So last month we were off to India for a wedding.
The featured image above shows a religious Hindu wedding ceremony involving coconuts. Coconuts are a symbol of good luck and prosperity in India. Before any serious work begins a coconut is broken and offered up. And as anyone who has ever been married knows, the protracted union of man and wife is very serious work indeed! After being offered, the coconut is distributed as prasad (a holy gift) to guests. My daughter wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, and ended up blowing it all over her face (not the correct procedure).
It was a wonderful wedding in so many ways, but there was one drawback: most of the time the couple were sitting in state as it were – it was difficult to talk to them. We didn’t know the groom very well as he currently lives in the US, so although we wanted to get to know him better the opportunities for that were limited.
But after four days of ceremonies, discos, dancing and feasting the whole event was suddenly over. And we were lucky enough to find ourselves being able to go out for a quiet dinner with the newly-weds.
I had a lively and fascinating conversation with the groom. We discussed the state of the world (oh dear!), the future of India (hopeful), Trump (!)…… and then I discovered that his signature dish was one of my favourite things to eat – coconut rice. Why do I like it so much?
- This rice smells wonderful due to the use of ghee (you can buy this…or go here for how to make from butter).
- You can add half a cup of frozen peas and some chopped coriander at the end – that way you don’t have to bother with producing a separate side dish of vegetables.
- For weddings coconut rice is supplemented with lentils (Bengal gram dal), jaggery, cashews and raisins to become Payasam. The whole thing takes much longer but you could cheat by using instant lentils. Or alternatively (heresy) by leaving out the lentils altogether and just adding the cashews and raisins.
- And then you can really really cheat by buying instant coconut rice and simply heating it in the microwave.
- This fragrant, comforting rice goes with all kinds of things, chicken curry and sweet and sour aubergines just for starters!
So here, in honour of the bridegroom, is a Western-adapted version of coconut rice.
Recipe for coconut rice for a bride groom
- 3⅓ cups Basmati rice
- 3⅓ cups coconut milk (2 x 400g tins)
- 3⅓ cups water
- 3 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped finely
- 3 tbsp ghee (go here for how to make from butter)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- Pinch of turmeric (optional)
- 1 tsp smoked salt
- cashews and raisins (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- In a large saucepan mix 1 tbsp of the ghee with the coconut oil, with the cinnamon, cloves, onion and turmeric, fry gently
- Meanwhile rinse the rice, and add to the saucepan with the rest of the ghee for a few minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and the water and salt. Bring to the boil.
- Cover and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes until done.
- Serve, removing the cinnamon.
This post is dedicated to Dheeraj Rao Chalasani