If you’ve been following along with this blog for a while, you’ll notice that almost every single Indian recipe I have on this site has, as a final instruction, to garnish the dish with cilantro. The funny thing is, until I was in college, I absolutely despised cilantro. I picked each individual tiny leaf out of each dish that my parents prepared. I implored them to not add it if it wasn’t necessary. I, like any good teenage girl, was overly dramatic with my disdain, spitting out the leaves, gulping down water, and making disgusted faces if I accidentally ate a leaf. But, for some reason, I absolutely adored pureed cilantro and simply could not get enough. I would sop up cilantro chutney by the spoonful and my parents made many dishes that had pureed cilantro as the basis for the sauce, and they were amongst my most favorite meals! This pilaf is in that group. It’s unbelievably delicious, and is traditionally made when papdi beans (also known as hyacinth beans) come in season in the winter months. Papdi beans are delicious, with a rich mineral flavor that perfectly complements the cilantro and garlic that perfume this dish, and, coincidentally, are native to my hometown in India! Luckily, in the US, these beans are available frozen, so this meal does not have to be relegated to a certain time of year. Are you curious as to why I loved pureed cilantro but not whole cilantro? And how I learned to love cilantro? Read on…
Perhaps this post should have been titled, Cilantro or: How I Learned to Stop Freaking Out and Love the Stuff. I was inspired by one of my best friends from childhood. She absolutely hated ketchup, but then realized that that was a difficult dislike to have, so slowly trained herself to like it. When I visited her our first year of college, I was stunned to see her eating ketchup and her story inspired me to tackle my problems with cilantro. I started adding it to things I like, and ate each bite slowly–perhaps even mindfully–telling myself the whole time that it was utterly delicious. After about 6 months of doing this on a near daily basis, I suddenly started to like it! As a bonus, I started to like olives too! I’m not sure if it was sheer willpower, or just a developing palate, but my enjoyment of cilantro has made my life easier, and certainly my parents’ lives as they no longer have to suffer through those antics at dinner. Now why did I love the cilantro pureed? This, actually, has been studied. The off putting flavors that many people detect in cilantro come from aldehydes that give it a soapy flavor. Cilantro is packed with these, but they are volatile and evaporate quickly. When cilantro is pureed, two things change: 1) the aldehydes evaporate quite quickly, diminishing the soapy flavor, and 2) enzymatic processes start to break down the aldehydes leaving almost no soapiness behind. If you’ve been a staunch cilantro hater, I implore you to try this dish. You can start off by using just 25 or 50% of the cilantro puree and work your way up. I’ve fed cilantro purees to very adamant cilantro haters and have had great results!
This dish is surprisingly quick to make and packs a lot of delicious flavor in a very short amount of time. First, ghee is infused with the delicious flavors of cinnamon and clove. Then, basmati rice is sauteed in the aromatic ghee. Pureed cilantro and papdi beans are added to the rice, followed by crushed ginger, garlic, and jalapenos. Then, a sufficient amount of water, some salt, and finally some garam masala. Then, it is gently simmered until the rice is tender and fluffy. This dish is a fantastic main course (I personally have enjoyed it with a fried egg on top) or as a side to something that can stand up to it’s assertive flavors such as salmon or steak. I hope it serves to convert some cilantro haters into cilantro lovers, even if it is just in its pureed form!
Hyacinth Bean and Cilantro Pilaf ~ Papdi Lilva nu Pulao
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: 4 as a main, 8 as a side||Total:|
A delicious rice dish with plenty of spice, garlic, and the intriguing flavor of crushed cilantro and hyacinth (papdi) beans, that comes together in a snap.
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 1 cup frozen papdi lilva, or frozen edamame, or frozen peas
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1 4" cinnamon stick
- 5 cloves
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic paste, or similar amount crushed garlic
- 1 tsp crushed/grated ginger
- 1 tsp crushed/finely minced jalapeno
- 1 tsp garam masala
- Salt, to taste
- Place the rice in a bowl and cover with tepid water. Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes, up to 4 hours. Drain the water from the bowl, being careful not to lose any rice, and rinse with cool water and drain, until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly.
- Chop off the thick ends of the cilantro bunch, and thoroughly wash the remaining leaves and thin stems. Cilantro grows in sandy soil, so be sure to clean well to not allow any residual grit. Coarsely chop, and place into a blender. Add about 1/3 cup of water and blend. If it doesn't blend easily, add small amounts of water, until a puree is achieved. Mine is usually the consistency of a smoothie, not too thick, not too thin. Set aside 1 cup of this puree. Freeze any remaining puree for use at a later date.
- Heat the ghee over medium-high heat in the base of a heavy saucepan or dutch oven. Once it has melted, add in the cinnamon stick and cloves. Swirl to cover, and watch for the development of bubbles around the spices. Once the ghee is very aromatic, add in the drained rice. Sautee until the rice becomes slightly opaque. Add in the reserved cilantro puree and stir well. Add in the frozen beans and stir well. Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapenos and stir well to combine.
- Add 3 cups of water and stir well. Add a few pinches of salt. Once the water comes to a boil, add 1 tsp of garam masala. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. When you uncover it, the beans will likely have floated to the top, thus stir this in, fluff the rice, and cover again. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Papdi is sold in two forms in the freezer section of most Indian grocery stores: as the whole pod or as individual beans. For this dish, look for the individual beans. They are often labeled papdi lilva or Surati papdi lilva. If you can't find them, or the Indian store is a trek away, this would be delicious with edemame beans instead. In a pinch, regular peas will work well too!
Can be made vegan by substituting the ghee for canola oil.