Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Of Brown Rice and Brownies

A few weeks ago, I realized with a start that in two-and-a-half years of blogging, brown rice has been a rare commodity on this blog. How did that happen? It has something to do with my complicated relationship with brown rice: On one hand, I love the nutty and chewy texture of brown rice, and want to embrace its healthful properties. Brown rice has been a presence in my kitchen for several years and I do serve it now and then. But I still can't wrap my head around eating brown rice on a regular basis, relegating white rice to the status of an occasional treat. I can't fathom eating amti or pithale or sambar with brown rice, and I am not too thrilled with the idea of making lemon rice or tamarind rice with brown rice.

So, for some ideas and inspiration, I turned to my culinary gurus: the food bloggers. Here are some of my favorite experiments with brown rice, all truly delicious!

Idea 1: Adding brown rice to dosa batter. I got this idea from Manjula's recipe for Brown Rice and Barley Dosa. I started making dosas on a regular basis only this year, using the standard proportions of 1 C urad dal: 2 C white rice. For this first experiment, I took a cue from Manjula and used 1 C urad dal: 1 C white rice: 1 C brown rice. The result was very delicious, and definitely a small yet significant improvement, nutritionally speaking.
To go with the dosa, I made a Konkani version of sambar, using Shilpa's authentic recipe for Kolmbo. My variation: I halved the amount of spices in the masala mixture to account for our rather wimpy taste buds. Even so, this was the spiciest sambar I have ever tasted- very flavorful and delicious.

Idea 2: Brown rice khichdi. I had all kinds of pre-conceived notions that khichdi, my favorite food, should not be messed around with. Then I saw Musical's recipe for Mothaan di Khichdi and it called for my beloved matki/ moth beans and, surprise, brown rice! I made it the very day she posted it, and followed the recipe directions religiously. With a dollop of tangy mango pickle, this meal was nothing short of *divine*.
Last night, I made a variation of it: Using 2 C of mixed sprouts (matki, moong, masoor) instead of the half C of matki. I cooked the rice together with the sprouts...sprouts cook very quickly and do not require the pre-cooking. This version was as delicious as the original. What a simple and fantastic recipe! Serve it with any stir-fried vegetable (subzi/ bhaaji) for a complete and utterly satisfying meal.

Idea 3: Pairing brown rice with a spicy curry or stew. You need something robust and full-bodied to match the nutty flavor of brown rice, and rajma (a traditional Punjabi kidney bean stew) is the perfect example! I am happy to inform you that I have found THE rajma recipe that I have been seeking for years (the essay on the post is such a fantastic read; the author of the blog is a well-known writer in Bombay). The combination of rajma with plain boiled brown rice was such a treat. I cook my brown rice on the stove-top [1 C rice (soaked 15 minutes, then drained) : 2 C water]. For more tips on cooking plain brown rice, see this DH post.
The rajma recipe calls for all of 6 ingredients and turns out something soooo delicious. I think this is a wonderful recipe for anyone who is new to Indian cooking and intimidated by long ingredient lists. This recipe calls for kidney beans, onion, tomato, salt, oil/ghee (butter could be substituted) and red chili powder (cayenne pepper). These are very common ingredients in most pantries. Dare I say it...one could make a version of this with canned beans in a pinch. My variation: I did soak the rajma for a few hours and rinsed it thoroughly before pressure-cooking it. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe religiously. I did not even "speak while eating"!

Finally, while we are on the subject of "brown", here is some dessert! I wanted to bake something sweet for my parents when they were visiting, and what could be more American than brownies? Via Trupti's MBP post, I found this recipe for Low-Fat Brownies that I liked at first sight. Applesauce is used to add moisture while cutting down on the fat and it calls for a great deal of cocoa powder, making the resulting brownies very chocolate-y indeed. With only half a cup of sugar, these brownies are not very sweet at all- just the way I like my "sweets"! My variations: (a) I used only 1 tsp vanilla extract (b) added 1 tsp instant coffee to the dry ingredients (c) added half cup toasted chopped walnuts to the batter. We loved the taste of these low-fat treats just by themselves, but on that day, I served them with vanilla ice cream, garnished with some apple roses.
I've made these brownies a couple of times since then, and everyone likes them. This recipe goes straight into my folder of "keeper recipes".

Idea 4: Oven-Baked Brown Rice For anyone struggling to make brown rice on the stove-top, Alanna shares a fool-proof method from Cook's Illustrated Magazine. Her Oven-Baked Brown Rice was very easy to make, and turned out just perfect: every grain of rice fluffy and perfectly cooked! It is nice to make a big batch of brown rice and use it over 2-3 days (it re-heats perfectly in the microwave).

Idea 5: Fried Rice Any left-over cooked brown rice can be easily used to make a "fried" rice with vegetables like onions, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, green onions (any combination of these). See an example here.


  1. Hey Nupur... thats such an informative post.... i have never cooked brown rice at home.... the only times i have had it is when i go out for some Mexican fare... but i dont think it would go well with the everyday fare- amti, bhaji, poli. Will try out these recipes some time....

  2. Zimbly super post. Like you, I too think that white rice does have its own sacred place now. But there can be ways to include brown rice into our regular food. I think I will be making that sprouted matki brown rice khichdi for lunch tomorrow - I already have sprouted moth.

    Also, I find that Goa brown rice, after a good soak cooks quite soft and willing to absorb the curries readily - similar to the white variety. Unfortunately, it is not readily available outside Goa :-(

    I am tightening the belt for Z - if not the big dish, I'm going to have something very very simple for you - to conclude the wonderful series.

  3. Fantastic post! I am a huge fan of brown rice..In fact recently discovered a brown rice sushi (what again??) local restaurant here called Homma sushi...have been going there ever soo often :(

  4. Hi Nupur,
    Those brownies look so good & tempting!
    I have never used applesauce for baking. Does it take away from the chocolate-y taste of the brownies.Can you taste the apple flavor? Is it a good substitute for eggs?

  5. great post! your brownies look, oh so good...my hubby has demanded that I make these asap, and he is not even a chocolate lover ;)
    I have recently bought a packet of brown rice but apprehensive of using it for plain rice along with aamti...adding to dosa batter is a great idea.

  6. Hi Nupur!
    I am also on the quest for finding a place for brown rice in comfort food land and your list of recipes is very much appreciated! Now, kichdi with brown rice seems to be a winner. I'll be trying it this weekend.
    A couple of things I use brown rice in: Adai and our good old vegetable biryani! Adai turns out simply great. I think the nuttiness of brown rice mixed with the wholesome dals make this a very satisfying filling meal. My tip: add a hanful of raw peanuts while soaking. This gives a wonderful cripsness to the adai (like it doesn't have enough protein already :)).
    I have the pictures of brown rice biryani sitting on my laptop! I'll post it along with the recipe soon. And did I mention it tasted wonderful? :)

    Sorry for the rather long comment. I haven't been here in a while and I missed commenting here! Now I'll go and catch up on all your posts! :)

    - Roopa

  7. Hi Nupur, First time in your blog and liked it. Never thought of using brown rice in dosa. I have lot of brown rice but i dont like the taste of it but will try in dosa definetely. Thanks for sharing. Do visit me at

  8. You got me on brownies :). Even the oxidized apples look pretty as roses. Lovely presentation, Nupur!

  9. Hi nupur!
    Dosai using brown rice! now that's an innovative idea! and the brownies look absolutely mouth watering! love it!

  10. dear nupur, the one time i tried to sneak in brown rice was in idly/ dosa batter. got away with the dosa, but K wanted to know why we were eating pinkish idlies!! the khichdi looks awesome enough to make me list down brown rice on this months grocery buys. the brownies needless to say are my fave :)

  11. Kya baat hai! wow!! May i join you, plzzzzzzzzz. I tried Majula's dosai recipe too, aren't the good. and dear, those brownies are to die for! i feel like grabbing some right away! and sprouts are great idea too! you have some resolve to save the sprouts for khichdi though ;). I would have finished them off after steaming, as a misal :-D.

    P.S. i have similar notions about brown rice.....but am slowly sneaking them in my favorite foods, and am pleased! Will try the Kolmbo and brownies, to keep it up :)

  12. all the pics looks so good. loved the dosa, kichidi, and brownies. I am drooling.

  13. Would you ever consider cooking brown rice in the oven? I'm completely blown away by all the ways you've used brown rice and I've only got just the one but it is a goodie! Here's the recipe for oven-baked brown rice.

  14. Hi Nupur,
    I recently bought brown rice for the first time and loved the chewy texture. I made fried rice once and simple Khichadi the next time. Both were accepted very happily by the two men in my life. Very nice post you have here.
    Your previous Round-up of Maharashtrian cuisine has been bookmarked not only by me but also by a few friends of mine. They loved it.
    Btw I have tagged you for a meme. Do it if you like and I also have my first food event posted on my blog. I would love it if you participated.

  15. Priyanka, good to know you found brown rice in a Mexican restaurant! The ones I go to are stuck on white rice. I still have not found the motivation to try eating brown rice with amti, but you never know, it just might be delicious! We never know until we try :)

    Anita, the kind of meals I make these days, I end up making white rice only once a week or so anyway.
    You will love Musical's matki khichdi, I guarantee it! Thanks for the Goa brown rice tip, I will certainly keep that in mind. If not for myself, I can tell my parents about it (they make frequent trips to Goa).

    Dhana, so what are your favorite things to do with brown rice?? I have not really developed a taste for sushi yet :) will have to give it one more try.

    TBC, no, you cannot taste the apple flavor at all. I think the apples are really a substitute for moisture/fat/ oil. I don't really think they can replace the airy texture that eggs give. Having said that, there are eggless recipes for brownies...a web search might give you some good results. With 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, this brownie is very very chocolatey. You can always add more chocolate chips if you are a chocoholic :)

    Tee, I am not a chocolate lover either, but even I love these :) Do make them, they are very easy to throw together. Do try brown rice in the dosa batter, and Jugalbandi has a nice recipe for brown rice idlis too.

    Roopa, oh, the khichdi with brown rice is amazing...you have got to try it! It changed all my notions about brown rice and comfort food. I love your idea of the brown rice adai...will be making that this weekend. I also can't wait to see your brown rice biryani...so please please post it soon :) Thank you for the lovely informative comment, I appreciate it so much.

    Athika, I think the taste of brown rice takes a little bit of getting used to, but do give it another try!

    Suganya, thanks :)

    Usha, if you make dosas regularly, adding brown rice will make a big difference in the diet! Hope you try it!

  16. Arundati, I think stocking brown rice in the kitchen is the first step :) I bought a big bag and that is what motivated me to start using it more...and I have to say, I am starting to love it!

    Musical, please please do join in and share your own brown rice tales!! We all need to improve our diets little by little :)
    I had made too many sprouts last week, and threw some of them in the freezer in desperation. Thawed sprouts lose their texture and I would not really want to just eat them steamed, but they were completely awesome in the khichdi! Musical, you rock! That recipe is soooo good.

    Sharmi, glad you liked it :)

    Alanna, Believe it or not, I have seen that post, and it is on the menu at my home for Thursday :) I hope it will be a success, and then it will go on this page :)

    Anupama, I am so thrilled that your family likes brown rice. V seems to like it just fine too...which makes it much easier for me to integrate it into our everyday meals.
    Your RCI entry was so good! My mom read your "suralicha wadi" post when she was here at my place and approvingly nodded and said "chan kelay" :) Which is a lot coming from her :)

  17. Have you tried using Kerala or Sri Lankan red rice? It is the 'unpolished' rice as is called in India, and is delicious with South Indian food. Also, since you mentioned 'tamarind rice', I thought I'd add that I happen to like tamarind rice made with brown rice quite a lot, and there is no impact on the color of the final dish either.

  18. nupur, the goa rice anita mentioneed is very similar to rose matta rice. you get that in grocery stores here. just for you, i will post a few brown and red rice recipes next week. have you considered sending this post to sharmi for JFI-rice?

  19. we are on always for brown rice! lovely recipes indeed i haven't trying adding full cups to dosas. i do make bisibellebhath and khichdis. its winner at my home. great post to go forward with brown rice.

  20. Hi Nupur Ji, such a lovely and wonderful recipes. I am going to try that barli dosa. Thanks for sharing.

  21. I have a recipe for a pearl pulao... that uses brown rice. Will post it :-)

    We had brownies and ice cream for dinner last night. My recipe also has only half a cup of sugar and I used brown sugar instead. Turned out yummy and my niece and nephew loved it.

  22. Hi Nupur, excellent post. even I cannot eat the brown rice so often and was wondering how to finish the packet. The recipes you tried are too good.
    Would like to try the khichadi.
    The brownie with the ice cream is looking pretty with those roses. Even I had made these roses from your recipe.Every one liked them.
    Thanks Nupur for sharing these recipes.

  23. This is yummy and nutritious Nupur. Will try some time. Viji

  24. HI Nupur,

    I totally share your sentiments about brown rice :)
    something that I've been making of late, where brown rice is a welcome break is this rich version of khichadi:
    tadka of ginger-garlic-chilli-jeera-bayleaf in oil and add brownrice and canned chhola or beans of your choice...Add the requisite amount of water and 2 tsp tomato paste or half can of tomato soup (campbells type)and a splash of coconut milk (depending on how rich you want it)...add salt, chilli pdr, haldi, garam masala...whatever spices you like, and 2 whistles in the Pressure cooker later, you have gooey goodness...this is a favorite quick meal...the brown rice adds some resistance and chewy-ness to what would otherwise have turned into mush.

    Love the brownies...will make them soon :)

  25. wow you have been busy!I loved those lovely flowers around the brownies :)Can you suggest any substitute for applesauce?i don't think i can find applesauce here?

  26. Wow!! quite a spread! love the Dosa...
    The brownies are to die for!! oh yum!!!

  27. ET, I spotted some Sri Lankan red rice recently but it was only available in a 20 lb sack! That seemed too much to me, so I skipped it at the time. Thanks a lot for the tamarind rice tip, I'm going to try that soon.

    Bee, I have not had any luck finding rose matta rice in our local international store. Will have to hunt around for it. Looking forward to your red rice and brown rice recipes!
    I saw Sharmi's announcement after I posted this, but will come up with something new for that event :) I eat rice a lot so it should not be hard :)

    Roopa, brown rice bisi bele bhaath sounds good! I have to try it!

    Jyothi, glad you liked it.

    Raaga, pearl pulao! Sounds very festive...please please do post it.

    Archana, glad you liked the post :)

    Viji, do try it, these are all superb recipes.

    AA, your khichi sounds sooo creamy and good! I will definitely be trying it.

    Madhuli, applesauce is *nothing* but cooked apples (cooked in pressure cooker or stove-top or microwave) that have been pureed in the mixie. It is really easy to make at home. I use store-bought just because of sheer laziness :)

    Manasi, the brownies are really worth a try!

  28. You really made brown rice look and taste so simple and delicious, Nupur. I hate to eat BR but I can try these dishes from ur blog to start eating BR again, thanks for sharing them with great pictures...

  29. Each of these dishes looks so delicious! I'm especially interested in the dosa, and in the rice and beans. Oh...and the brownies, of course!

  30. mmmm I love brown rice! I often cook it plain as an accompaniment, but have been uncertain about subbing it in various recipes. Thanks for all these great ideas! Based on your title, I thought for sure the final item was going to be a brownie recipe that used brown rice!

  31. Hi Nupur!
    I love your recipes so much!

    I think the best way to sneak brown rice into food is to mix it with white rice on a 1:1 ratio. The brown rice will go down easier as the texture is not as chewy.

    This mixture will taste very good in Oriental foods where sauces are made with soya sauce.

    1. You could make a vegan miso soup to go with the brown rice mix, on top of a sabzi.

    2. You could do a maki sushi -- using nori seaweed as a wrap. The filling inside could be chopped vegetable salad, or cooked sabzi filling.


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