If the title of the post got you here, then you are at the right place. Yes, it wasn't just a crowd-pulling or attention grabbing gimmick. Having tried, tested, failed, tried all over again and finally succeeded (Mohammed Ghazni isn't related to me in any way :) ), I can comfortably say that I almost always get my Basmati right. Be it Pulao or Veg Biriyani, the rice I cook nowadays adheres to all the adjectives mentioned above. And getting there isn't a big deal. All you need is a little caution.
Basmati is a type of long-grain aromatic rice and is primarily grown in India. (Yes there are other varieties too!) It is by nature longer than the usual raw rice and tends to stay separated from the other grains when cooked. However, it is very easy to overcook Basmati and make it mushy. South Indians are used to working with aged raw rice which is very tolerant to the amount of water used. For example, a cup of well-aged raw rice can take in upto 3 cups of water, tolerate even an extra whistle in the pressure cooker and still stay nice and good. But do the same to Basmati, it is sure to take its revenge. So respect the rice and follow these steps:
- Soak the Basmati for at least 15-20 minutes before cooking. This reduces the cooking time of the rice and also removes some starch.
- The thing that makes rice grains stick together is the starch content. Repeated washing of the rice removes the outer coating of starch (the thing that makes the water white while washing), thereby leaving the rice less prone to stickiness. So make sure you wash your Basmati multiple times, but exercise caution – your over enthusiasm may actually break the grains.
- Measuring the amount of water that you add to cook your Basmati is of absolute importance. You may be an expert cook, but if you are new to cooking Basmati, I suggest you stick to measuring cups for a while. You may use your eyes for measuring at a later point in time.
- NEVER cook Basmati in a pressure cooker!!!! The result is almost always pathetic. I recommend the stove top or the electric rice cooker method. In the stove top method, cook every cup of Basmati in 4 to 5 cups of boiling salted water for and drain excess water once cooked. In the rice cooker method, add 1.5 cups of water per cup of Basmati and cook till done. There won’t be any water left to drain in this case. Adding spices like elaichi, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves etc. and a little ghee while cooking makes the end product extremely aromatic and inviting.
- Post-cooking care also plays a significant role in plating up a perfect Basmati recipe. Cooked basmati is extremely fragile, handle with care. Stir it gently with a flat spatula. Never stir too much.
- Now for the Pulao Biriyani segregation – When I make Pulao, I half-cook the harder vegetables like beans, carrots and peas separately with a little salt. Then I sauté the softer veggies like baby corn, mushrooms, cauliflower, soya chunks etc., add the soaked rice and the half cooked veggies and dump them all in the rice cooker. This consistently yields a superb Pulao!
- For Biriyani, I cook the rice as in step 6 and then spread it out on a plate to cool. Then I layer the rice and veggies alternately in a heavy bottomed vessel and cover it with aluminium foil and a plate and then place a weight on top to simulate ‘DHUM’. I put it in a double boiler to prevent burning. The end result is astounding!
- Don’t try making fried rice with Basmati rice. Raw rice works much better. If you are bent on using Basmati, then use cooked and cooled rice. But do so at your own risk!
- Last but definitely not the least important - don't fall for the trap. It is not necessary that you have to buy the costliest variety of Basmati to get the best results. Even the mid range varieties or the 'Everyday Basmati' varieties can give please your eyes and taste buds if cooked correctly.
Phew! Now you see, cooking Basmati isn’t a big deal after all! A little patience is sure to reward you with great results. Now storm you kitchen with a warrior spirit, cook up a plate of jaw-dropping Basmati and let me know!