Basil Mint No-cheese Risotto

Basil Mint Risotto
Basil Mint Risotto

I am taking the green fixation further from where I left you last time. Since we have already had salad, is it not time to go straight to the mains? I am sure you do not want to spend much time in the kitchen especially if your side of the globe is experiencing the same weather as mine. P stocks pitchers of lemon juice infused with fresh mint every morning in the refrigerator and whoever troops in just picks up a jug and gulps down as much of the chilled drink as possible. I prefer tender coconut water though and insist on stashing a few at home always. We do not want to eat much but do need our carbs so P and I take turns in the kitchen, remembering the one another's turn better than our own! Since P knows to cook very few dishes it is I who ends up more often taking steam baths in the kitchen, because we just can't keep having dal every other day.

As always the first thing I did when I entered the kitchen this morning was to pick up the fresh set yogurt to put it in the refrigerator. Unfortunately with both of us cooking in turns the refrigerator gets laden with our 'individually' and 'commonly' favourite ingredients resulting in a no-space crisis as it happened today. My first concern was to clean out the refrigerator and use up as many ingredients as possible. I found two packets of basil, one of rosemary, one of mint and two tupperware boxes filled and cleaned and picked coriander leaves. So I simply decided to 'go green'. That is how this tasty Indo-Italian vegan risotto was born in a humble Thane kitchen. It must be really tasty because I found an almost empty bowl bearing traces of green when I made my not-so-enthusiastic-kitchen-entry this evening after returning from work. To top it all the lemon juice had not been replenished!


Basil paste:
Fresh Basil - 1.5 level cup (De-stemmed and picked)
Fresh Mint - 1 level cup (Same as above)
Fresh Coriander leaves (Same as above)
Green chilli - 1 small (I prefer mild pungency)
Ginger - 1"
Salt - As per taste (I used pink salt)
Cashew nuts - 7-10
(Grind the above in a blender to a smooth paste with 1/2 cup water and set aside)

Whole Spices:
Cloves - 4
Cinnamon - 1" stick
Bay leaves - 1 big one torn into two or two small ones
Cardamom - 4-5 crushed with a pestle to pop open

Oil - 2 tbsp. (I used olive oil)
Cashew nuts - 10

Vegetables (Optional)
Potatoes - 2 medium sized chopped into big wedges
Baby corn - Cut into inch long pieces

Rice (basmati/ambemore) - 1.25 cup - I used brown basmati rice and it has a naturally nutty and strong flavour that adds to the dish

Basil Mint Risotto
Basil Mint Risotto


Make the basil paste and set aside.

Heat oil and fry the cashews to light golden colour. Drain and set aside.

Add the whole spices (cardamom with covering) and fry for a minute till cloves pop.

Add vegetables and unwashed rice and fry till for 3-4 minutes. Measure the paste and add enough water to it to form liquid that is 3 times the cups of rice (here - 3.75 cups). Normal polished basmati rice requires 1.5 to 2 times water to cook but brown basmati being of a somewhat stubborn nature will not adhere to this ratio. It requires 3 cups water for 1 cup of brown rice.

Adjust salt and pressure cook upto one whistle. Reduce flame and cook for 15 minutes and then switch off the gas.

Alternatively cook on open fire stirring till rice is well cooked and not dry. This is not pulav. Those intent on adding cheese may grate parmesan and add at this point and give it a final stir. If you are not picky or choosy or particular you will be able to find that the risotto is equally good without the parmesan. The slight amount of grainy texture is well provided by the ground cashews.

Before serving toss in the fried cashews and stir well.

I call this a risotto because I have retained the starch that is generally washed off for pulav, the rice has a thicker texture than flavoured rice due to the cashews and the heavy dose of green herbs and the oil I used is olive oil so it lends an authentic Italian touch.

Cooking time for the rice varies according to the variety used so if you are following this method please use your judgment, other wise you will have 'base-burnt risotto' instead of 'bas-il risotto' and though that sounds funny, it definitely isn't good when you taste it! If you take necessary care this dish turns out to be a great party-idea for green people!

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