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Show 09.10
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Basmati Rice, Crushed Lentil Curry & Chicken Tikka Masala & Poppadums
Guest Chef Simi Advani

Basmati Rice Pilaf                                                                                  
SERVES 4

Basmati, which means 'Queen of Fragrance', is a long-grain variety of rice, prized for its nutty flavor. Among the 30,000 plus varieties of rice that are cultivated, it is one of the most sought after, and many imitations like Calmati, Texmati, etc. abound, all claiming to be as good as Basmati rice.

There are two important things to know about Basmati rice. First, authentic Basmati rice is grown only Dehradun, a valley in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, where the soil and water contribute to creating the unique flavor of the grain.

Second, its taste improves when the rice is aged, so it is best to invest in a big bag of rice,
and store the excess in a large container or two. My personal tip for keeping grains bug-free is to throw a couple of whole dried red chili pods into to container, which will deter any insects.

This is my favorite way to cook rice for everyday meals at home. It is quick, gives perfect results every time, and compliments the flavor of any curry it is served with.

1½ cups Basmati rice                                                     1 cinnamon leaf
2 tablespoons oil or ghee                                                salt to taste (optional)
3 cups water

1. Wash rice thoroughly in several changes of water. Leave to soak for at least 10 minutes. Drain through a fine sieve and discard the soaking water.
2. Place rice in a pan with 3 cups water over high heat. Add cinnamon leaf and  salt to taste.
3. Once water comes to a boil, mix in ghee/oil, cover the pot, and reduce heat to the lowest setting. For fabulous results, line the lid with a towel and place over the rice to create a really tight seal.
4. Set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes. When time's up, turn off the heat, and let stand covered for another 10 minutes. 
5. Fluff and serve.

Crushed Lentil Curry
SERVES 4

TO PREPARE LENTILS
1 cup red split lentils (lal masoor daal)              ½ teaspoon turmeric
4 cups water (more if needed)                            1 small cooking onion, diced
1 teaspoon ghee or canola oil                               salt to taste                                        

SPICE BLEND: PUREE TOGETHER
1 large tomato                                                       1 inch piece ginger                         
1-2 Serrano chilies                                                1 clove garlic (optional)

TEMPERING OIL (CHONK)
2 tablespoons ghee or canola oil                          1-2 whole red chilies
1 teaspoon mustard seeds                                    8-10 fresh curry leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin seeds                                       ¼ teaspoon ground red chilies
¼ teaspoon asafetida (hing)

GARNISH
fresh cilantro leaves, chopped                            wedges of lemon serve on the side

1. Pick over the split lentils and wash thoroughly in several changes of water.
PRESSURE COOKING
2. Transfer lentils to pressure cooker. Add 4 cups water, turmeric, onion, puréed spice blend, and ghee/oil. Seal cooker and once full pressure is reached, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and place cooker under cold running water to release pressure. Add salt to taste. Add more water if needed to bring to desired consistency.
PAN COOKING
2. Transfer lentils to a medium saucepan and add 4 cups water. Stir in turmeric, onion, and ghee/oil. Add the puréed spice blend. Partially cover and cook over medium heat till very tender, about 40-60 minutes. Additional water may be required during cooking. Add salt to taste.
TEMPERING OIL
3. Heat ghee/oil in a small pan and keep a lid handy. When quite hot, add mustard seeds and cover immediately. The seeds will start popping. Reduce heat.
4. When the popping subsides, add cumin seeds, asafetida and curry leaves in quick succession and cover the pan immediately to avoid splattering.
5. Remove from heat. Add the whole red chilies and the ground red chilies.
6. Immediately pour the blend over cooked lentils and mix. Garnish generously with cilantro and serve hot accompanied by lemon wedges.

PS: Don't bite into the red chilies, they are only added to enhance visual appeal and flavor!

Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4
This dish is so delicious and easy to make! I've created a sauce that can be used as a base for a variety of ingredients. Here, we are using it to make an amazing chicken curry but you can substitute shrimp, tofu, veggies or paneer (which is a delicious fresh Indian cheese).

2 boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup mixed green, red, yellow peppers, chopped into 1 inch pieces
10-12 red pearl onions (optional)

SPICES
1 teaspoon cumin seeds                                   ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
Pinch of asafetida                                            ½ teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder                        ½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin powder                                salt to taste
1 teaspoon kasoori methi powder*                 ½ teaspoon sugar

OTHER INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons canola oil                                   ½ inch piece ginger, minced                         
½ cup tomato paste + 1 cup water approx.    1 Serrano chili, minced
½ cup sour cream                                              fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Mix the tomato paste, 1 cup water, and sour cream to a smooth paste. Add a little more water if necessary.
2. Heat oil in a sauté pan or wok. Once hot, add cumin seeds and reduce heat.
3. After 5 seconds, add asafetida quickly followed by ginger and green chili. Sauté the mixture for a few seconds.
4. Add chicken and cook for 5-7 minutes, toss in bell peppers and pearl onions. Cook for a minute.
5. Pour in tomato/sour cream sauce, add spice powders: coriander, cumin, kasoori methi, turmeric, and red chili. Toss well and bring sauce to a simmer. Cover and cook till chicken is tender.
6. Add ½ teaspoon sugar and salt to taste. Add garam masala and mix well.
7. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

* Kasoori methi is the Indian name for dried fenugreek leaves. It is available at all well stocked Indian grocers labeled as kasoori methi.

Poppadums
These can best be described as savory chips that make an ideal accompaniment to rice dishes. They are circular, thin discs that resemble tortillas and are about 3-4 inches in diameter.

To deep fry poppadums add oil to a depth of 1 inch in a heavy skillet and place over high heat. When the oil is fairly hot, bring the poppadum close to the surface of the oil and slip it in. It will expand considerably, curl up a little, and cook very quickly, in 2-3 seconds. It should be creamy to light gold in color, and not turn brown. Lift with tongs and drain out the excess oil by holding the poppadum vertically over the pan and allowing the oil to drip down. Drain on paper towels, standing each poppadum vertically to drain excess oil.