Friday, May 10, 2013

The Big Lunch

In my safe and cosy un-momentous world, some momentous things happened recently. No, no, I haven't quit my day job to go into blogging or all things foodie full time, I've not been invited to do a TV show, I haven't been discovered by a publisher - the momentous things are momentous enough for an un-momentous life.

 I stuck to a resolution of sorts to travel a little more, spend at least two days outside my city and I'm glad to say I've done that. I've visited four places and had a very fun, relaxing and restful time with my friends.

 I shaped up a bit within two weeks of starting a new workout - I always do but not so fast. I haven't lost any kilos, though!

On one of my trips, I found out that my friend considered me the fittest of our girl gang, and that when I went to Pune's Shaniwarwada, I was the only one to reach the top of the fort without any trouble. To add to that, she said she had noticed it that every time we went somewhere together, I had been the first to reach the peak. Now this was a revelation - I thought years and years of working out had not worked out because twice when we went to visit the Gomateshwara statue I huffed and puffed all the way up, always falling behind the rest of my companions - and the two visits were years apart, by which time I had racked up many years of aerobics and gym.

 Then the most momentous thing of them all - I finally hosted a lunch that was due to my colleagues for several years. The true old friends that they are, they never let me forget it, often ribbing me into embarrassment but somehow I never plucked up the courage to do it. Some of them had visited individually but never as a big group. Even when one of them said, "What Sra, come on, can't you just do it, all you need to do is cook a couple of simple dishes, order some and get us to bring the rest," I could not. I don't believe the first formal meal at my house should be a potluck - and I don't believe in calling people over and giving them only a little to eat. I know how it feels.

I cooked for eight people two years ago, who were older friends from my college days and whom I had never invited for a meal with family, either, but somehow this office lunch never materialised.

However, I finally gathered my guts and issued an invitation which was accepted with alacrity and this past Sunday. I had the previous day off and resolved to cook through the day and keep myself free and fresh with only the pulao to be cooked the next day. The biriyani was outsourced. We were a group of nine altogether, with six guests.

As soon as I woke up on Saturday, I realised we were still in the first week of the month and that we had not had our 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. power cut yet. My suspicions were proved right and the electricity went off a little before 9 a.m. At 11, I started cooking - by 2 p.m., I had only cooked two dishes. By 3.30, I had made another. I took a break then and started cooking again at 5.30 and went on till about 8 p.m. Then the next morning I made the vegetable pulao.

First, here's a look at most of what I made, I forgot to take pictures of a chutney I had made.

And here's the vegetable pulao for which the recipe is given in this post


I have a recipe on this blog which I vaguely remembered as containing coconut milk. I thought I was making that, but it turned out to be completely different. It even acquired a bright green hue, how I have no clue.

 I used a big pressure cooker.
 Vegetables, chopped: 3 cups (I used mixed frozen vegetables)
Basmati Rice: 2.5 cups
Mint: 20 leaves, washed and chopped
Green chillies: 2-3, slit
Thick coconut milk: 400 ml (2-1/2 cups in my measure)
Water: 2-1/2 cups
Garam masala powder: 1.5-2 tsp
Star anise: 2
Marathi moggu: 2
Bay leaf: 2
Ghee/Oil/Mix of both: 75 ml/4 tbsp
Juice of 3 limes
Salt to taste

Soak the rice for 20 minutes and strain.

In a heavy bottomed pan or pressure cooker, heat the fat and fry the whole spices.

Add the garam masala and fry for a few seconds.

Add the mint, green chillies, fry a bit and then add the vegetables.

Fry well "till raw smell goes and good smell comes".

Add the coconut milk and the water and let it come to a boil.

Add salt. When I tasted the mix at this stage, it seemed salty.

I had not yet added the rice but I didn't want to take chances, so I added the juice of three limes then and there, praying it would not turn bitter. It didn't.

Add rice. Turn off the heat after three whistles. My friends loved it and one of them said she found it extremely unusual, that she had never tasted a pulao with such a tang, so I thought it was worth putting on my blog.