This recipe is courtesy my mother. I followed her about while she made the rice, getting in her way, taking photographs and generally being of no particular use to her in the kitchen. It sure made a change to be a hindrance to someone else rather than to myself!
We (my mother, Pete, myself and my visiting cousin) were as hungry as bears because we had been out for hours, wandering up and down a small town called Ludlow, visiting the ruins of the castle that reigns supreme right in the town centre. By the time we got back, it was 3pm. My mother opted to make bell pepper rice as it was reasonably quick to make - while the rice was cooking, the vegetables were prepared and the masala ingredients roasted and powdered. Oh, the aroma in the kitchen while my mother did the cooking was indescribable... savoury and mouthwatering - pushed up a few notches no doubt because we were all so darn hungry!
By the way, the list of ingredients might look a bit daunting - especially for the masala powder - but really the procedure is quite simple.
This masala rice is a one-dish meal in itself... all you need is a raita and perhaps some crisp-crunchy accompaniment like potato chips or poppadums, if you are so inclined.
Recipe for: Bell pepper rice
For the masala powder:
1" piece cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
Roast in 1 tsp oil:
4 dry red chillies
1 tbsp chana dal
1/2 tbsp tuvar/toor dal
1 tbsp urad dal
2 tbsp coriander seeds
10-15 curry leaves
For the vegetable-rice mixture:
4 cups cooked basmati rice
2 green bell peppers, sliced or chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, sliced thin
1 potato, sliced into thin sticks and microwaved on high for 5 minutes
Salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
large pinch asafoetida powder
1. Dry-roast the cinnamon stick, cardamom, fennel seeds and cloves for a minute or so, till they release their aroma. Remove to a cup and set aside to cool.
2. Pour 1 tsp oil in the pan next, and roast the red chillies for a few seconds.
Then add the three dals, the coriander seeds and the curry leaves.
Stir frequently over medium high heat till the dals are golden brown and the red chillies are shiny and dark.
Take off the heat and let cool. Grind the dry-roasted spices and the fried dals and chillies to a slightly grainy powder (a bit like sand), and reserve.
3. Now in a wide pan, heat the 2 tbsp oil. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and let them pop.
4. Add the sliced/chopped tomatoes and fry till they get mushy.
Then add the onions and fry till they turn soft and translucent.
5. Next, add the microwaved potatoes
and the bell peppers.
Fry the vegetables till the bell peppers are soft-crisp and the potatoes are done.
Add salt to taste and 4 tbsp of the masala powder.
6. Mix the masala powder with the vegetables.
Now add the cooked rice and gently mix with a large metal spoon till the masala vegetables are evenly distributed.
7. Taste for salt and add more masala powder if required, mixing it in. Once the rice is thoroughly warmed, turn off the heat.
8. Serve the bell pepper rice with any raita and poppadums or crisps.