Fig. 1. Carrot and Peas Pulav
When you are really really new to cooking, it's quite common to think you are just a horrible cook. And this is affirmed by the output of your exertions and confirmed by the verbiage of your consumers. But please, be very clear in your own mind that you are a Newbie cook! Not a Bad one! There is a major difference. A newbie gets better. That is certain! There is no way for you to go but up! A good cook is one who cooks! Period. Don't throw in the towel right away! Cooking is a life skill. All you have to do is feed yourself. Don't you give up so easy!
Now I am no expert cook. So I cannot give great instructions to total cooking newbies. But in this one post today I will try my best to elaborate a bit in each step so that I can refer my hard-core, never-cooked-before friends here in case of emergency. Let me also list a few good websites for newbies to check out:
1) StartCooking is a site which seems to have lots of pictorial and video based tutorials for really really really basic things like how to cook long grain white rice, cook pasta, cook a potato in a microwave, how to boil eggs, fry eggs etc, etc as well as nicer dishes.
2) Manjula's Kitchen is a video-based blog. Manjula has a lot of videos where she does everything right from chopping and peeling vegetables, showing you the entire cooking process all the way to serving suggestions. Her comments section has tons of answers to commonly asked questions. I have used this site.
3) Show me the Curry is another video-based blog which shows a lot of easy ways to make basic as well as fairly complicated dishes. I have used this site too.
4) Vah re Vah is another site with cooking videos. But I have never actually made anything from there yet. Friends say it's decent. The cook seemed funny. Feel free to check it out.
Search on youtube and google for videos. Especially when you are really really new, I think it helps to see what they mean by "fry till golden brown" etc. Lots of blogs have newbie sections! So check out specifically those labels on any general food blog. But it varies from person to person as to what they consider "easy". ;) Pari of Foodelicious has recently started a blog for newbies in cooking, called Kitchen Basics. I will update more links on this post as and how I come across good basic cooking websites.
On to my pulav.. I make this pulav, or some variant of it, fairly regularly. This recipe requires some "is this rice cooked?" judgment, fairly basic ingredients and about 15 minutes of time.
Vegetable oil - 1 teaspoon
Jeera (cumin seeds) - 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon sticks - 1 stick of about 1 inch length, 1/4 inch width
Lavang (cloves) - 3 cloves
Elaichi (cardamom) - 2 pods
Peas (1/2 cup) frozen + Carrots (1/2 cup) frozen, pre-chopped thin or small cubes
-- or -- use a general mixed cut frozen veggies bag (1 cup)
Haldi (Turmeric) powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Red Chilly powder - 1/2 teaspoon. (This is fairly small quantity, you can increase it if you are confident about the hot-levels of your chilly powder and palate.)
Salt - 1 teaspoon (Salt is usually to taste, can add after cooking if not sure.)
Basmati Rice - 1/2 cup
Water - 1&1/2 cup or a tad bit more later if needed.
1) In a large pyrex bowl, take jeera, cloves, cinnamon sticks and cardamom. If possible, pound the cardamom pods so that the seeds inside are powdered a little. If not possible just break the pods open and add to bowl. Add the peel (outer skin) of the pod too. Note: Cinnamon sticks and Cardamom add significant fragrance. Don't skip these!
2) Pour oil on them all. Mix so that the all the spices are coated with some oil. Heat in microwave for 1&1/2 minute.
3) Add the chopped, frozen pieces of carrots and peas to the bowl. Mix well. Heat for 3 minutes. Check if they are cooked ( feel just a bit soft when pressed with a fork.) Heat till veggies seem to be cooked.
4) When the vegetables are cooked, add salt, turmeric and red chilly powder to them and mix. Heat for another 30 seconds.
5) In a separate bowl, wash basmati rice 3 times with plain water. Drain the water.
6) Add this washed, drained rice to your pyrex bowl. Mix really well. The oil should coat every grain of rice. Now heat for 1 minute. Take the bowl out and mix well again. Heat for another 1 minute.
7) Now add 1&1/2 cup of water to the bowl. Mix well. Heat in microwave for about 6 minutes. Stir once. If it is still moist, heat for 2 minutes and then 2 more and so on.. till the water is mostly gone and the rice looks cooked. If the rice looks really dry, but is still uncooked, then add just enough water to cover the rice and keep heating for 2 minutes and 2 more and so on till the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Usually this whole process takes me about 15 minutes in the morning and goes into the lunch-box with pickle and raita (= chopped tomatoes + yoghurt + salt + chilly powder + amchur or chat masala) on a busy week day!
I am sending this post to Niloufer of Kitchen Samraj who is rounding up recipes that take 20 minutes or less. This quantity took me about 15 minutes, adding 5 more if you are using a smaller or older microwave.. I would still think this shouldn't take more than 20 minutes.
Best wishes! Thanks for reading! Cheers and see you all around!