Nilgiri Rice

I’ve posted this recipe in honour of the Jashan, my all time favourite Indian restaurant. Plus I happen to think it is one of the best rice dishes out there… well maybe Lemon Rice is a strong contender. Basically we used to go to the Jashan on a VERY regular basis, it wasn’t your standard Indian restaurant, the menu had dishes on that you wouldn’t normally come accross, the food was delicately flavoured, the dishes weren’t swimming in oil, they also cooked classic South Indian food and experimented with fusion style cookery.

The menu was, and still is mouth-watering – fish poori or spicy potato cakes to start with, followed my homemade Paneer kebabs, with side dishes of Baingan Bharta (smoked aubergine with spices), Okra, Jeera Aloo, alongside the King (or Queen) of Dals – Dal Makhani, and served with either Nilgiri/Lemon/Jeera rice and flaky Paratha breads. Basically this menu introduced me to the possibilities of great Indian food, and before I actually holidayed in India, was my introduction to the joys of thick creamy Dals, the aroma of mustard seeds and curry leaves and breads like Poori or the flaky Parathas. Just writing about it, and I’m dreaming and drooling!

So to the rice dish, the Nilgiri Hills are in South India and form part of the Western Ghats. When I asked the guys at the restaurant, why Nilgiri, they said the name represented something South Indian and green. The Jashan dish Nilgiri Pulao is steamed rice, cooked with fresh corriander, mint and coconut cream. I’ve played around with the basic ingredients and come up with my own version, and of course it uses fresh veg and herbs from the plot.

Nilgiri Rice Recipe

Ingredients – (serves approx 3 to 4)

  • 200g Spinach leaves, wilted in a pan, drained and chopped
  • 300g Basmati rice
  • 3 tbsp desiccated coconut or 2  fl oz coconut milk
  • Small amount of vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 – 2 green chillies, de-seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 black peppercorn seeds
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • pinch of salt to taste

Method –

  • Cook the rice with the coconut milk added, as you would normally cook your rice (everyone has a different way of cooking rice and I don’t want to enter that debate right now!)
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan add the cumin seeds, peppercorns and chillies and fry for a minute
  • Add the chopped onion and cook for approx 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent
  • Stir in the rice, then add the cooked spinach, and the chopped coriander and mint.
  • Cook for a minute of two until the spices, herbs and rice are fully combined.
  • Add a pinch of salt if wanted

Green rice –

that is nutritious, flavoursome and easy – Simples! Serve with any veg or meat curries, or dried fish dishes. Alternatives can be to not include the coconut milk if you are cooking a coconut based curry or add a squeeze of lemon or lime at the end of the cooking for a bit more of a zing.

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