Oh rice, how I adore thee! Rice is soul food for South Indians. Coconut rice, fried rice, pulav, curd rice, sambar rice, kootu sadam, thakkali sadam, lemon rice, dal-chaval, dosa, idli, idiyappam, aappam, oh yum! Rice generously drizzled with ghee and paired with my mother’s Pavakkai Pitlai or Mysore Rasam? It is simply heaven on earth. Thayir sadam, curd rice, Thachi Mammu, a veritable cultural institution in TamBrahm households, an emotional salve.
But with the advent of middle age and a serious health scare/crisis a couple of years ago, I have dramatically changed my eating habits. I minimize if not eliminate grain intake in general and try to substitute rice with healthier grains or legumes, especially ones with more protein in them. But I absolutely love all rice-based dishes from curd rice to fried rice. For all my favorite recipes, I just replace rice with quinoa, steel cut oats or cauliflower rice which are all pretty good rice substitutes. I have even made Ven Pongal with quinoa and even cauliflower rice and it was quite yummy.
- Tomatoes – 2-2.5 cups chopped
- Onion – 1 cup chopped
- Green chillies: 4-6
- Garlic – optional – 2 cloves
- Frozen Lima bean – 1 cup (if you use cooked lima beans, just add towards the end so it doesn’t get overcooked) You can also substitute with any other legume of your choice.
- Quiona – 1 cup (of course you can substitute with rice if you want)
- Cilantro – 0.5 cup chopped
- Ghee or oil – 1.5 tbs
- Bay leaf – 1
- Cilantro seeds – 1.5 tsp
- Poppy seeds – 1. tsp
- Peppercorn – 1 tsp
- Cinnamon – 1.5-2 inch stick
- Cardamom – 3
- Cloves – 2
- Poppy seeds – 1 tbs
- Flax seeds – 1 tsp (I try to add flax seeds to pretty much everything, but it is optional)
- Dry roast the masala ingredients until they are fragrant but do not burn them. When burned, they taste bitter!
- Grind them into powder.
- Place a pot on medium-high and heat 1/2 tbs ghee or oil – reserve the rest.
- Stirfry onions and garlic until onions become clear (3-4 minutes)
- Add green chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds
- Add the tomatoes and stir fry for 3-4 minutes
- Add the ground dry masala and stir fry for about 20 seconds
- Add the frozen lima beans and stir fry for 2 minutes
- Now add 2 cups of water and wait for it to come to a boil.
- Add salt to taste
- Add the quinoa
- Close the pot and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes until you can see the quinoa cooked. Keep an eye and make sure that it doesn’t burn.
- When done, add 1 tbsp of ghee and stir.
- Serve hot with raita and pappad.