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Ghee Rice (Nei Sadham)
- Duration: 30 minutes
- Serves: 4 people
Spice Level: Low
This rich delicacy has always been made using the best, most flavourful rice available. Despite the thorough mixing involved, care is to be taken to ensure that the cooked rice grains remain whole and separate. In olden Tamil homes, the raw rice would be washed at least 4 times to remove as much of the starch as possible and to make sure the grains stayed unbroken when cooked. Later, lemon juice started being added to the boiling water used to cook the rice—the souring agent prevented the grains from sticking together.
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In Tamil Nadu, Nei Sadham or ghee rice is served on special occasions, including festivals and weddings. It is also popularly savoured in the neighbouring state of Kerala. The festive Nei Sadham is suffused with deep-fried cashew nuts, almonds and lightly-fried raisins. The dish's origins can be traced far back and it has found mention in 15th century Tamil Sangam literature as having been a part of the royal cuisine.
- Rice (long grained), washed thoroughly and soaked in water for 2 hours (1 cup)
- Onion (large), finely sliced (1)
- Dry red chillies (Sabut lal mirch), slit vertically (2)
- Cloves (Laung) (4)
- Green cardamom (Hari elaichi) (2)
- Cinnamon (Dalchini) (2 1-inch pieces)
- Bay leaves (Tejpatta) (2)
- Salt (to taste)
- Ghee (4 tbsp)
- Cashew nuts (Kaju) (8-10)
- Raisins (Kishmish) (8-10)
- Almond (Badam) (8-10)
- Water (2¼ cups)
- In a kadhai, heat 1 tablespoon of desi ghee and fry the kaju and badam till they turn golden. Scoop them out and keep aside.
- In the same kadhai, lightly fry the kishmish and then keep aside.
- Next, heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pressure cooker and add the elaichi, dalchini, laung and tejpatta and fry for a minute.
- Add the sabut lal mirch and fry for a few more seconds.
- Next, add the sliced onions and fry till the onions turn golden brown.
- Add the washed rice and the dry fruits to the onion mix and keep frying and stirring on a low flame for 3 to 4 minutes. Take care to be gentle while sautéing so that the rice grains don’t break.
- Pour in 2¼ cups of hot water and salt to taste. Place the lid on and cook the rice, timing it to 2 whistles.
- Turn off the flame and let the steam escape naturally.
- Remove the lid and gently run a fork through the ghee rice.
- Serve hot with brinjal curry and Kootu.