All I think of at the first sight of pomegranates in the grocery stores is to fold the plump ruby jewels with sweetish velvety yogurt and pair the raita with some kind of a spicy pilaf. To me, pulao/pilaf is a very ‘to taste’ thing in indian cuisine. It is like an assortment of things with any sort of grain, mostly rice in our case – quick, one pot but hearty. On days when mom was not in much of mood to cook, she would make some kind of a pulao – with vegetables, beans, dried lentil nuggets or chicken. There would be pickles, salad and raita to serve along.
Come November and the knock of winter winds brought with itself a sudden rush of green and fresh produce in the vegetable bazaars of Delhi.After long, humid and harsh summers,the next few months presented a respite and a chance to indulge in cooking and eating.On few Saturdays I would accompany mom to the sabzi bazaar. Wrapped in my favorite pashmina shawl, we walked out of the house for an early evening stroll and later to purchase vegetables for the week.Those few hours were spent inhaling the crisp autumn air and watching how the nip in the air got people out of their homes, the pleasing sights of street food carts beaming with everybody, eating, chatting and sharing a quick snack with families.We stopped here and there to get buy and bargain fresh eggs, bread and dairy before reaching the sabzi bazaar.Most of the faces at the bazaar were known, for it has been a place of trade between the same set of people for decades.
Mom would patiently listen to household stories of few sabzi wallas(vendors), of their children not studying at school or the gas prices going up. Few complained about government not doing much for the poor and few praising their farms for such fine produce. In India, such is a way of life, so may day-to-day people slowly connect to your life and you do not even realize, it is how the society operates.I always loved to tag along with her for grocery trips just to observe how she would choose vegetables – touching them, sniffing a few, closely inspecting each piece below the flickering bulbs on the stalls of thela-wallas (street vendors with wooden wheeled carts),she took her time to select. If few of the vendors were in a mood, they would slice off a couple of apples or pluck few greens and let her taste before buying.Thick,dark-skinned capsicum to yellowish cauliflower heads to fragrant methi (fenugreek) and soa (dill) bunches to ruby kashmiri anar (pomegranates) and apples, each sample of produce brought with itself an opportunity for deliciousness.
- The onset of winters also meant there would be lots of wholesome,hearty meals in the house full of warm spices and herbs. There would be exotic,rich curries and layered biryanis and indulgent desserts. Mom would make a lot of quick rice dishes to keep our stomachs nourished & satisfied. The house would be enveloped in the pungent aroma of mustard oil and earthy fragrance of basmati rice bubbling on the stove. This is one of her favorite recipes which I have changed to our liking over the years, she did not add bell peppers or potatoes, but I love the combination of both of these with chickpeas and rice so I do it more my way now. A weekly regular in our house with all kinds of variations each time.
- Printable Recipe
- Ingredients (Serves 3)
- You could use canned chickpeas and cut down the cooking time to half but I recommend starting with dried chickpeas and cooking raw ones from scratch because the resultant delicious stock will flavor the rice immensely.
- For the Chickpeas (Skip this step if using canned chickpeas)
- 1 cup dried raw chickpeas
- 2 + 1/4 cups water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp oil
- For the Pulao(Pilaf)
- 3/4 cup basmati rice
- 1.5 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt (skip for vegan)
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika, this gives the color not the heat)
- 4 tbsp mustard oil (or use canola/vegetable/olive oil)
- 1/2 ” cinnamon stick (indian cinnamon is very sharp so I use less, adjust if using sweet cinammon)
- 1 small twig of mace
- 1 indian bay leaf (or regular bay leaf)
- 2-3 cloves
- 1 black cardamom, cracked open
- 1/2 cup heaped chopped onions
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder(adjust to taste)
- 1-2 medium potatoes, cut in quarters
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 small red bell pepper, cubed
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, crushed)
- 1-2 tbsp ghee to finish(optional, skip for vegan)
- Chopped cilantro to garnish
- Optional – golden raisins, silvered almonds, cashews.