Rice and Beans


I always have canned beans on hand. Dried beans of course are the  preferred  choice, and I use those often, but canned beans are a lifesaver for quick week night meals. Especially for vegetarians. Today, for example, I had some ripe avocados that I wanted to use before they spoiled. Guacamole  is always my choice, because the family loves it. And when considering a main dish of the same cuisine, I didn’t have much choices. Hence decided to make this simple, one-pot  Mexican  rice and beans.

Rice and Beans


Onions – 1 medium-sized, diced finely
Carrots – 1 medium-sized, diced finely
Garlic – 2 cloves
Green bell pepper – 1 medium-sized, diced finely
Green chilies – 2 (I just slit them in half, if you like it spicy, dice it finely)
Tomato paste – 1 tsp
Rice – 1 cup (any kind, I used basmati)
Red kidney beans – 1 can, rinsed many times
Cumin powder – 1tsp
Salt – to taste
Vegetable or Chicken stock – 2 cups (can be substituted with water)
Cilantro for garnish


1. In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I used my pressure pan) add about a tbsp of olive oil. Add onions, garlic, carrots, bell pepper and green chilies and sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomato paste, salt and cumin powder and sauté for a few minutes more.
3. Add the rice, and mix well, till every grain is coated well with the onion-tomato mixture.
4. Add beans, stock and bring to a boil.
5. If using a pressure pan, at this point close and cook for 2 whistles. If it’s a regular pan, cover and cook till all the water is absorbed, for about 15-20 minutes.
6. Let it sit, covered, for about 5 min.
7. Fluff the rice up with a fork, and serve, garnishing with chopped cilantro.


1. Use any kind of rice. I used basmati. If using brown rice though, soak it for about 30 minutes first, and then follow the recipe.
2. This rice can be eaten as is, or served with toppings (sour cream, lettuce, grated cheese, the works). Or wrap everything up in a tortilla and serve as a burrito.
3. Skip the beans, and serve the spiced rice as a side for fish or chicken.


Kovil Puliyorai – Tamarind Rice

puLiyorai - Tamarind rice

Tamarind rice has to be the most popular of all the ‘Chitrannam’ in Tamil cuisine. See more about Chitrannam here. There are over 100 different ways to make this, but my favorite is “Kovil PuLiyorai” or tamarind rice made in temples. It is the most common prasadam (offering to God) distributed in South Indian Temples.

Puliyorai can be made two ways: one, you make a paste out of tamarind and other spices, cook it down, and mix it with cooked rice. But the normal method for temples is to cook rice with tamarind and turmeric, make dry spice mix, and mix everything together. I follow the second method, because it’s much tastier and far simpler.

Kovil Puliyorai


Uncooked Raw long-grain white rice – 1 cup
Tamarind paste – 1/2 tablespoon
Turmeric powder – 1/2 teaspoon

For the spice mix
Fenugreek seeds – 1 teaspoon
Black sesame seeds – 1 1/2 teaspoon
Urad dal (white lentil) – 1 1/2 tablespoon
Whole dried red chilies – 4 – 6 (depends on how spicy you like it, cut it back even further if you like it mild)
Black pepper corn – 1 teaspoon
Coriander seeds – 1 tablespoon

For tempering
Mustard seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
Urad dal – 1 tablespoon
Channa dal – 1 tablespoon
Whole unsalted peanuts/cashewnuts (optional) – 1/4 cup
Fresh curry leaves – 6- 8
Gingelly oil – 2 tablespoons

Salt, to taste

1. Cook rice with 2 cups of water, the tamarind paste and turmeric in the normal way you cook rice. Don’t overcook it. Spread it out on a cookie sheet/large pan, so the rice grains don’t stick to one another.

2. Dry roast black sesame seeds and fenugreek seeds in a pan. Roast the rest of the spice mix ingredients in a bit of oil. Cool them down and grind to a powder in a blender/coffee gridner (Grind all the spices except the sesame seeds first, and then add the sesame seeds at the end and spin the mixer again. Because of their high oil content, the sesame seeds won’t let the other spices grind well).

3. Heat the gingelly oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds. Once they have spluttered, add the urad dal, channa dal, and peanuts/cashew nuts. Once they are golden brown, turn off the heat, and add the curry leaves.

4. Add the tempered oil, ground spice mix and salt to cooked rice. Mix well and serve with papaddam (or yogurt).


1. Gingelly oil is made from Sesame seeds, but it’s different from the sesame oil used in Oriental cuisine. That’s roasted sesame seed oil, but gingelly oil (or til oil) is pressed from raw sesame seeds. If you cannot find it, use any vegetable oil.

2. Tamarind rice tastes even better the next day!

Mint and Rice

I love mint. It’s probably my favorite herb. But sadly, I haven’t seen many people use it because they normally associate mint with breath mints or mouthwash. Fresh mint leaves, on the other hand, leave a very subtle and gorgeous flavor. And if you don’t use it enough, you really should.

In Spain, we get two varieties of mint: the common mint called ‘menta’ and a special spanish variety called ‘hierbabuena’ (literally means the good herb), which the Spanish claim is much superior. I’ve never been able to tell the difference (sshhh!).

I’ve attempted to make two mint dishes, both with rice, but in totally different styles. One is a South-Indian style Mint and Peas Rice, and the other is a Mint and Mushroom Risotto. In Indian cuisine, mint is used all the time: in chutneys, with vegetables, with rice, and meat. It’s a very common herb. But again, with internationalization, cilantro has become “the preferred herb” of Indian cuisine all over. Similarly, I’ve heard that mint is the most commonly used herb in Italian cooking, because it grows all over Italy. But again, basil has become the more common Italian herb.

I’ve just attempted to try and use mint (I happened to have a really big bouquet of it) in different forms.

Mint and Peas Rice

This is also a type a ‘Chitrannam’ I was talking about in the post about lemon rice.

Mint and Peas Rice

Cooked white rice (preferably basmati rice, or any long grain rice) – 2 cups
Frozen green peas – 1/4 cup
Fresh mint – 1 cup, packed
Green chili – 1
Fresh ginger, chopped – 1 teaspoon
Fresh grated coconut – 2 tablespoons
Cumin – 1 teaspoon
Bay leaf – 1
Oil – 1 teaspoon
Salt to taste

1. Grind the mint, chili, ginger and coconut into a paste.
2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the bay leaf and the cumin.
3. Immediately, add the mint paste, frozen peas and salt.
4. Saute for 3-5 minutes.
5. Take off heat, add the cooked rice and mix well, till the rice is well coated.
6. Taste and adjust salt, the rice would probably need more.
7. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Mint and Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is more a technique than a recipe. I’ve given in a risotto recipe earlier, I’ve just used the same process here, but made the flavor profile much simpler (no mirepoix, or any other herb), so as to bring out the ‘mintiness’ ?!

Mint and Mushroom Risotto


Arborio rice: 1 cup
Vegetable or chicken stock – 4 – 5 cups
Onion – 1 medium (diced fine)
Garlic – 2 cloves (minced)
Fresh Mint – 1/2 cup (minced)
Fresh mushrooms – about 15 medium sized ones sliced. (I’ve used creminis, but you can use any variety)
Olive oil – 1 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon for the mushrooms
Butter – 1 tablespoon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring the stock to a boil and set it on a simmer while you get the other ingredients ready.
2. Cook the sliced mushrooms until they are brown and smell nutty, in a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt. (skip the salt till the very end, salt brings out the water in the mushrooms, and you don’t want soggy mushrooms)
3. Remove the mushrooms and set them aside, and to the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter.
4. Saute the onion and garlic.
5. Once the onions are translucent, add the rice and saute till all the rice is coated with the oil and smells nutty.
6. Add the 1/3 of the simmering stock, and cook till it is all absorbed, stirring constantly.
7. Once, all the stock has been absorbed, add another 1/3 of the stock and let the rice cook and absorb the stock.
8. Add the mushrooms, and salt and pepper.
9. Add 1/2 of the remaining liquid, and cook it down. Check if the rice is done. It should be cooked completely, but still have a bite to it.
10. If it has cooked, you don’t need the remaining stock, but if it hasn’t, add the final installment of stock and cook till absorbed.
11. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
12. Remove from heat and mix in the chopped mint.
13. Serve immediately.


1. Mint stalks are woody. Use just the leaves.
2. In both dishes, a squeeze of lemon juice at the end would be wonderful. Or some lemon zest.
3. Mint pesto is a great use of mint as well. Mix it with pasta or serve it as a sauce for fish or chicken.

Paella Vegetariana

Paella Vegetariana!

No Spanish dish is as international as the paella (pa-ye-ya). It is originally from a region called Valencia in Spain, where the Paella is usually made with meat: rabbit or duck. Seafood paella was made in the Spanish coast later, Paella de marisco . Now anywhere in the many tourist traps around Spain, you will get paella mixta (a combination) for 20 euros (ufff), usually made with leftover meat and fish.

An authentic paella needs some important things.

1. Paellera (pa-ye-yera) – Traditional iron pan, in which the paella is made and served.

2. Fire – In many Spanish homes, they have a gas burner, which are connected to a propane tank. This is because, the normal stove tops aren’t wide enough for the paellera.

3. Saffron – This is what gives the paella it’s nice golden color.

4. Rice – In Spain there is variety called Bomba which is widely used (brand I use is SOS) but I guess any medium grain white rice will do.

My shiny new Paellera!

I bought myself a shiny new paellera, and wanted to try making a vegetarian paella. Spanish people will probably laugh at this, but I was sure it’ll be good. And it was! Also I didn’t have gas burner, just used a large burner on my vitroceramic. Here is my recipe.

Paella Vegetariana (serves 4-6)


Medium grain white rice – 2 cups
Onion – 1
Celery – 1 stalk (not normally used in a paella, but I like it)
Garlic – 5 cloves
Black peppercorns – 1 teaspoon
Vegetables – 2 cups (I used red peppers, yellow peppers, peas, carrots and cremini and white mushrooms)
Tomato puree – 2 – 3 tablespoons (I used crushed canned tomatoes)
Pimienton picante – 1/2 teaspoon (or paprika)
Saffron  – a pinch
Stock – 4 – 6 cups (vegetable or chicken stock)
Olive oil – 3 – 4 tablespoons
Salt – to taste

Paella cooking with the precious


1. Chop onions and celery fine.
2. Chop all the other vegetables into equal sized, medium dice.
3. In a mortar, combine garlic, peppercorns and a teaspoon of olive oil into a fine paste.
4. Heat the paellera (or the widest, flattest pan you own) and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom.
5. Add onions and celery and saute for 2 minutes, till the onions are translucent.
6. Add other vegetables and saute for a minute more.
7. Add the garlic paste and crushed tomatoes, and cook for a couple of more minutes.
8. Sprinkle pimienton, and salt. (add a bit more salt than you think it needs, because the rice soaks up the salt)
9. Add the stock and bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate flavors. Add your precious pinch of saffron.
10. Add the rice in an even layer across the pan. Mix it well and let it cook for 15 – 20 minutes on a gentle simmer. Don’t stir. The thick, glossy layer of liquid (pelicula!) on top is important for the flavor.
11. Check the rice to see if its done, if not add a bit more liquid and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.
12. Take it off heat, cover it with foil and let it sit for a few minutes. This is important for the rice to soak up any remaining liquid.
13. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges and serve as is in the paellera.


1. Saffron food coloring can be used if saffron is too expensive for you.
2. If you are using meat or chicken, brown the meat as step 1, and continue the rest of the steps.
3. Don’t stir too much, this isn’t risotto, we don’t want creamy.
4. You can easily halve this recipe, this makes quite a lot of rice! (I have leftovers!!).

Roasted Cauliflower Risotto

Temperature dropped here yesterday by a few degrees, and I longed for comfort food. I didn’t have much to work with: a head of cauliflower, a leftover carrot, a sad looking bell pepper, nothing substantial, I didn’t even have cheese to make mac n cheese. So I turned to a favorite – the trusty risotto.

Risotto, is more like a process than a recipe. You learn to make the basic risotto, and then you have a whole bunch of recipes in your repertoire. I start off my risotto with mirepoix (or well since it’s Italian, soffrito), saute, add rice, saute till translucent, add wine (if using), keep adding simmering stock in parts and stirring till the rice absorbs everything, and repeat. Just before the last installment of stock, add flavoring, herbage, cooked veggies, salt, pepper and finish off when rice is creamy and still has got a bite to it. Finish off with grated Parmesan if you want. That’s it. It is that simple! Rice to liquid ratio is usually 1 cup rice to 3-4 cups liquid.

Liquid usually is 1/2 cup white wine and remaining, stock. Homemade stock is the best, if store bought, but low sodium type. Rice must be a starchy short grain rice, preferably Arborio or Carnaroli or Vialone Nano. Do not rinse the rice too much, you need all the starchy goodness.

Armored with this method, we can make tens of different kinds of risotto! I made a roasted cauliflower risotto.

Roasted cauliflower risotto
Roasted Cauliflower Risotto


Cauliflower – 1/2 a small cauliflower, separate the florets, and cut the stems into a dice

Onion – 1 medium sized, diced

Carrot – 1 diced

Garlic – 2-3 cloves, minced

Short grained rice – 1 cup

Vegetable Stock – 4 cups

Thyme – 1 stem

Bay Leaves – 2

Salt and Pepper

Olive oil – 2 – 3 tablespoons


1. Roast the cauliflower florets on a cookie sheet with a bit of olive oil salt and pepper in a 400’F oven for 20 – 30 min. Turn them around once in the middle. (Don’t crowd the florets on the sheet).

2. Boil the stock and keep it on a gentle simmer.

3, Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on a heavy bottomed pan, saute onions, carrots and cauliflower stems (instead of the normal celery)

4. Add minced garlic, bay leaves and continue to cook for a minute.

5. Add the rice and saute till your kitchen is filled with a nutty aroma.

6. Add 1/3 of the simmering stock, and stir till the liquid is absorbed. Add the next 1/3 of stock and keep stirring often.

7. Add thyme leaves, and the roasted cauliflower florets, salt and pepper.

8. Add 1/2 of the remaining liquid. If the rice is creamy and al dente, remove off heat, top off with a sprinkle of lime or lemon zest.


1. Add cheese at the very end. Or better, at the table. Even better, forget cheese, the risotto is creamy enough.

2. Roasted asparagus, wild mushrooms, artichokes.. replace cauliflower with any vegetable that you have on hand.

3. Add salt at the end, because the stock has enough salt in it.