Taken from Chandra Padmanabhan's delightful Dakshin with a few minor modifications for taste or ingredient availability, I served this rice with a mild, cooling and lightly spiced yogurt with chickpeas and tomatoes to balance its heat and make a delightful meal.
Spiced urad dal rice
1 cup basmati rice
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup raw cashews, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon urad dal
1 tablespoon chana dal
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
8 dried curry leaves
4 hot thai chilies, slit down one side to expose the seeds
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder
2 hot green chilies, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons urad dal
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons dried flaked coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
As preparation the night before making the rice, rinse one tablespoon each of the urad dal and chana dal under cold running water and soak for 1 hour under cold water in a bowl. Rinse and soak the 2 tablespoons of urad dal for the dry masala in the same way in a separate bowl. Drain each bowl of dal and leave to air dry overnight in separate strainers.
At the same time, or at least a few hours before cooking, rinse the rice under cold running water and let air dry in a strainer, shaking the rice once in a while to bring the moist grains to the surface.
Heat a small frying pan over medium heat and toss in the dried urad dal for the dry masala along with the sesame seeds, coconut and black peppercorns. Dry roast the ingredients while stirring until the urad dal is nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to an electric grinder or small food processor and process to a fine powder. Set aside.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. As soon as the water comes to a boil, add the now dry rice and immediately turn down the heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook undisturbed for exactly 15 minutes, without lifting the lid. Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a 9- or 10-inch frying pan over just less than medium heat. Toss in the cashews and stir-fry until browned to your liking. Remove with a slotted spatula and set aside.
Return the pan to the stove, turn up the heat to medium, and add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil as well as the butter. Add the dried urad dal and chana dal as well as the brown mustard seeds, curry leaves, and thai peppers. Stir once, then toss in the asafoetida and continue to stir until the brown mustard seeds begin to sputter. Add the green chilies and sauté for 2 more minutes.
Remove the thai chilies to set aside for garnish, and stir the contents of the pan into the warm rice. Add the salt and the dry masala and combine well.
Serve on a warm plate garnished with the thai chilies. Serves 4 to 6.