10 minutes.
*I find that imported basmati rice has the best flavor.
1 lb. okra stemmed and cut into ¼-inch slices
3 T peanut oil
Juice of ½ fresh lemon
¼ t ground clove
¼ t salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
Add okra to oil in frying pan over high heat. Lower heat to medium, shaking and stirring about 20 minutes until brown and crisp. Sprinkle with lemon juice, clove, salt and black pepper. Scatter okra croutons over rice and serve. 4-6 servings
A wonderfully pungent and acrid condiment to serve with these dishes is lemon or lime pickle. It is found in jars in Indian grocery stores. I don’t know that even Indian restaurants make their own.
Sources: Indian spices and foodstuffs are available at Kalustyan’s, 123 Lexington Ave., NYC 10016 as well as online. There are many Indian grocery stores on Lexington Ave. in the 20s in NYC. A well stocked online source, also, is http://www.indianfoodco.com