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Vegetable pulao from Zaika.
Zaika is chef Romy Gill’s first book.
Our cookbook of the week is Zaika: Vegan Recipes from India by chef Romy Gill. Over the next two days, we’ll feature another recipe from the book and an interview with the author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Kachumber salad .
Romy Gill’s vegetable pulao is the perfect showcase for seasonal produce. When she was growing up in Burnpur, a town in West Bengal, her mother made the ever-changing dish with any combination of vegetables she had on hand.
“My mom would cook lots of different kinds of pulaos. There are so many variations. She would make biryanis as well,” says Gill. “Whatever vegetables were in season, she would make it.”
Pulao is a meal in itself, Gill adds. Now, whenever she makes it for her family at home in Thornbury, England, she serves it with a handful of simple accompaniments: onion salad, wedge of lime, green chilies and lauki (bottle gourd) raita.
When she was a child, Gill recounts, she would take any leftovers to school for lunch with a fried egg on top. Irresistible to both her and her best friend, it never made it past 10:30. “I loved it when I was growing up, and my daughters love it,” says Gill. “It’s very special to me.”
300 g basmati rice
5 tsp (25 mL) sunflower oil
1 tsp (5 mL) cumin seeds
4 green cardamom pods
3-cm piece of cassia bark
6 black peppercorns
10 g fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2–3 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) ground turmeric
100 g carrots, sliced into 3-cm slices
50 g runner beans, sliced into 3-cm chunks
100 g small cauliflower florets
2 tsp (10 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) garam masala
1 L (4 cups) boiling water
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Salad, to serve (see note)
Soak the rice for 20–25 minutes in a bowl of cold water, the water should just cover the rice.
While the rice is soaking, heat a heavy-based pan. Add the oil and once hot, add all of the whole spices and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a further minute, as it helps the juices to release. Immediately add the sliced onions and keep stirring over a medium heat until they start to colour. This will take about 5–6 minutes.
Add the green chillies and turmeric and cook for another minute, then add all the vegetables and cook for another 5–6 minutes over a medium heat. Keep stirring, if it catches, add a few drops of water.
While the vegetables are cooking, drain the water from the rice. Add the salt, garam marsala and rice to the pan and mix well. Add the hot water and boil over a high heat. Once the water has come to a boil, lower the temperature and cover the pan with a lid. Let it cook for 8-10 minutes. Once cooked, the rice will be fluffy and you will smell beautiful aromas.
Remove the cassia bark and cardamom pods, stir through the chopped cilantro and serve alongside a salad.
Note: We always have a simple salad of onions, a slice of lime, salt, green chilies and lauki (bottle gourd) raita with this.
Excerpted from Zaika: Vegan Recipes from India by Romy Gill. Text © Romy Gill 2019. First published in Great Britain in 2019 by Seven Dials, an imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020