Coconut and Lentil rice (Thai Style)

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Baking and Desserts are a big part of my life. Desserts are like a vacation and since we can’t be on a vacation indefinitely, we do have to get back to the humdrum world of real food and hearty, nutritious meals. There are days when I am an inspired cook wanting to cook this, that and all and then there are days when I feel like it’s a donkey’s job……same old boring kitchen chores, sautéing onions, add in the tomato, spices and on and on…..

So for those days that I am inspired and don’t consider everyday cooking a drudgery, I can whip up some mean dishes and these recipes I wanted to share on my blog (though it goes against my sweet principle)

Rice is a big part of our meals. In some parts of India, like the south, rice and other rice preparations are a part of all 3 main meals and snacks too! In my home though we aren’t largely rice-eaters, we love our rice dishes for lunch on weekends. It’s a challenge not to repeat the same rice and lentil gravy or rice and chicken gravy every weekend. But I must say besides the carb kick that you get out of rice it is so versatile, you can alter a few spices and turn it into a new dish. So you guessed it I am a huge fan of rice…easy to make, no fuss and no “eat-your-veggies-or-watch-out” threats required.

The first time I put this beautiful rice dish on the table, I was met with “how-dare you-feed-us-khichdi” looks. “Khichdi” an Indian rice preparation with yellow lentils, is flavoured with turmeric powder, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. It is on every sick person’s must-have menu. As a child after a bout of belly troubles I would have to gulp down this insipid concoction and I remember begging my sisters for a bite of mango pickle to go with it. I was at a loss to make the “culinary challenged” family understand the difference. So, the next weekend it was khichdi and so was the weekend after that and then the difference between the elegant and run of the mill dawned on them Coconut and Lentil rice is a much tastier, fresher version with a “chilly hit”, aromatic and with a subtle, fresh taste of coconut milk.

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The lentils used are Masoor ( Red lentils). The subtle Thai flavour of the dish lends itself perfectly to sweet and sour Thai preparations or spicy curries. The boys no more tease me or call it glorified khichdi, the memory of 3 weekends of khichdi overdose is not easily forgotten!!

RECIPE

COCONUT AND LENTIL RICE

(Serves 4)

1 cup long grained rice (preferably Basmati)

4 tablespoons Red Lentils (Masoor)

2oo ml thick coconut milk

1-2 tablespoons oil

1 small onion thinly sliced

2 green chillies, broken into 1” pieces

5-6 curry leaves

1” piece ginger finely shredded

3 garlic cloves finely chopped

1’ piece cinnamon

4-5 cloves

1 teaspoon whole cumin

1 stalk lemon grass bruised or broken into pieces

A fistful of fresh coriander leaves chopped (for garnish)

Salt to taste

  • Wash and soak the lentils in water for 20 minutes. Boil them on high heat (rolling boil) for 8-9 minutes. Do not over boil. You want them firm and whole not squishy. Drain.
  • Wash rice and keep them aside.
  • Chop the vegetables

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  • In a heavy bottomed large vessel fry the onions till glassy (not brown), add the ginger, garlic, curry leaves, chillies, lemon grass, cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Stir around on medium heat for a minute.

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  • Add in the lentils and the rice. Pour in 1 cup water plus another ¼ cup. Add ¾ cup coconut milk. Use the same cup that you measured out the rice in. Don’t be tempted to add more coconut milk as the rice tends to remain uncooked in a thicker liquid.
  • Once the liquid comes to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, put the lid on and let it cook. Once the liquid is barely there, add in the salt and give a gentle stir with a butter knife, careful not to break the rice.
  • Add in the coriander after the rice is cooked.

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