October 5th, 2009
Jeera Pulao/Cumin Pilaf And The Magic Of Cumin seeds
If I were to be asked, “What is the one food ingredient that I cannot live without?” I would answer “rice” without even thinking.It is comforting, satiating, soothing and filling to my belly and my mind. Although I largely eat unpolished organically grown rice, from time to time I find contentment in the opulence of polished long grain basmati rice.I cannot even dream of making pulaos, biryanis and other traditional exotically flavoured rice dishes with anything other than top class Indian basmati rice.
Jeera pulao is one dish in my arsenal that perfectly complements a well made dal or a vegetable curry. It plays a beautiful supporting role when a dal or any other gravied vegetable is the star attraction. The additional notes in my recipe notebook read “So simple, yet so tasty.” And I would like to repeat the same again. Most people who try it will be struck by its simplicity and taste.
Most Indians of my grandmother’s generation resorted to Ayurvedic cooking. It is knowledge that has been passed down through the generations from the Vedic period, the main source of Ayurveda being Atharvaveda. Ayurvedic ways are relatively inexpensive and a great boon for common aliments like cough, cold, headache, stomach and skin disorders .The ingredients used in traditional Indian cooking also acted as medicine and balanced kapha (water), pitta (fire) and vata (wind), which according to Ayurveda are the 3 main constituents of our body.
According to “Secrets of Indian Herbs” a book published by Pathanjali Yogpeeth that my mother got me recently, cumin seeds promote digestive functions, cure pitta, promote intellect, cure cough, enhance taste, and are anti pyretic and beneficial for the eyes. In “Herbs that heal, natural remedies for good health” insomnia, common cold, colic and digestive disorders are a few healing properties of the cumin seed discussed by the author, H.K Bakhru.
Cumin seed tea made by boiling 1 cup of water with 1 tsp of cumin seeds for about 8 to 10 minutes(sweetened with sugar if desired) is an herbal remedy advocated by my grandmother. This is supposed to be great in pregnancy and a few teaspoons of this herbal decoction is good for babies too, since it keeps them free from colic and other digestive ailments commonly known to plague them. *
Apart from weaving their magic into my rice and curries, the miraculous properties of the cumin seed have ensured that I’m devoted to them for life.
Jeera Pulao/Cumin Pilaf Recipe
Tastes great with any vegetable curry or dal.
2 cups Basmati rice
3 ½ cups hot water
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp salt
4 tsp ghee or vegetable oil
Wash the rice in a colander over a running stream of water, soak the rice in any utensil with enough water to cover it and allow to rest for anywhere between 15 minutes to half an hour.
In a medium sized heavy bottomed dish with a tight fitting lid, heat the ghee or vegetable oil over a medium flame. Toss in the cumin seeds and stir until they change colour, about a couple of minutes.Stir in the soaked and strained rice and toss carefully until the rice grains are coated with the cooking fat. Pour in the hot water and salt, lower the flame to medium, cover and cook till done, about 15 to 20 minutes.
For a quicker version using the rice cooker, just place all the ingredients in the rice cooker, mix and cook till done.
*For a variation try using other whole spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and pepper along with the cumin seeds.
*Disclaimer: The information on the usage of cumin seeds is not meant to replace the advice of a medical practitioner.