Sometime in 1991 – 1992 when my children were in their early teens, my husband was posted in a remote area in Kashmir, and the children and I lived in Delhi for the period. I was fortunate to have found a Guru (Mr Darshan Singh Gill) who could help me pursue my interest in Indian classical music. I spent hours at the music school, sitting at his feet and absorbing all the nuggets and nuances of classical music that I could glean from his wisdom. Sometimes I would fail to notice the time and had to run home as fast as I could to cook dinner for the kids. One such time I came up with the Odds and Ends Pulao which has been an all time favorite since then. Searching on Google, I find many of us home cooks have cooked up the same dish in the same circumstances and the most popular name given to this dish is ‘Junglee Pulao’. Necessity is the mother of invention I guess.
Did you know Pulao originated from the Turkish Pilaf? It’s made in Tajikistan too, where it’s called Plov and is the national dish! Similarly Qabili Pilau is the national dish of Afghanistan.
Delving into the refrigerator I would first collect all the little containers of left over food. A katori of dal, some cooked sabzis, some meat curry or some boiled potatoes, peas, corn, anything and everything – perhaps even that bashful dish of something which nobody ate because it didn’t taste the way it should have. I would then quickly wash and soak some good quality rice (basmati is best) and chop up some onions, crush together a little ginger and garlic and finely chop some coriander leaves, (mint or kadi patta will do in the absence of coriander leaves).
- Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add a bay leaf and some cumin seeds.
- Throw in the chopped onions, ginger, garlic, slit green chilies (if you like some heat) and saute for half a minute.
- Add some chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder, and salt to taste and then empty all the little bowls of left overs into the cooker.
- Saute for a minute or until the liquid if any is completely absorbed.
- Add the rice and saute for another minute.
- Pour water into the mixture (the quantity of water should be as much as the rice plus one extra, i.e. for two cups of rice use three cups of water).
- Shut the cooker and let it cook on high until the first whistle.
- Turn down the flame to simmer and let it cook for five more minutes.
- Shut off the gas and let it rest for a while before opening the lid of the cooker.
Serve with yogurt, papads and pickles.