On a busy workday home cooking may get side-lined. At such times, ordering from out is the easiest option. But at my home, since the time I remember, my mom was against ordering outside food. In spite of my dad being a restaurant owner, my brother and myself were never permitted to go to even our own restaurant (which was 4 blocks away from my childhood home) and eat randomly! Mom believed that when she was at home, why was there a need for the kids to eat outside?! It was purely an ‘ego-issue’ with my mom, who still is an expert cook. Cooking comes natural to her as she has been groomed in an era where socialization and emotional bonding was based on sharing and offering home cooked food. Even if last moment guests popped up, I have witnessed her making simple but delicious meal, like a magician would suddenly pull out a rabbit from a hat! After we grew up, practically it was not possible to eat at home every time, especially when we were at college, working on our projects or at our respective workplaces. But as the years passed by, back of our mind, we sub-consciously started valuing the effort that mom would put into preparing food for us. So even after eating out for dinner, as a matter of respect we would (we still do) keep our stomach little empty to finish off the day’s meal with mom’s home cooked food.
Urban life is full of last-minute changes and hustle. And now with work-from-home status, the compartmentalization of one’s personal and professional life is getting difficult. Meetings getting over-time & deadlines extending in the wee hours of morning, has messed up with one’s schedule. Last week I could clearly see that it was impossible to cook for the day, given the time and work juggling happening on my end. But just then, like a doctor would solve health problems, mom verbally ‘prescribed’ the recipe of our good old home-cooked ‘Vegetable Pulav’ to ‘firefight’ the food problem that occurred due to the time crunch! The recipe sounded healthy, nourishing, hassle free and above all quick! I thought of testing the recipe primarily not for its flavour, but if it indeed had quality (nutritious and wholesome) and could be quickly (within an hour) cooked or not! The flavour aspect, I believe, would eventually come if the right ingredients and attention is timely given along with a vibe of love while preparing. Thus began the quest to check the timeline validity of the Vegetable Pulav recipe suggest by my ‘home cooked food’ obsessed mom.
In a utensil take 2-3 tablespoon of oil (we use sunflower seed oil), saute 1 large finely chopped onion in it. As the chopped onion turns pink in colour, add asafoetida and turmeric (half teaspoon) in the mixture. Depending on your liking, finely chop the kind of vegetable you wish to eat in the Pulav or choose one specific vegetable or pulse to get that dominant flavour to the rice-based meal. I had chosen ‘vaal’ (sprouted beans/birda in Marathi) and tomato as the theme vegetable in the Pulav. I inserted the sprouted beans and 1 finely chopped tomato in the utensil and then added salt and Konkani/Malvani masala in proper proportion. I then made the spice and oil smeared mixture soak some heat for a while and then added 2 small bowls of uncooked rice in the same utensil. There after I poured water until the rice submerged and let the mixture boil on high flame. From this point onwards it is like cooking rice, but 5 mins before ending the process add 1 tablespoon each of black cumin powder (shah jeera) and ghee (clarified butter) to the boiling mixture. When there is no water seen in the utensil, turn off the burner to avoid the Pulav to get burnt from below. As I completed the process of cooking the Vegetable Pulav, I was indeed glad to see that it doesn’t take more than 45 mins to cook it and get it to the lunch table!
As I cooked, I realized that the process is like ‘marrying’ two processes together in one go. The first process is to cook vegetables with appropriate spices & oil and thereafter in the same vessel boil rice with ample water! That’s it!!!!! I also noticed that since all the action happens in one utensil only, in a time-crunch situation it’s a bonus that one will have less dishes to wash too!
Photo Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar