How to cook rice

There is nothing more appealing than a bowl of fluffy, perfectly cooked, steaming hot rice. 
Although I love tasting food from around the world, comfort food to me is a bowl of rice and dal. 
From a lot of trial and error, I think I have learnt how to cook rice perfectly.
The secret to cooking perfect rice i found is to wash it 4-5 times before cooking to ensure that all the sticky starch has been removed. You should also soak it after washing for about 30 mins to ensure it comes out just perfect. I use a pressure cooker & put a little more than double the amount of water per cup of rice.You can also use a pan with a tightly fitting lid. I wait exactly until the first whistle ( about 10-20 mins) after which I quickly run the pressure cooker under cold water  to release the steam ( this step is of course unnecessary if you are not using a pressure cooker) & immediately strain the rice so that it doesn't get overcooked. If you leave the rice in the hot water in the pot you run the risk of it continuing to cook and turn mushy.

 However, accidents do happen. If they must, you could use some of the following little tricks that I found here and have used to rescue my rice, sadly a few more times than I would like to admit. 
 Problem: The rice is still very chewy or hard in the middle. 
Solution: Add just enough water to create a little steam, 1/4 cup or less. Put the lid on and cook the rice on very low heat for another 5 minutes. 

 Problem: The grains are split and the rice is mushy because of over cooking. 
Solution: This is the worst problem because you can't really fix over cooked rice. You could wash the sticky rice under cold water. That helps a little, but the best way to use it up would be to make rice pudding with it, 

 Problem: The bottom layer of rice has burned. 
Solution: Run cold water over the outside of the pot's bottom to stop it from continuing to cook, and preventing the burnt flavor from permeating the rest of the rice (don't add water to the rice itself).Tip out as much rice as you can salvage. Be careful not to mix the burnt part at the bottom with the rest of the rice.

 Rice is usually eaten with curries. It is also often flavoured and cooked with ingredients as in fried rice, biryani etc.
South Indians have an interesting variety of rice dishes like curd rice, mint rice, coconut rice, spinach rice, tomato rice, sambhar rice, tamrind rice and my favourite, the tangy Lemon Rice.

Lemon Rice
2 cups cooked rice 
2 tbsps vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil 
1 tsp mustard seeds 
3-4 curry leaves 4 green chillies slit lengthwise 4 dry red chillies 
1 tsp ginger paste or grated ginger 
1/2 cup peanuts (roasted and unsalted) 
1 tsp turmeric powder 
Juice of 2 lemons 
Salt to taste 

Preparation: Add salt and lemon juice to the cooked rice and mix well so that it is spread evenly. Keep aside Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chillies. Fry till the spluttering stops Add the ginger and peanuts. Fry for another minute. Add the turmeric powder and red chillies and stir. Turn off the fire. Add the rice and mix well so that it takes on the bright yellow colour from the turmeric. Can be eaten plain, with pickle or served with a raita ( Yogurt mixed with a little salt, finely chopped onion, cucumber or tomatoes)

Stew in Coconut milk or Ishtoo

This "ishtoo" is typical to Syrian Christian homes in Kerala and I try to make this with Appam whenever family visits, especially for breakfast at Easter or Christmas.Stew with crispy lacey Palappams is an integral part of family gatherings and most definitely on special occasions. It is quite simple to prepare with coconut milk being easily available in tins but incredibly tasty especially if you like coconut milk based curries.

Traditional Syrian Christian Coconut Milk Stew
Recipe source: My mother and mother-in-law

  1. *Mutton 500 gms or Chicken 1/2 Kg ( Omit to make vegetable stew)
  2. Onion-1 (large or 2 medium)
  3. Green chilly- 3-4
  4. Ginger - small piece about half the size of your thumb, smashed with a pestle ( no need to slice)
  5. Curry leaves- a few about 5-6
  6. Thick Coconut milk 1 cup
  7. Cinnamon sticks (patta) 1
  8. Cloves (karayampoo) 4
  9. Cardamom (elakka) 4
  10. Whole Peppercorns 4-5
  11. Diced vegetables likes potatoes-2, carrots-2 are traditional but nowadays people also add beans, peas, corn, mushroom etc. especially if making a vegetable stew
Optional, for my mother in law's spicier variation: ( omit for traditional white coloured stew):
  1. Garlic cloves 3
  2. Coriander powder 1 tsp 
  3. Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
  4. Garam masala powder 1/2 tsp 
Optional for garnish:
2-3 small onions ( shallots) or half a regular onion sliced thin and 4-5 curry leaves fried in a tbsp of ghee or coconut oil

  1. Heat oil (I prefer coconut oil mixed with a little canola oil). Splutter cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom and pepper
  2. Fry thinly sliced onion, salt to taste, smashed piece of ginger, curry leaves and slit green chillies until onions turn transluscent ( they should not turn brown)
  3. Now if you want the  spicier yellow coloured stew like my mother in law makes, add and lightly fry the garlic, and then the spices mentioned - coriander, turmeric and garam masala and saute just until till spices no longer smell raw.
  4. Add mutton/chicken and stir fry for about 5-10 mins and then add the chopped vegetables
  5. Add 3 cups water ( can reduce water if you want a thicker gravy) and 1/4 cup coconut milk and cover and cook ( I use a pressure cooker)
  6. When done- (usually for chicken 10 mins after the whistle goes, the meat should be white and cooked through, a fork should go through the potatoes and carrots easily), reduce flame pour first extraction thick coconut milk (or 1 cup thick coconut milk from a tin), and simmer for 10-15 mins on low heat stirring occasionally so that the coconut milk does not curdle
  7. For added flavour you can fry curry leaves and 2 small onions till brown in 1 tbsp ghee/ coconut oil and pour on top.
* - You can choose to leave out the chicken or mutton to make a vegetable stew.

Stew is traditionally served with Appams or Idiappams  but it is also great served with soft warm bread rolls or rice too.

If you like this and coconut milk based curried check out my favourite super quick and easy chicken curry in coconut milk ( which I also make with just veggies)

Sweet and sour pork with vegetables

  1. Pork- ½ lb (cut into cubes)
  2. Vegetables – 1 can
  3. Cooking oil – 3 cups
For the pork marinade:
  1. 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  2. 1 tbsp rice cooking wine (optional)
  3. 1 tbsp soy sauce
For the sweet sauce:
  1. 1 tbsp ginger (minced)
  2. ¼ cup ketchup
  3. ¼ cup water or chicken stock
  4. 2 tbsp vinegar
  5. 2 tbsp sugar
  1. *Marinate the pork in the ingredients for marinade
  2. Take 3 cups cooking oil in a wok. Deep fry marinated pork at 375-400 degrees. Take out and drain the excess oil.
  3. Take a bowl. Add all the ingredients for sauce. Mix well till sugar dissolves. Keep aside.
  4. Take another wok. Add 1 tbsp of oil. Add the can of vegetables and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  5. Make some space in the center of the vegetables and add in the sauce. Stir till bubbles appear (begins to boil).
  6. Add the deep fried pork and mix well. Stir till all vegetables and pork is well coated with the sauce.
*Marinate-Mix ingredients for marinade in a bowl. Add the pork and rub until fully covered.Keep in the fridge for 20 mins

Biryani- Mom's recipe

Fragrant, rich and delicious Biryani is the perfect meal to make when you are having lots of people over. It may look impressive and complicated but is quite simple to make and combines meat and rice in one dish- so it's a complete meal and no other accompaniment is necessary, You may want to serve a cool raitha salad (recipe follows) or some papads but that is completely optional.

Whenever I make biriyani, I remeber a trip I made to Hyderabad- the homeland of biriyani!

Hyderabadi biryani made in the "Dum" style is very popular but I sampled biryani all over hyderabad and I kept comparing it to my mom's which I think is the best biriyani in the world! Ofcourse you are free to disagree if you must- but only after you make it and taste it.

Here are some pictures from our visit to the beautiful Charminar and the delightful lad bazaar where there are stalls upon stalls selling bangles of every hue  that all of us, especially my bangle crazy friend Q just could not resist! 

Recipe Source: My Mom
Time taken: 1 hour Serves:4


  1. Basmati Rice-1 cup (wash, soak for 5 mins and drain)
  2. Patta (Indian bay Leaf-Leaves of the Cinnamon tree) 1
  3. Cloves- 2
  4. Cardamom-2

  1. Splutter these in little ghee, add rice & fry for 3 -4 mins
  2. Add 2 1/4 cup of water.
  3. Add salt for taste and pressurecook for one whistle. Switch off the flame and keep for 5 mns without opening lid.
  4. After 5 mins, put the pressure cooker in your sink and run cool water on the lid to release all the steam. Once the steam has been fully released, open lid , and spread the cooked rice on a large plate
  5. Squeeze little lime over the rice for flavour and also so that the rice won't stick and form clumps
For the chicken masala
  • Chicken 1/2 kg (soaked in 1/2 cup curds)
  • Onion- 3 large 
  • Green chilly- 5 to 8 depending on spice tolerance
  • Tomato- 2 medium
  • Turmeric powder-1 tsp
  • Coriander powder-2 tsp
  • Garam masala- 1 1/2 tsp
  • Mint and coriander leaves-  a handful
  • Ginger garlic paste- 1 tbsp

  1. Sautee the onion and green chillies, stirring ocassionally till the onions turn a little brown. Keep to the side of the vessel.
  2. Sautee ginger and garlic paste, add turmeric,  garam masala and coriander powder and continue to stir
  3. Add tomatoes and mint and coriander leaves, and stir
  4. Add chicken with curds
  5. Heat in a pressure cooker till done. ( About 2-3 whistles)
  6. Open the lid and let it simmer till excess water dries up and oil floats on top
  7. Rub little ghee in a baking dish
  8. Spread 1/2 rice, then gravy and rest of rice in layers
  9. Cover the dish with a wet cloth and bake at 350 F for about 30 mins

Garnish with fried onions, raisins and cashews.
Serve hot with boiled eggs,
pappad and curd salad (raitha
Other accompaniments could be fried fish, cutlets or kebabs.
Oh and don't be afraid of left overs, biryani tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had more time to blend.

Cucumber Tomato Raitha

  • 1 cucumber peeled and chopped fine or coarsely grated
  • 1 firm tomato- seeds removed and chopped ( optional) 
  • 2 cups curd or yogurt ( Stirred till smooth-low fat or full fat-either is fine as long as it is plain/unflavoured. Even thick greek yogurt can be used for awesome results)
  • 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red chilli powder


  • Mix all of the above in a bowl. Garnish with chopped mint leaves if desired. Serve chilled with biriyani, pranthas, kebabs etc. Store covered in the fridge for a day or two.

Easy Chicken Masala Fry

  1. Bite sized pieces of chicken
  2. Chilli powder
  3. Turmeric powder
  4. Garam Masala powder
  5. Salt
  1.  Rub some salt, chilli powder turmeric powder and garam masala powder onto the chicken pieces.
  2. Keep in the fridge for some time to marinate, atleast 20 mins.
  3. Keep the pieces outside for a little while for it to reach room temperature.
  4. Fry the pieces in a tava with a little oil and turn the pieces over once the side has turned brown.
  5. Drain the oil and soak pieces in tissue or a cloth.

Banana- Breakfast & Dessert

South Indians especially the Malayalis can do amazing things with bananas. Almost every part of the tree, including the flower and the spongy bark is used in cooking.The leaves are used to serve food in. The fruit of course is enjoyed on it's own or cooked in various ways, some of which I've featured here. The following are popular desserts as well as eaten for breakfast or as a snack.

Caramelized Banana 

  • 1 Ripe Plantain (Nendrapazham)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Cup water
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon sugar in a saucepan until it melts and turns brown.
  2. Add the peeled and sliced banana and 1 cup water per banana.
  3. Boil till soft.
Serve hot/cold with custard. Good over pancakes. 

Buttered & Sugared Banana Ingredients
  • 2-3 bananas
  • 4-6 tablespoons sugar (or more)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Slice bananas into thick coins or lengthwise strips, depending on your preference.
  2. Pour sugar onto a plate. Roll bananas in sugar, until completely coated.
  3. Heat butter in a non stick pan over medium high heat. Add bananas and sugar.
  4. Cook bananas until light to golden brown underneath, about 4-5 minutes (you can lift with a spatula to peak). Be careful not to overcook or burn them (if you smell them browning, or see color in the pan, flip them right away).
  5. Gently flip bananas over to brown other side, turning heat down to medium. The second side will brown in about one minute.
  6. Transfer to a plate that has been coated with cooking spray (otherwise they may stick) and serve. Alternately, slide them right onto your ice cream or breakfast food.
  7. Soak pan in hot water to facilitate cleaning.
Pazham Puzangithu 

Boil an unpeeled and sliced banana with 1 cup water, 1/4 th cup sugar and a clove, until the banana is cooked and the water combines with the sugar to form a syrup. Good with breakfast items like puttu, upma etc. 

Pazham Chuttathu ( Roasted banana)
  1. Take a ripe nendrapazham and place it on a pan ( preferably a hardy non stick one since this gets a little messy)
  2. Cover the pan with a lid and turn on the flame to allow the banana to roast until the skin turns black.
  3. Turn over until all sides are evenly cooked and the skin is flaky black.
  4. Serve plain, or with a little sprinkled sugar and a pat of butter or warm with chilled custard.

Orange Cream Tart

Growing up, my mom made this tangy, citrus y, creamy and sweet dessert on all those special occasions, dinners and pot lucks. It was served at my parents wedding and the recipe came from my grand aunt Mercyelema who is an awesome baker and cook. This dessert was the first one I asked my mom to teach me to make (after years of being the official biscuit crusher) and is also one of the first things I made for my husband T and hence fittingly, my first post here.
I remember at a pot luck dinner a friend didn't try my mom's pudding because she thought that the sunny orange top layer was made entirely of egg yolk! I insisted she try a slice and of course she was hooked! I overheard her saying that my mom's dessert was the yummiest!

  • 10 Marie Biscuits / graham crackers
  • Butter (salted or unsalted) 100 gms 
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • Sugar ( 3 ounces or 3 heaped tablespoons) 
  • Corn Flour 2 tbsp
  • Custard Powder 1 tbsp
  • 1 cup Orange Juice/Mango Juice- Tropicana or other store bought 100% juice  with or without pulp works fine
Appliances: Stove & Microwave/oven


Layer 1: Biscuit Layer
  1. Crush the biscuits using a rolling pin until powdered. Put it in a glass microwaveable dish/ baking dish.
  2. Mix well with 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 tablespoons milk until it becomes of mould able consistency.Spread &
  3. Pat well into a thin layer at the bottom of the pan
  4. Microwave on high power and heating & baking combination or bake in oven on a slow flame for 5-10 minutes.
Layer 2: Custard Layer
  1. Heat 1 cup milk in a sauce pan.
  2. Mix 1 heaped tablespoon custard powder & 1 heaped tablespoon cornflour with 1/4 cup water till smooth.
  3. Add this to the hot milk stirring continuously over slow flame until it thickens.
  4. Add 3 Ounces ( 3 heaped tablespoons) of sugar
  5. Add 2 Ounces of butter
  6. Mix well until butter & sugar has melted into the thickened milk.
  7. Allow to cool, then spread over the biscuit layer and chill in refrigerator until it sets
Layer 3: Orange/Mango Filling
  1. Mix 1 tablespoon custard powder & 1 tablespoon cornflour well to 1 Cup Orange/Mango Juice.
  2. Bring to a boil stirring continuously. Add 1 ounce butter.
  3. Cool and spread over custard layer once it has set.
Let the pudding set in the fridge for about an hour and serve chilled. This can also be made in ramekins or shot glasses and served individually.