Indian-Style Rice

I’m not going to say I  never order Indian takeout, but to some extent I’ve managed to successfully cut back–I’ve been making plenty of curries (which last for several days) from my favorite slow-cooker book by Anupy Singla, The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes and as my mom would say, it “hits the spot.”

Indian Style Rice (6 of 6)

But just boiling up a pot of rice to go alongside has left me feeling lacking.  I’m sure that simply boiled brown rice is a lot more healthy than the rice that accompanies most takeout.  But let’s be honest–it’s a lot more boring too.

Indian Style Rice (5 of 6)

I’ve struck a happy balance, however, with this recipe for Indian style rice.  One key I’ve found is to use a bit of ghee which goes a long way to replicating the taste I’m after.  Ghee is nothing more than clarified butter–you can make your own in bulk and it becomes shelf stable, though I honestly have been just buying it in the Indian section of my grocery store.  Just like oregano says Italy and smoked paprika says Spain, it’s one of those ingredients that all by itself makes everything it touches seem more authentically Indian.  As much as I am qualified to pronounce anything authentically Indian, which is probably questionable.

Indian Style Rice (2 of 6)

And then there’s the spices–you can’t not have spices.  Cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, cloves–whole and aromatic, I can’t imagine this rice without them. These are spices that are worth having on hand for so many other reasons, so no need to be reticent about buying spices you’ll never use.  I make this so often, however, that I can easily justify having them on hand just for this rice.

Indian Style Rice (1 of 6)

This recipe requires pre-soaking the rice for 20 minutes.  Before you balk at an extra step, know that by the time you’ve prepared the remaining ingredients and sauteed down the onions, it will be nearly time to add the rice.  Drain it well so that you can toast the rice in your pot before adding the remaining water.  It brings out a nice toasted aroma in the rice, so it’s worth the few extra minutes.  Though I’ve accidentally added the rice without draining at times and we’ve still had no trouble finishing it all.

Indian Style Rice (4 of 6)

Garnish with cilantro, your favorite pickle, or as I’ve done here, some fragrant dukkah (a nut and spice blend) from the Garum Factory.  Serve with your favorite Indian recipe, or one of ours here or here.

Indian Style Rice (3 of 6)

Adapted from a recipe on

Indian-Style Rice
  • 1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (substitute vegetable oil)
  • 1 (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon
  • salt to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups water, plus additional water for soaking the rice
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • cilantro for garnish
  1. Measure your rice and pour enough water over it to cover. Allow to soak for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the ghee in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and cumin seed. Cook and stir for about a minute, then add the onion. Saute the onion until it is soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the water from the rice well, and stir into the pot. Cook and stir the rice for a few minutes to toast the rice. You will notice the aroma when it begins to toast. Add salt and the remaining 2 1/2 cups of water to the pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low.
  4. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.

Black Lentil Dal in the Slow Cooker

I got a slow cooker for Christmas. All the cool moms-of-preschoolers have one these days. But I hadn’t used it much until now. Thanks to this “soft foods” diet that I’ve been on recently however (no, this is not the newest weight-loss fad, it’s a dental issue), I’ve finally set down to figure things out.

Black Lentil Dal (4 of 6)

I started browsing slow cooker books on amazon, and  Anupy Singla‘s  The Indian Slow Cooker jumped out at me.  Maybe most people think of chili as the slow cooker meal par excellence, but to me Indian food seemed the obvious choice.  (Though perhaps not just to me).  I’m no expert on Indian food, but the little I do know is that curries and dals benefit from a relaxed, gentle simmer that gives the flavors and spices plenty of time to comfortably meld and mix. Or at least this is what I was told at the Indian restaurant around the corner from our old apartment in London. (We went there, well, a lot).

This book is a slender volume, but with an entire chapter devoted just to lentils and a second for chickpeas and legumes, I am finding plenty for my slow-cooking roster.

Black Lentil Dal (5 of 6)

I admit I used this recipe to inaugurate my slow cooker out of the sheer novelty of using black lentils–dark like obsidian and shiny as liquid ink, diminutive like French Puy lentils.  But even with the minimal effort required, it was all the other ingredients that I got to use that made this dish so fun to make–the long neglected jars of turmeric, ground coriander, whole cardamom and fennel seed in my pantry.  It’s not that I don’t love all these flavors, but I don’t have the ease and facility with them that lends itself to experimentation while cooking.

Fortunately the author had figured it out for me.  And I loved coming home from work to a kitchen perfumed with sweet cardamom, spicy cloves, earthy cumin and warm ginger.

Black Lentil Dal (3 of 6)

As a dal, the lentils would have ideally melted and broken down into a thick sauce–much like what happens with red lentils.  However, since I could only find whole, rather than split, black lentils, mine clung fast to their shape as I ladled them out over rice.  I’m sure the gentle heat of the slow cooker allowed them to retain their disc form as well.  Not that I minded this slight deviation from authenticity.

Black Lentil Dal (6 of 6)

Black Lentil Dal adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla; Update 4/30 see her original post on this recipe here!

(Recipe for a 3 quart slow cooker, double for a 5 quart cooker; makes 7 cups)

  • 1 1/2 c (300g) whole dried black lentils
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 dried or fresh chiles (I used chile de arbol)
  • 1 bunch (about 1 cup chopped) fresh cilantro (I used 2 heaping teaspoons dried)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala or 3 cardamom pods, 2 cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 heaping teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons red chile powder
  • 6 c water
  • plain yogurt, cilantro, and rice for garnish

Chop the shallots, hot peppers, garlic, and cilantro together in a food processor.  Add this, and all ingredients but the garnishes to the crock pot.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Season and serve over rice, with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on top and fresh cilantro leaves.

Black Lentil Dal (1 of 6)Black Lentil Dal (2 of 6)

Indian Style Cabbage and Potato Curry

This post was originally published on Honest Cooking.

It’s funny to think that I never had Indian food until I went away to college–growing up in Oklahoma, there wasn’t the widest variety of options.  My town was probably better than most though:  International fare included Italian food, Mexican (the most popular being El Chico in the mall and Chili’s) and Chinese.  Perhaps more exotically, there was even Korean and German:  thanks to the fact that our town was connected to a rather large army base, GI’s brought back brides looking for a taste of home.  I hear there may be a sushi place there now, but I’m not sure such reports can be believed. 

Suffice it to say I was probably at least 20 the first time I had Indian food–which is funny to think about, because I later found myself eating almost too much of it when we lived in London for a few years (almost–but it was just so good!)  Now we’ll occasionally order it for take-out, and I keep saying that one day I’m really going to dig in to my Julie Sahni cookbook, Classic Indian Cooking, and learn the basics of Indian food. 

Meanwhile, best intentions aside, there is food in the fridge that needs to be cooked.  I’m always buying savoy cabbage (since it keeps well) and then always struggling to figure out what to do with it (since it does eventually go bad).  There’s a million recipes out there, but at the end of a workday I am not in the mood for anything requiring me to stuff or roll a filling (that has to be separately cooked!) into cabbage leaves.  I want one of those meals where I can dump all the ingredients in a pot, set it on a low burner, stir a few times, and eat.

And it wasn’t out of any particular yearning for Indian food that I came up with this recipe–but rather that all the recipes that came up by googling “cabbage and potatoes”   hailed from the subcontinent.   See, for example, over at Curry in Kadai or Alison’s Lunch (whose recipe I adapted).

Well.  You already know that, per my first criteria, this is easy to throw together.  (I was googling up a storm as I was on the commuter rail home, after all).  And of course I’m only writing it up here because it turned out just as I’d hoped.  A medley of textures–ruffles of Savoy cabbage and waxy chunks of potatoes in a fragrant, complex sauce.  A meatless option that is sturdy enough to stand on its own.  (And with a bit more planning than I managed you’d have some Indian bread or rice to enjoy it with). 

I can’t say that it’s the most intrepid foray into Indian cooking, but it’s a pantry-friendly, workday-workable start.  Maybe I’ll muster up the courage to try a Julie Sahni menu yet!

Indian Style Cabbage and Potato Curry (Based on Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s  Seductions of Rice via Alison’s Lunch). 

  • 1 to 1 ½ pounds (500 g) savoy cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 teaspon cumin seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 inch (2.5cm) cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
  • 2 green cardamom pods, smashed, OR ¼ teaspoon whole cardamom seeds, crushed lightly
  • 3 shallots, OR 1 small onion 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1lb (500g) potatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • cup (120mL) water
Quarter, core, and shred the cabbage. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chile or chile flakes, cumin, bay leaves cloves, cinnamon stick, and cardamom. (If you have an herb sachet, you could use this so that you can easily remove the whole spices at the end of cooking–take it from me who got a bit of cinnamon bark caught in the back of my throat!). Saute about 30 seconds, until the cumin is fragrant, then add the shallot (or onion/garlic mixture). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes, tomato, and salt. After a minute, add the cabbage, turmeric, and ginger and stir so that the cabbage evenly covered in the mixture. Cook for one minute.

Add the water, bring it to a boil, and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The potatoes and cabbage should be tender and the flavors blended. Adjust for salt and cook uncovered to reduce the liquid another 5 minutes. Remove the whole spices as best you can, and serve