Never mind how divinely meat is cooked in Indian cuisine, Indian is the only food I could eat frequently on a vegetarian basis. Indian+vegetarian=a sum which is way, way more than the sum of its parts.
Rice is likely to be the dish that is always present, so let’s start there. A dish like this one takes about an hour and a half to make (it only needs your presence for 10 minutes of this time).
450 ml basmati rice
clove of garlic
a small onion finely chopped
small chopped red chilli
half a teasp garam masala. See here for the one I make.
600 ml salted water. If you AREN’T vegetarian, so much the better, use chicken stock – a good quality cube will do.
Measure basmati rice to 450 ml mark. Wash thoroughly under running water. Soak for half an hour in a generous amount of water in a large bowl and then drain in a colander for half an hour.
In a medium saucepan with a heavy base add ghee, maybe a couple of tablespoons and then on a lowish heat gently fry the onion. When softened, NOT browned, add the garlic, chilli, garam masala and rice. Stir thoroughly and fry GENTLY, decrease heat if necessary. You need to coat the grains of rice with the ghee.
Satisfied you’ve done that, add the stock and turn heat to high while stirring until it begins to simmer. At that point turn heat to VERY LOW, cover with lid and let steam for about 12 minutes. Then turn it off and let it sit for a few minutes. If it suits you, this will stay hot for half an hour or so. Gently stir before serving. Should you have a slightly burnt stuck to the pot bottom, so much the better. Don’t let anybody else have it, eat it in the kitchen while they aren’t looking. They’ll only steal it from you if they know….
I’ve used the word gently a lot. Basmati rice is a fragile thing bearing no resemblance to the standard long, short and Jasmine rices. Care for it tenderly and basmati rice will respond in a like way.
There may be cultures which value rice even more than the Indians do – I expect Japanese might be one – but nobody comes close to making rice the joy it is to eat in Indian cuisine. I know a lot of men who will say they don’t like rice, but I don’t know one who won’t gobble up rice done well in an Indian way. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just well done.
I often make this in a double quantity, freeze it in portions and defrost for use – in a microwave, or even, if you are desperate and disorganised, in a frying pan straight from the freezer. The point is, it was slighty time-consuming to make in the first place, but once done, you are already on your way to cooking half a dozen really good meals with almost no effort subsequently. Well worth it.