The New Indian Slow Cooker + Spiced Rice with Potatoes and Peas

October 5, 2014

The New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz rethinks traditional Indian recipes to make them accessible and convenient for the busy home cook.  Many classic Indian dishes like butter chicken, lamb vindaloo, and vegetable curry simmer for hours which makes them ideal for the slow cooker.  Anything from chutneys, curries, rice, dal, and more can be prepared using the slow cooker method.  Moreover, this book also provides recipes for customary accompaniments such as basmati rice, cucumber and yogurt raita, Indian spice blends and even naan.  Some of the foods Painz showcases are browned lamb with onions, tomatoes and spices; cornish hens with rum and saffron; eggplant with potatoes; spiced rice with potatoes and peas; mixed yellow dal and more. This cookbook opens the gateway for easy Indian cooking at home any night of the week.

Spiced Rice with Potatoes and Peas
masala chawal
Serves 6 to 8

My aunt Vrinda, who taught me the nuances of how to use spices, would often prepare this recipe for dinner. She and I would eat it with either a raita or a chutney, but her English husband would pair it with store-bought roasted chicken he picked up on the way home from work. I suggest you try it with Roast Chicken à la Rama (page 60), raita (page 28), and Sweet Tomato Chutney (page 50). The rice will cook faster than the potatoes, so I boil these until they are halfway cooked before proceeding. I also add the defrosted peas after the timer has turned to the warm setting, cooking them in the residual heat.

1 1⁄2 cups basmati rice
3 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons ghee
2 3⁄4 cups boiling hot water
1⁄2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 to 8 fresh kari leaves*
2 serrano chiles, finely chopped
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 small tomatoes, diced
1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon ground Indian red chile* 1
teaspoon garam masala, store-bought or homemade (page 34, variation)
1 1⁄4 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro
1⁄3 cup grated coconut meat*
8 ounces frozen peas, defrosted

Before prepping the ingredients, turn the slow cooker on to the high setting for 15 minutes, until the insert is warmed through.

Pick over the rice to remove any foreign objects. Gently wash the rice in a bowl in several changes of water until the last wash runs almost clear. Boil the potatoes until halfway done, about 4 minutes. They should still be firm in the center when pierced with a knife tip. Drain and set aside.

Brush 1 teaspoon of the ghee on the bottom and an inch up the sides of the heated insert (alternatively you can spray it with butter-flavored cooking spray). Drain the rice and transfer it to the cooker insert along with the potatoes; add the boiling water.

Heat a small skillet on high heat, with a lid handy. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of ghee, tilt the skillet to form a pool, and carefully add the mustard seeds and, quickly, the cumin seeds. As they sizzle, add the kari leaves, green chiles, and ginger, cover to prevent spattering. Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the tomatoes, turmeric, red chile, and garam masala. Mix and add to the rice, pouring a little water into the skillet to deglaze, and add this to the insert. Add the salt, cilantro, and coconut. Stir to mix, cover, and cook on high for 1 1 ⁄2 hours. During the cooking process, stir the rice twice, gently.

When the timer sounds, stir in the defrosted peas, cover, and continue to steam in the cooker on the warm setting for another 10 minutes. Turn off the slow cooker, remove the lid, and cover the rice with a paper towel. Place the lid back on the cooker, and let stand for another 5 minutes. Remove the lid and paper towel and fluff with a fork. Serve hot. If the rice is to be served later, transfer it to a serving dish, spreading the pullao out to ensure that it does not clump up. To reheat, cover the rice with a damp paper towel, seal the dish with aluminum foil, and bake at 350°F for 5 to 6 minutes.

Classic Spice Blend
garam masala
Makes about 1/3 cup

Garam masala is an essential ingredient of the Indian kitchen. A blend of spices the exact composition of which varies from household to household, it lends flavor to many dishes. It is best to blend fresh batches of garam masala every so often; store it in an airtight jar in a cool place. See "Spice Preparation 101," page 12, for further guidance on roasting and grinding spices.

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 1⁄2 teaspoons whole cloves
4 black cardamom pods
8 green cardamom pods
2 (2-inch) pieces cassia
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
4 whole dried red árbol chiles
1 star anise

Roast all the spices in a dry nonstick skillet over high heat, stirring or shaking often to avoid burning. When the cumin seeds turn a deep brown color, transfer the spices to a plate and spread out; set aside to cool completely. Grind the spices in either a blender or a spice grinder until pulverized.

Variation: Add 1 ⁄2 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and mace to the other spices in the grinder.

Reprinted with permission from The New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz (Ten Speed Press, © 2014). Photo Credit: Eva Kolenko.

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