Hot and Spicy South Indian Tomato Rice
The spice masala:
1 ½ teaspoons oil
3 large dried red chilies
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 teaspoons chana dal or yellow split peas
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup basmati or other long-grain white rice
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
10 fresh curry leaves
2 large red or green chilies, sliced in rings
½ teaspoon asafetida (hing)
4 large firm ripe tomatoes, chopped
To prepare the spice masala:
Heat 1 ½ teaspoons oil in a wok or heavy pan over moderate heat. Drop in the red chilies, coriander, and chana dal. Toast, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until they darken in color and become fragrant. Towards the end, drop in the fenugreek and coconut, and stir until the coconut becomes golden brown. Remove the spices and coconut and grind to a powder. Remove and set aside.
To prepare the rice:
1. Slowly bring the water and salt to a boil in a 1-liter/quart covered saucepan.
2. Warm 1 teaspoon oil in a 2-liter/quart saucepan over moderate heat. Pour in the rice and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the grains glisten and turn whitish. Add the boiling water, raise the heat and quickly bring to a full boil. Immediately reduce the heat to very low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and gently simmer, without stirring, for 20-25 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and fluffy. Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice sit, covered, for 5 minutes to allow the grains to firm up.
To prepare the tomatoes and complete the dish:
1. While the rice is cooking, place the remaining oil in a wok or heavy frying pan over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, drop in the mustard seeds. They will crackle, sputter, and start to turn grey. Add the curry leaves, stir briefly, then add the chilies and fry them for 1 or 2 minutes, or until they turn translucent. Sprinkle in the asafetida (hing), sauté momentarily and add the chopped tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes soften and break down. Stir the spice masala into the tomatoes and cook for an additional one minute. Remove from the heat.
2. When the rice is fully cooked and firm, stir in the spicy tomatoes, fluffing the rice and tomatoes gently with a fork to mix evenly. Serve piping hot.