The provenance of this dish is lost in the mists of time. The Chinese will declare that it shows their influence on Indian cuisine; the Bengalis claim it as proof positive of their influence on Chinese cuisine.
Whatever. This rice dish is typically Bengali, and is sometimes referred to as Bengali vegetable pulao. It is more commonly called ghee bhaat. It is a simple, wholesome rice and vegetable dish, very easy to prepare, and so suitable to accompany almost any lentil or vegetable dish in this book.
If you order vegetable pulao in a Bengali restaurant, this is probably what they will serve you.
The use of panch phoran gives it that unique Bengali taste, and the ghee gives it a sumptuous underlying flavour. You could make this dish using oil rather than ghee, if you prefer to do so for health reasons – but then it wouldn’t be ghee bhaat, would it?
For me, this is classic singles food. It is simple to prepare, the ingredients can be purchased on the way home, and it is very healthy. Add a dal dish, say the Bengali dal, or a simple vegetable dish like the beans with coconut, and you have a balanced meal. And ready to eat as quickly as ordering something from the take-away service.
The time-consuming part is cooking the rice, then allowing it to cool. But, if you prepared that the night before, then this dish is so fast to prepare.
For a perfect vegetable fried rice, you must use cooked and cooled rice. Hot, damp, fresh rice is not very good for any fried rice recipe, as it just turns mushy and spoils the texture.
Your selection of vegetables is important. Use the freshest, tender vegetables as all you do is quickly fry them. You can use whatever are your favourite in-season vegetables. We use peas, beans, capsicum, tomatoes, carrots or cauliflower florets. Look for a mix of vegetables that will add colour to the presentation.
This recipe can be easily scaled up for cooking in larger quantities. You use about 1-1½ cups of diced vegetables to each cup of cooked rice. The spices and other ingredients scale, but you would not use quite as much ghee for larger servings.
- Heat ghee in a wide pan or wok, over a medium heat. Add the cashews and quickly fry until they just take on a golden colour. Remove from ghee, drain and set aside.
- Add the turmeric to the ghee and stir until mixture darkens. This will only take a few seconds. Quickly add the panch phoran and curry leaves, and stir continuously for one minute.
- Add the green onion and green chilli and fry for two minutes.
- Add all the vegetables, mix well and fry on a medium heat, stirring continuously. Cook for three minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked, yet retain their crunch.
- Add the jaggery, and mix well, then add the rice. Mix well, and fry for three minutes, mixing continuously. Ensure each grain of rice is coated in the spiced ghee.
- Adjust salt, add ghee if required, and mix.
- Add the fried cashews, turn into a bowl, and serve.
- The preparation time above does not include the cooking and cooling of the rice. The rice must be cool and fluffy before adding to the dish. Cool the rice thoroughly by spreading on a baking tray, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
- You could prepare the rice a day ahead for this recipe, provided it is refrigerated.
- When dicing the vegetables, keep them small. They should be diced to the same size as the peas.