Recipe: Spiced Basmati Rice with Peanuts


1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter) or combination
2 14oz cans tomatoes (I prefer one can diced, the other petite cut/diced)
1/2 medium onion, diced
5 medium cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 cup Planter’s cocktail peanuts
2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masaala (Indian spice blend)
2-3 tsp lemon juice
Some fresh ground black pepper, half dozen to a dozen twists of the pepper mill or so – I don’t really keep count
1-2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional, recommended)
1 carrot, diced (optional, for extra nutrition, doesn’t alter flavor)
1/4 cup moong dal (optional, adds texture and nutrition)
1-2 tsp or more cayenne powder (optional, if you need more heat ;o) )

Substitutions: You can substitute curry powder (another spice blend, not the same thing as Indian curry) for some or all of the garam masaala, maybe for the coriander powder as well (haven’t tried) but you probably shouldn’t use as much curry powder as the recipe calls for of coriander powder. Jasmine rice may substitute for basmati rice; I haven’t tried it. I tried half vegetable oil and half extra virgin olive oil (good for your health) today and it didn’t change the flavor of the final product noticeably.

Notes: 1) If you live in or near a decent sized city, you can probably find a local Indian store that carries all the Indian-specific ingredients. 2) I prefer canned tomatoes because they’re more consistently high quality than the fresh whole tomatoes you can get at a supermarket, tastier and they don’t disintegrate while cooking. 3) I usually seed the whole jalapeno, or half of it. You never know whether you’ve got a strong one or a weak one. If it’s a strong one, keeping the seeds (where most of the heat is) could make the dish too hot for you or your guests, and hard to eat. It’s better to play it safe. You can always add cayenne pepper to taste later if it’s not hot enough for you.

Penzey’s Spices is a nice store with an online website from which you can order a wide variety of common and specialty, high quality spices, baking ingredients, etc.


1) Start boiling rice. A rice cooker or pressure cooker is easier and faster than a regular pot.

2) Dry roast the cumin seeds on medium-high heat until light brown and giving off wonderful aroma, then remove from heat and set aside. You can include them whole later (see below), but I don’t like to bite into a whole cumin seed so I use a coffee grinder to grind them to powder. Warning! Don’t use the same coffee grinder for grinding spices that you do for grinding coffee beans, or vice versa.

Optional: Moong dal. Rinse a few times. Soak in hot water for 10-15 minutes until softened enough that you can pinch them in half with your fingernail.

3) While the cumin is roasting and the moong dal soaking, dice the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and carrot (opt). Keep an eye on the cumin though. You don’t want to burn it.

4) Heat a 9-12 inch saucepan/skillet on medium-high. Put in the oil/ghee. Then add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and carrot (opt). Cook until softened and onion is golden brown. Then add in the peanuts and moong dal (opt). Cook for a few minutes more. Stir occasionally throughout. Chop the cilantro sometime while all this is cooking; don’t add yet.

5) Add the tomatoes. Lower heat to medium. Then add remaining ingredients (except rice). Cook until tomatoes are heated through, 5-10 min or so.

6) Add rice and mix well. Serve and enjoy!

Serves 4-6.

Geoffrey is an Aristotelian-Libertarian political philosopher, writer, editor, and web designer. He is the founder of the Libertarian Fiction Authors Association. His academic work has appeared in Libertarian Papers, the Journal of Libertarian Studies, the Journal of Value Inquiry, and Transformers and Philosophy. He lives in Greenville, NC.