The 7-day cook-off: Day 2

The first of my 10-day challenge was so much fun I was already looking forward to Day Two. I was making one of my personal favourites, a recipe that I had crafted after several failed attempts and testing on Astha.

Poha is a dish made using flattened rice, sautéed with vegetables and spices. It’s really easy to make and a staple in homes and eateries across India – especially towards the North and Central regions. The way the vegetables are softened, the spices tossed to release the aromas and the rice bringing it all together is nothing sort of enchanting. My poha recipe is so simple I bet you wouldn’t need anything that isn’t already in your kitchen.

I do have a little secret though – a small yellow bottle containing a magical spice. Nah, it’s not a secret anymore I guess. I’m talking about Peri Peri powder. There are simply not enough words in any dictionary to describe my fascination for Peri Peri. It probably takes its place in my Pantheon of spice mixes, up there with Five Spice and Mixed Italian Herbs.

Right then, on with the recipe. Like I mentioned, only stuff from the fridge here.

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Time: 25 mins | Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 15 mins

Serves 2-3 people

Ingredients:

  1. Poha or Flattened rice – 2 cups; washed and soaked
  2. Capsicums – Half a side from 2 small ones; roughly chopped
  3. Onions – 2 small ones; chopped
  4. Garlic – 3 large cloves; finely chopped
  5. Tomatoes – 2 small ones; roughly chopped
  6. Potatoes – 3 small ones; finely sliced and chopped
  7. Chilli Flakes – A pinch (we just need it for the colour and aroma)
  8. Peri Peri Powder – 1 tablespoon
  9. Ground Spices:
    • Coriander Powder – 1 teaspoon
    • Garam Masala – 1 teaspoon
    • Cumin Powder – 1 and a quarter teaspoons
    • Turmeric Powder – three-fourth of a teaspoon

 

Method:

Heat a tablespoon and a half of olive oil or any vegetable oil in a deep pan on a low flame. Add the garlic and chilli flakes. Stir them to help the oil absorb some of that heavenly garlic essence.

Add the onions and bring the heat up. Stir the pan thoroughly and toss the capsicums and potatoes in soon after. Let everything cook for a while as you stir. This is also where you add some salt to season the pan. We want to develop the tastes from this stage itself; otherwise, you may end up with bland potatoes and onions.

Reduce the heat and cover the pan with a lid for two minutes to allow the vegetables to soften. Then remove the lid and scrape the bottom, collecting as much fond as possible. Now, it’s spice time!

Add all the ground spices and increase the heat as you do. Allow the oil to react with some of that coriander and cumin. By now, your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of earthy spices. Drop the chopped tomatoes in to stop the spices from burning. Keep stirring!

The Peri Peri follows suit while your arms get some more of the exercise from the tossing. Cook the tomatoes till they begin to go soft – this depends on how ripe they are. The tomatoes I had were pretty soft and required less than two minutes of cooking.

Carefully add the flattened rice into the pan in stages. This way, you have a measure of how much your pan can hold. We now adopt the steadfast motion of stirring to avoid any spilling. The entire thing will take about two minutes on low heat to combine properly.

Top it off with some freshly chopped coriander (I had culantro leaves [yes culantro and not cilantro]). I like my poha with a slice of lemon, some masala peanuts and some hot chai on the side. And there it is – Mera Waala Poha!

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Some tips I learnt along the way:

  • Buy the rice that isn’t flattened all the way. It’s easier to cook.
  • Start the cook by washing the rice. Rinse the poha twice in normal water and drain all the liquid. You then leave it to absorb the remaining moisture.
  • Add a drop of extra virgin olive oil or mustard oil to the pan at the beginning for increased flavour.
  • You can squeeze in a bit of lemon juice when you add the tomatoes if they are too ripe and sweet.
  • Similarly, add a teaspoon of sugar if your tomatoes are not ripe.

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