Though it bears an uncanny resemblance, Kaliyaa Birinjee is not, in fact, mashed-up cow brains.
The coconut-rice dish from Maldives is one of those rare recipes that looks like sludge yet tastes like heaven. Only good can come from coconut-onion sauces, and this one is laced with fennel, cardamom, garlic, curry, and ginger, so it really packs a punch that the coconut smoothes out deliciously and delicately. It is a soothing yet spunky rice dish.
The original recipe demanded that I "crush" the onions with the ginger and garlic, but I find the verb "crush" a little alarming ("He crushed the rebellion with an iron fist" – "His spirits were crushed" – "The pedestrian was crushed under a donkey cart"), and besides I didn't know how to crush onion with garlic and ginger, so I just sliced the little devils. Worked fine.
Still, it looks like sludge, so I would never serve it to anyone I hadn't known for a few years.
I've actually been pendulating back and forth on when – or whether – to publish this monstrosity. In the glossy foodie-net, with its high-class edible porn, mashed-cup cow brains stick out. But last night, the Ugly Gourmet complimented the sludgy slime-fest that was my Aruban banana breakfast. It's comforting that someone out in the blog-o-sphere appreciates ugly food.
So here it is – this one's for you, Ug.
5 cardamom seeds, soaked in 1/4 cup hot water
2 cinnamon sticks, soaked in 1/4 cup hot water
1 tsp fennel seeds, soaked in yet a different 1/4 cup hot water
4 large onions
3 cloves garlic
1 1-inch piece of ginger
1/2 cup ghee or oil
3 cups rice, washed and drained
8 cups coconut milk
2 curry leaves
Salt to taste
Soak the spices in hot water for a few minutes.
"Crush" (or slice) the onion, garlic, and ginger. Melt the ghee in a large saucepan, then add the water from the soaked spices (and for heavens sake, stand back). Stir (carefully) until all the water has evaporated. Add the onion mixture and the spices, and fry until the onion is transparent.
Add the rice and fry until it is a little dry.
Add the coconut milk, curry leaves, and salt. Boil until the liquid is just at the top of the rice, then reduce the heat and simmer until all the water has evaporated.
Serve in as nice as dish as you can muster.