Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Simple Pleasures : My Favorite Comfort Food

I started this blog as a punching bag for my bottled up thoughts and frustrations, accompanied with food of course - for you can't let the guests leave hungry! It was meant to wrap around my moods; that I could pursue at my pace, with no pressures or deadlines to meet. That is why I have tried never to write around event announcements. So that day when I stumbled upon this leftover makeover announcement, I didn't really pay much attention. Except that little poke in the back of my brain that kept pointing towards my favorite food in the whole world. I had to have it, and I had to write about it so I can share it with you all. Just because this dish is such a unique and refreshing makeover of leftover rice. I haven't seen or heard anyone outside of my family to even know of this prep. And that brings us to the story for this post....

So, if you've been good about following me (did you get the pointer :-)?), you'd know by now that I'm part Rajasthani. My mom and her two brothers grew up in western Rajasthan, almost bordering Pakistan. That is where we went every year for our summer holidays, till I went to college. Naani's home is a magical place during childhood. Now I look back with nostalgia; those days, we laughed at our endearing, but very earthy naani and her small dusty town. Compared to big city Delhi, my naani's town was an overgrown village. Very dusty unpaved roads, streets crowded with strays, especially cows and pigs (I'm not kidding!!); and my naani's whimsical foods. Bari aur papad ki sabzi stands out the most in my mind, followed by turai ke chilke ki sabzi and tarbooz ke chilke ki sabzi. I hope all of you reading this know hindi, because I can't even begin to translate these things. My dad and I would actually sit and snicker about what naani was going to serve right under her nose. I'm sure she knew what we were upto, but she never complained. This is where my earliest memory of Chawali is from.

Despite the initial skepticism, I found that I loved it. But when mom actually started making this at home in Delhi, especially for me, that is when dad switched camps and he and my bro started snickering at mom and I! I've kept up with this dish though. It is my favorite comfort food and an excellent use of leftover rice. Moreover, now both my daughters love it. I now actually make sure I have leftovers the day I make plain white rice, so we can enjoy this the next day. Here's the recipe for you.
Chawali
(Rice in a milk-based sauce)
Leftover rice: 1 measure
Milk: 1 1/2 measures
Water: 1/2 measure
Ghee : 1tsp
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp (for tempering)
Red chilli powder : 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1tsp (suit to taste)
  1. Heat the ghee in a saucepan and splutter your cumin seeds in it. Add the chilli powder and let it smoke for a min or so. My mom said that the more you let the chillis burn, the less pungent they become, and in this dish, you don't want the heat, but the color from chilli powder.
  2. Add the water now- stay away for the ghee is going to spatter like crazy. Protect yourself at this point.
  3. Now add the salt, and let the water come to a wild boil.
  4. Next add your milk. Again, my mom said that if you mix milk and salt, you'd curdle the milk. So make sure your salt boils in water for a good 2-3 min before putting the milk in.
  5. Finally, add your leftover boiled white rice, and let the whole thing come to a boil. Lower the heat for a few min.
That's it. If you're brave enough to try it, let me know what you think about my Chawali!  

My two cents: None what so ever. I love this dish and my daughters too. Naani used to break up a chappati into small pieces and dump it into my Chawali, so I've also called this preparation Chawal ki sabzi. Actually, that is exactly how I present this food to my daughters (and myself). They get to eat rice, bread and milk all in the same bowl; making me the happiest mom on earth!! Oh, and just a thought- I always make my rice with a tsp of salt. If you don't, then you might need to adjust it accordingly in your Chawali.

Linked to:
Cooking without Onion & Garlic at Ammaji's recipes