Vegetable Pilaf with Tomato Mint Gravy

Fight off winter blues with this spicy vegetable pilaf filled with everything that reads comfort about Indian spices. Continuing the ‘stick to your ribs’ theme, this is one of my favorites.

Ingredients
Tomato Gravy:

4 cloves garlic, peeled
1″ piece ginger, peeled
2 serrano chillies, rough chopped
1″ stick cinnamon
2 cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom seeds (discard the pod cover)
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
2 large tomatoes, rough chopped
1/2 cup water
Three sprigs of fresh mint leaves
1/2 tsp salt

Pilaf:
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 large red onion,  1″ dice
1 green bell pepper, 1″ dice
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, 1″ dice
2 cups mixed frozen veggies (I used green beans, peas, corn, and carrots)
2 tsp salt
2 cups basmati rice, washed and drained
3 cups water
1/4 cup, chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice

Method
Grind together all the tomato gravy ingredients and set aside. In the meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large flat bottomed sauté pan.

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Once the butter is melted, add in the chopped onions. Cook over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. The onions will turn translucent after the first couple of minutes, and as they keep cooking, about 5 minutes, they will start caramelizing.

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Drop the heat to low, and pour in the tomato gravy  (watch out for some splattering). Add in the tomato paste, mix well together and increase the heat to medium. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until the spices don’t smell raw anymore. Make sure you keep stirring frequently.

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Add the mixed veggies, potatoes and 1 tsp salt. Add a cup of water, cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the green peppers, 1/2 tsp salt and cook for another 5 minutes.

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Stir in the washed basmati rice. Increase the heat to high, measure 3 cups of water and add  along with remaining 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring this to a boil.

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When this comes to a boil, drop the heat back to low and cook uncovered for 5 minutes until the rice starts to absorb some of the liquid.

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Cover and continue to cook over low heat for 20 minutes. This will help create a crisp layer in the bottom, much like a paella. Getting a few crispy pieces is the best part of this entire dish! Stir in the chopped cilantro, and lemon juice.

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