Tamil Muslims prepare delicious dishes, and the mouthwatering aroma permeates the entire neighbourhood. I have always been fascinated by the flavour of their preparations, but I could not capture it in my kitchen. Once when my daughter and I went to the Chennai Book Fair, we spotted a few Muslims at the National Publishers’ stall. So I approached them and asked if they had any cookery books. They looked rather taken aback to see two short-haired women barging into their stall, speaking Tamil and asking for recipe books. They wordlessly pointed to one shelf, and I found A-1 Muslim Samayal (A-1 Muslim Cooking) by Fathima Shahjahan.
The author, who writes in Tamil, refers to Kuska Rice as ghee rice. But a Muslim friend of ours told us that it is “rice without meat.” She also uses techniques to suit the modern working woman. She had used a pressure cooker to prepare this, but I always prefer a heavy-bottomed casserole or cooking pot with a tight fitting lid. The amount of water I have given in the recipe is for Double Deer basmati rice, as the quantity of water required seems to vary from brand to brand. True to the reputation of Muslim Cookery, even my neighbour commented on the fragrance wafting from my kitchen.
The original recipe had the amounts given in grams; I have standardized it using metric measuring cups as most households in India do not use a weighing scale.
- 4 C Basmati rice
- 2 large Onions, sliced
- 4 Country Tomatoes, chopped
- 5 Green chillies
- 2 T Garlic paste
- 2 T Ginger paste
- ½ C Mint leaves
- ½ C Coriander leaves
- 4 Cardamoms
- 4 Cinnamon pieces
- 4 Cloves
- 1 C thick Coconut milk
- 1/3 C Ghee
- 4 tsp Salt, or to taste
- 7 ½ C Water, boiling hot
- Clean the rice, wash, and drain in a colander.
- Heat the ghee in a heavy, large casserole or cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid.
- Add cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Immediately add the garlic and ginger pastes and fry on low heat. Add a few tablespoons of water to prevent browning.
- Add the onion, green chillies, and the mint and coriander leaves and fry till the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and stir. Add salt and cook till the tomatoes are tender but not broken.
- Transfer the rice and stir till all the grains are coated with ghee.
- Add the hot water and the coconut milk.
- Bring to boil, cover the vessel, and lower heat. Stir once to make sure that the masala is mixed evenly with the rice.
- Remove when the rice grains are cooked.
Ghee: Clarified melted butter (different brands available).
Masala: Mixture of all the ingredients in the recipe other than the rice, ghee, and coconut milk (steps 3 & 4).
Coconut milk: Either freshly extracted or from a carton or reconstituted (I reconstituted from Maggi coconut milk powder).