A southern Indian vegetarian dish, curd rice consists of gently spiced yogurt or buttermilk folded into basmati rice. This is traditionally served with either a pickle or a chutney, or both.
Originally I was going to do curd rice and a beet raita but saw that that combination would be too much of the same thing. Sometimes it pays to edit quickly.
Indian pickles generally consist of a large variety of pickled fruits and vegetables which are acidified in citrus juice or through lactic acid fermentation enabled by the addition of salt. The pickles also have various combinations of Indian spices, and often oil. Some regions also specialize in pickling meats or fish. Sometimes the pickle or achar is made with spices such as onions, garlic, chili and others. Homemade pickles are prepared in the summer and kept in the sun during daytime to speed fermentation for at least three weeks before use. They are stored in porcelain or glass jars with airtight lids. The acidic nature of the marinade retards bacterial growth, and oil acts as a preservative. Many commercially produced pickles use preservatives like citric acid and sodium benzoate.
Curd rice with Persian cucumber and golden beets, served with homemade green mango pickle
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2 cups cooked rice
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt — (1)
kosher salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
1 large golden beet, peeled and chopped
1/2 cucumber, chopped
7 dried curry leaves
pinch of asafoetida powder
1 T. ghee or sesame oil
1 t. black mustard seeds
1 t. urad dal
1 green chile, minced
handful of cilantro, chopped
Combine yogurt, beet, cucumber, salt and pepper. Stir gently, then set aside.
Melt ghee in a large skillet and add the mustard seeds. Let the seeds “pop”, then add the urad dal, chile, curry leaves and asafoetida powder. When the dal turns brown, pour over the yogurt mixture. Stir thoroughly.
Combine yogurt mixture with rice. Taste for salt and pepper (you shouldn’t need much), garnish with chopped cilantro and serve at once. Goes well with a pickle or a chutney.
2 dried chipotle chiles
1/4 cup coarse sea salt
2 T. dried orange zest
1 T. crushed rock sugar
1/4 t. cardamom seeds
Pan-toast the dried chiles briefly until they are slightly fragrant and brittle, about 1 minute. When cool, process in a blender or spice mill until crushed into flakes. Combine them in a bowl with the salt, orange zest, sugar and cardamom, and mix. Transfer to a salt mill and grind as you would plain rock salt. Alternately, place the pan-toasted chiles in a blender and process until crushed. Add the remaining ingredients and process for several minutes. Pour through a fine-meshed strainer. Discard any flakes that remain. Transfer to a salt shaker or store in an air-tight jar. Makes about 1/3 cup.
Green mango pickles
1 lb. green (unripe) mangoes, stones removed and cut into chunks
1 cup mustard oil
3 T. fenugreek seeds
4 T. fennel seeds
2 t. turmeric
3 t. orange-chile salt
Process fenugreek in a blender or spice grinder, then add fennel seeds, turmeric, orange-chile salt and half the oil. Stir. Pour spice-oil mixture over the mango. Mix by hand (or with a wooden spoon) to ensure that the mango pieces are thoroughly coated.
Transfer mango to a sterilized glass or earthenware jar. Top up with any remaining spice-oil mixture. Cover the jar tightly with a lid, then place outside in the sun for two to three days, shaking it two or three times a day.
On the fourth day, add the remaining oil, adding extra if necessary to cover the contents completely. Put the jar in the sun for another three to four days and leave it without shaking it again. It will be ready to eat afterwards but becomes more tender in about four weeks’ time.
This is one version out of a multitude. The pic above is a variation — for example, it contains pigeon peas (which are not traditional). Other recipes include using chickpeas and/or whole garlic cloves. It depends on your creativity as well as what’s on hand in your pantry.
Time (for the curd rice): 30 minutes, including prep; (for the orange-chile salt): 15 minutes, including prep; (for the green mango pickle): 1 hour, not counting the time required for the fermentation and aging process
(1) — Be sure to get FULL-FAT yogurt, NOT low-fat or non-fat. The taste won’t be the same if you don’t, believe me.