Every single thing I know about Indian cooking came from Indra and her daughter, Deep (who learned it from her). So when Deep told me I should make her mom's rice to go with the Rajma recipe I was cooking, I listened. Boy am I glad I did. I could seriously eat this rice every day for the rest of my life.
Caramelized onions, toasted cumin and a cinnamon stick add layers of flavor and complexity to something we normally view as just a blank carb canvas for other food. You'll never make basmati rice another way.
I know what you're thinking, "cinnamon in rice? ew, I'll just leave it out." Trust me leave it in. It adds such a lovely hint of exotic flavor. We tend to think of cinnamon stick as something only used in mulled cider and sweet dishes (I was surprised I even had any) but it's used in savory dishes in India and Moroccan cuisine and I'm definitely going to start reaching for it more.
1 cup basmati rice (we recommend Lotus Foods brand, for a high quality rice that is fair trade and supports small farmers)
1/2 medium onion very thinly spiced (on mandolin preferably)
Rinse the rice until the water runs clear then soak it for a few minutes and drain, discarding the water. This is a very important step, don't skip it. It's the difference between light fluffy rice and a sticky ball of mush.
In a thick bottom pan with a tight fitting lid (a glass lid is preferred so that you can see when the rice is done without lifting the lid), heat your ghee or oil until a cumin seed sizzles when dropped in.
Add the cumin seed and toast in the oil for 30 seconds.
Add the onions, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt and turn the heat down so that the onions can caramelize to a golden brown without burning. Stir them frequently and watch carefully that they don't burn on the edges.
Once the onions are velvety and golden but not burnt, add the rice, bring the heat back up to high and stir. Now add the water and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat down to a simmer and cook until the rice is done and the water has evaporated. 10-20 minutes depending on the rice and temperature. Take out the cinnamon stick and serve immediately.
This very simple dish lets the flavor of these amazing heirloom field peas shine. Steeped in history, Sea Island Red Peas are a more flavorful and diminutive cousin to black eyed peas and are grown only on the Carolina Sea Islands.