Robert From Poland writes: Please send me a recipe for flat-rice.
My reply: Here’s mine:
Bengali Flat Rice Pulao (Chira Pulao)
Flat rice, chira, also known as flaked rice or pressed rice, is a partially cooked rice product that has been prepared in India for millennia. Unhusked rice is first soaked, boiled briefly, then drained, heated until it puffs, then flattened into thin flakes. It can be stored for months without deterioration, then simply reconstituted by soaking, rinsing in boiling water, or deep-frying.
This dish is a comforting combination of flat rice and seasoned vegetables. You may wish to deep-fry the vegetables instead of pan-frying them. It’s important to note that two grades of flat rice are commonly sold in Indian grocers – thick and thin. The thick variety, poha, is used for deep-frying and adding to crunchy chidwa snacks, but is unsuitable for this recipe. Instead, make sure you ask for the thin variety.
Bengali Flat Rice Pulao is delicious served at breakfast time with fruits and yogurt accom-panied by a simple chutney. Serves 4.
6 litres water,
2 3/4 cups fine flat rice, about 250g,
3 tablespoons ghee or oil,
2 medium potatoes, diced 0.5cm (1/4-inch), about 1 cup,
1 small cauliflower, cut into tiny florets, about 2 cups,
one 5cm (2-inch) cinnamon stick,
3 bruised cardamom pods,
3 whole cloves,
2 or 3 green chilies, seeded and sliced into long julienne strips,
1 teaspoon turmeric,
1 cup cooked green peas,
1 1/2 teaspoons salt,
Set the water in a large saucepan over full heat, and bring it to the boil. Place the flat rice in a colander in the sink, and rinse it under the cold tap until the water runs clear.
Pour the boiling water slowly over the colander of rinsed flat rice to soften it. Remove the colander from the sink and set it aside to fluff up and dry.
Heat the ghee or oil in a wok or non-stick saucepan over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, drop in the potato and cauliflower pieces. Stir-fry them for three or four minutes or until they are golden brown and they yield easily to a knife point. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon, and set them aside covered, allowing the ghee to remain in the pan.
Drop the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves into the hot ghee, and fry them for one or two minutes, or until they are slightly darker and fragrant. Drop in the chilies and fry them for another minute. Sprinkle in the turmeric, then add the flat rice, cooked peas, cauliflower and potatoes, and the salt.
Reduce the heat to low and gently sauté for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves, and serve the pulao hot.