Tomato rice was a big part of my childhood. It was something my mother would make for road trips or picnics or long train journeys. Every year we would go from Bombay to Madras to spend the summers with my maternal grandparents. The twenty-four-hour overnight train journey was an adventure for my sister and me, not sure how my mother survived it with two young kids. She would individually pack tiffin, it was usually, idli coated in podi and or tomato rice wrapped in a banana leaf, and then wrapped again in a newspaper. There was also pickle or thokku for good measure.
As a child I craved all the wonderful things sold at various railway stations the train traversed through, they looked and smelt amazing. My mother simply refused to buy it. She was always unsure of its hygiene standards. So there it was, staring at us was the tomato rice.
Now as an adult I appreciate all the little things about this meal and also the ingenuity of my mother. The banana leaf wrapping is biodegradable and tomato rice is always easy to whip up and comes together in one-pot.
More recently, when I took a trip with my in-laws, they brought packed lunches for our long car drive. When I unwrapped the banana leaf, there it was the infamous tomato rice. It was no secret most Tamil families did it, we packed tomato rice for our travels. It is easy, satiating, and delicious.
This version I have is the one my mother-in-law makes it is delicious with coconut milk and cashew. These additions make the humble tomato rice extra special. I have instructions to make it on the Instant Pot or on the stove. This recipe is easy to whip on a weeknight when you have very little time to get dinner on the table.
- 2.5 cups or 350g Basmati Rice washed and soaked
- 2 tablespoon Olive Oil or Sunflower oil
- 10-12 fresh curry leaves
- a pinch of asafoetida or hing
- 2-3 cloves
- ½ inch piece of cinnamon
- 1 thumb size piece ginger, grated
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 green chillies, slit
- 1 large onion thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri Lal Mirch
- ⅓ cup or 50 grams unsalted Cashew
- 4 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 x 400 ml tin of coconut milk
- ¾ cup or 175 ml water
- Set your Instant to the “sauté” mode at “normal” and add the oil to the pot. Add curry leaves, asafoetida, cloves, and cinnamon and sauté until fragrant about 1 minute.
- Next, add in the sliced onions and cook for about 4-5 minutes until the onions turn golden.
- Add the garlic, ginger, green chillies and cashew and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Then add the tomatoes, turmeric, and Kashmiri lal mirch (chilli powder) and cook for about 7-8 minutes till the tomatoes become thick and glossy.
- Drain the rice, add it to the Instant Pot and stir to combine. Add coconut milk, water and salt.
- Cancel the sauté function.
- Lock the lid on the Instant Pot and ensure the valve is in the "sealing" setting. Set it to pressure cook for 6 minutes. Once the time is up, let the pressure release naturally for 4 minutes, then safely quick release all the pressure. Open the Instant pot and serve.
- If you are cooking on the stovetop. You will need a wide frying pan with a fitted lid. Set the pan to medium heat and follow everything until step 5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then pop the lid on, turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes. Don't be tempted to lift the lid since the steam is important for cooking the rice. Once the 15 minutes is up, take off the heat but keep it covered for another 10 minutes to let the rice rest before serving.
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