Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mushroom Pulao

A few weeks ago, I fell in love all over again. With a cast iron pan this time. During a spring cleaning frenzy during which I critically appraised every single piece of kitchen ware and got rid of a lot of extra pots and pans and whittled down my collection to the basics.

Then I decided to buy one cast iron pan to replace a lot of the other kitchenware. I have been using this pan practically every single day since I bought it. You can't beat cast iron for wonderful searing and heat retention. Once you get over the fear of food sticking to the pan and learn to use and clean cast iron pans properly, I am convinced they are the most useful cookware money can buy. I used mine last week to make a long-bookmarked recipe, Chettinadu Style Mushroom Biryani from Escapades. I had no fresh herbs on hand that evening, only the pantry staples, but with some dried mint, this turned out to be the most flavorful quick biryani.

Chettinad Style Mushroom Pulao
(Adapted from Escapades, serves 3 to 4)

  1. Slice 2 medium onions. Fry until browned. A third of the fried onions will be reserved for garnish and the remaining will be used in the marinade.
  2. Take 2/3 of the fried onions into a large bowl. Add 2/3 cup thick yogurt, 1 tsp ginger garlic paste, a hefty pinch of dried mint, red chili powder, turmeric, salt, garam masala. The garam masala I used is a mixture of just three spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cloves.  
  3. Add quartered mushrooms to the marinade and set aside for 45 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, soak 1 cup Basmati rice in cool water.
  5. In pan, add 1 tsp. fennel seeds and 2 bay leaves. Add mushrooms along with the marinade. Fry until the mushrooms start releasing water. Stir in 3/4 cup thick coconut milk, drained rice, 1 cup water, salt. Cover and cook until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
  6. Garnish with the remaining fried onions, lemon wedges and fresh herbs if you have any on hand.

I served the mushroom rice with cabbage pachadi and tandoori tofu and somehow these dishes came together to make a wonderful meal.

* * *
Summer unofficially starts in the US with Memorial Day (which was this long weekend) and the St. Louis weather certainly got the memo. We had a heat wave and sweated it out but did head out to do lots of touristy things with my sister, including a trip to the arch and the brewery.

And a lunch at Meskerem on Grand for a delicious Ethiopian vegetarian combo meal.

And lots of crafty projects, including this one where we gathered up waste fabric scraps and made festive little note cards.

Have a lovely week, everyone! 


  1. Mushroom pulao looks amazing. Cast iron skillet is definitely a must in a foodie's kitchen. I'm drooling over the Ethiopian thali. Note cards look super cute.
    Enjoy rest of the short work week.

  2. That looks like a comforting pulao. I think rice dishes are almost always comforting, don't you think? I am so afraid of cleaning up my kitchen--there are these little things that I almost never use, but they have some sentimental value or other. One day, though, I will be strong.

    And those note cards are SO pretty!

  3. The pulav looks lovely. I am definitely trying this. I am a big fan of cast iron skillet too. The one problem is I find that I have to frequently scrub with wire brush and then re season the pan with oil. Is your pan just better seasoned , do you have any problems with food sticking?

  4. Hi Nupur, Would you mind sharing a little more on how you clean your cast-iron pan? I used to have one, but just couldn't get it to clean correctly, and never did achieve that non-stick surface. I ended up giving it away. Has your pan become non-stick? How long have you had your pan btw? Thanks!

  5. Wow! This looks awesome. Will surely try it.

    You mentioned getting rid of some pots/pans. What do you do with them? Do you donate or trash them? I have this problem where I cannot bring myself to trash my vessels, and now I have the cabinets all full!


  6. Sob! My favorite vegetarian-friendly Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto just closed down!
    BUT, I just found a store that has a Chettinad brand of pickles and spices, called Aachi. So, not quite ready to quit on TO yet!

  7. I love my cast iron skillet too! I think food tastes better when cooked in it compared to my other stainless steel pans. Food does stick a little on mine.. but I clean it with a stiff brush and some rava! How do you clean and season yours?

  8. I just lurve my iron skillet. Everything tastes better when cooked in this skillet.
    Try baking an upside-down cake :)

  9. Cutest notecards ever. I think I might try making these myself. Looks like something I can manage. Love the photo of the arch too.

  10. The pulao looks yummy. The cards are just adorable. I am planning to make a festoon like that for my son's brithday.
    Any tips on how to use and season cast iron? I barely use mine because it still sticks.

  11. Those cards looks so cute and marvellous...Pulao looks super inviting..

  12. Hey!

    You now have a gas stove - awesome!

    Cast iron skillets make the most amazing caramelized onions - deglaze with left-over wine and you can just eat them out of the pan. If there are any left use them in pasta or as a pizza topping.

    Note cards inspire me to start a project with my crafty daughter.

  13. Nupur,
    Your pulao looks great. And the cards are really nice. You have turned waste fabrics + a simple design into such cute cards. I m going to teach my daughter these.
    You are the best!

  14. Nupur
    I have a question..
    when you cut the cloth/fabric for the cards, how come the threads weren't coming out...? what did you do?

  15. I have a pan just like that! (Now I need to whittle down my kitchen stuff as well, good job!)

  16. Pavani- I agree, cast iron skillet is a must have, I discovered it rather late in the day but I'm glad I did!

    Saee- LOL I am blessed/cursed (depending on your point of view) with an utter lack of sentimentality. If I don't use it, out it goes without a second thought.

    stringOfPearls- I don't find food sticking too much, except for boiled potatoes (so I avoid cooking those in cast iron). I do use oil while cooking, not a huge amount but enough to keep food from sticking.

    Megha- I clean it with a scrubber (one of those green ones) NO SOAP and salt for abrasive action if needed. That is it. Then wipe it thoroughly (or heat to dry). Seasoning is not required after every use but once in a while I put a thin layer of oil on before putting away the skillet.
    Note that I bought pre-seasoned cast iron cookware (Lodge brand). My griddle is over 2 years old but this skillet is only a couple of months old.

  17. Smita- I took my pots to a yard sale where the proceeds were benefiting Dale's dog run- and they were going to give unsold ones to Goodwill. But that's another reason I love cast iron- it lasts for a lifetime, less pots ends up in the landfill.

    Niranjana- You win some and you lose some, eh? :) Chettinad has got to be one of my favorite Indian regional cuisines.

    Inji- Yes, food develops so much flavor because of the high heat. I clean mine with a scrubber (no soap) and salt as an abrasive.

    TheCooker- Oh yes, an upside down cake is totally on the agenda!

    Angela- These notecards are really fun to make, and addictive. We made a dozen without realizing it!

    Sangeetha- I do use oil while cooking in cast iron, not a ton of it but enough to keep the food from sticking. Also wait for the pan and the oil to heat properly (which can take a while for cast iron, but once hot it will retain heat well) before adding food to it, this keeps it from sticking as well. I clean with a scrubber and salt, never any soap.

    Priya- Thanks!

    Vishakha- I've had a gas stove for over 4 years actually. Yes, I love browning onions in this pan.

    Srividhya- I hope you enjoying making cards with your daughter! As for the threads coming out, cutting on the bias (diagonal) helps minimize the fraying. Plus the glue used to stick the fabric keeps the threads from fraying too, and this is just a card so no harm done if it does fray! Use paper if you want to avoid the issue of threads coming undone, that would look just as pretty.

    Kalyn- This one pan replaced 4 others that I had! Yay for minimizing kitchen stuff :)

  18. am always humbled when i see a recipe of mine tried by you..... thank you. i only have an ancient cast iron kadhai.... need to get a pan and a tava.... love the pretty cards... what is it abt fabric streamers being all over the internet these past few days?

  19. wow awesome use of dried mint n coconut milk hv enhanced the flavors..yummy n very cute cards..

  20. I have 3 of these... from the US and almost 50 years old...and like you say, nothing to beat these once you learn how to use and clean.

  21. BTW I just shared the Kala Koyree FB page on my Wall for all my BLR friends and gave your talented sister a shout out.

    Best to Kashmira!

  22. the rice and skillet both r awesome..added to my list

  23. thats a yummy pulao..must have tasted very nice and ofcourse look that skillet thats very nice . i have lukin for smthng like this but havnt found one. The food always tastes great when cooked in oiron.

  24. Pulao looks very tempting. and notes are a fantastic idea. Will try it as a weekend project with my 4 year old. I am now motivated to use my cast iron pan which I used only couple times in last 2 yrs. Looking forward to some more cast iron pan recipes.

  25. Hey! Did you see people in funny costumes at the Arch? One of them was me!

  26. Love Moroccan food! DC is one of my favorite places to eat Moroccan!

  27. Mushroom pulao looks awesome..
    You have a very interesting blog.
    Do stop by mine when time permits.

  28. I love the little note cards Nupur and the pulao of course :) Have a great summer.

  29. There is nothing like a cast iron pan, so glad you found yours! I love your recipes and use them a lot. Even "plain American" friends have loved them - thanks.

  30. I should have known better - I didn't make your version of this - I went to the original. Which was a disaster. It made enough for about 10 people - AND it was completely soggy (2.5 cups rice, plus 6 cups water, one cup curd and one cup coconut milk). I knew the proportions were off, but went ahead anyhow. Bad move.

    Your recipes always turn out great. I don't know what I was thinking, by-passing your tested version for an unknown site. I have learned my lesson. I will make this again (flavors were OK), but only from your recipe in future!

  31. Love the cast iron pan, the pulao, the ethiopian platter and the colorful cards!

  32. arundati- Thanks for the recipe! Fabric streamers are a RAGE in the crafty world ;) and yes, that's why you are seeing them everywhere. They do look cute so we were happy to jump on the bandwagon.

    Kalpana- Thanks!

    Raaga- I hope to use mine for several decades too :)

    Vishakha- Thank you- that's very sweet of you and we sure appreciate it!

    SMN- Thanks!

    Kadhyaa- Yes, it tasted fantastic.

    Sonali- I think once you get used to it you'll use the pan on an almost daily basis.

    Deborah- Nooo I would have loved to see that!!

    Sharan- This was Ethiopian food though, which as far as I know is different from Moroccan (same general part of the world, of course).

    Rinku- Thanks

    Mandira- Thank you, and I hope you and your little boy have a wonderful summer too!

    Marlena- I'm glad you find the recipes useful!

    Diane- I'm sorry- I rewrote the recipe knowing that 2.5 cups rice would be way too much for my little family.

    Divya Vikram- Thanks :)

  33. hi nupur, this is in response to Diane's comment, sorry to be using your blog, but i wanted to reach out to her.
    Diane, Am sorry the recipe turned out to be a disaster for you. thank you for your feedback. the quantity of water was a bit too much and I have made a correction with a note on the post. I hope you will visit again tho. cheers!

  34. Hi Nupur, I had read somewhere that tomatoes and yogurt should not be cooked in a cast iron pan. Is that right? Have you cooked both these in your pan. Let me know.

  35. arundati: Thank you so much for your kind comment on your recipe. I loved the flavors - it was fragrant and filling. Just the texture was off. And having committed 2.5 cups of rice to it, I was disappointed in the waste. I'm very glad to know you have corrected the recipe, and will try it again.

  36. Mona- That's right, cast iron is reactive and acidic foods like tomatoes and yogurt will leach the iron and taste too metallic. I avoid cooking with tomatoes in the cast iron pan. But something like this pulao which uses a little yogurt worked out OK.

  37. Hi Nupur, visited your blog after ages. Loved the pretty note cards and just fell in love with the sewn chickens and fish that your sis made. thay are simply too gorgeous. You are two talented sisters i must say. BTW I moved from UK to Pune for good now. My blog has practically gone dead , but I have plans to revive it soon and blogs like yours are a brilliant inspiration :))

  38. Hi Nupur. I just made this Pulao for dinner and it was absolutely delicious, I had to skip the coconut milk because we're trying to lower my husband's cholesterol but even without the milk it was amazing!

  39. mudita singhalJuly 08, 2012 9:15 PM

    hi Nupur, I have been a silent fan of your blog since a long time now. I love mushrooms, so had an eye on this recipe since many days and finally got a chance to try it today. I didnt have a cast iron pan so made it in a kadai and skipped cocunut milk. Maybe the heat was a bit high, as the rice burnt a bit at the bottom which was quite sad as I was very excited about this. However I was able to salvage most of it and it tastes yummy. Thankyou for the recipe and the blog. Keep posting!!


Thanks for leaving a comment- I try to respond to every single one.