Archive for February 24th, 2010

Plain boiled rice is a usual and perfectly satisfactory accompaniment for Indian food but a Pilaf or Pilaff (or Pilau as it sometimes appears on menus) is so much better: fragrant rather than hot and especially good when entertaining.  This method is very simple and it combined well with the Makkhani Murghi (Tandoori Chicken in a Butter Sauce) it accompanied: a favourite chicken dish I often serve when entertaining.  I am sure I will be making this Pilaf rice regularly from now on. 

The original recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s book Feast: Food that Celebrates Life, which was one of my Christmas presents.  The original title is Pilaff for a Curry Banquet.  I always use my rice cooker when cooking rice but this time I followed the recipe method and made the pilaf on the stove top which was very simple and straightforward.  I am sure it could be easily adapted for a rice cooker, unless of course you are using this for plain boiled rice, as suggested in the original recipe as an alternative extra dish.   I have recently been watching repeats of the television programmes that accompany Keith Floyd’s book Floyd around India and took his advice to use red onions in Indian dishes as they are sweeter.  They also added a lovely pink hue to what could be a very white dish.  Rather than a tea towel, I used a clean square dish cloth to cover and help seal the pan as it seemed a better fit.  I suggest that this step is not left out as I think it does help to seal in the heat and moisture as the rice rests, stopping it from drying out.  I have also increased the onion and some of the spices a little as we like a more pronounced flavour.  We love Nigella seed (also called Kalonji, which can be bought in ethnic grocery shops and large supermarkets).  Our local Turkish bakery uses it, along with sesame seeds, on top of their bread and it is delicious!  The original recipe says it is optional, but do try to get it if at all possible.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Rice Pilaf(Serves 8)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped (I used red onion)
2 cloves
4-6 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
½tsp whole cumin seeds
1tsp nigella (kalonji) seeds, (optional in the original recipe, but well worth including)
1lb 2ozs/500g basmati rice
1¾pints/1litre chicken (or vegetable) stock
2ozs/50g flaked almonds, toasted, to garnish
3tbsp chopped fresh coriander, to garnish

1.  Heat the oil in a deep saucepan and gently fry the onion, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, and nigella seeds for about 10 minutes or until the onion is soft and lightly browned.

2.  At this point the mixture could be transferred to a rice cooker and the method continued as follows:

3.  Stir the rice into the oily spiced onion until it is thoroughly covered. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Cover the pan with a lid and cook over the lowest heat possible for 20 minutes. (For rice cooker, use ‘cook’ setting until liquid has evaporated and the machine goes to the very low ‘keep’ setting.)

4.  Turn off the heat, take the lid off, cover with a tea towel and clamp the lid back on the saucepan.  With the rice cooker this can be done when it has reached the ‘keep’ setting. The rice can be rested like this for at least 10 minutes and up to about 1 hour, so it can be made a little ahead of time if entertaining.

5.  Just before serving, fork the rice through and scatter the toasted flaked almonds and chopped fresh coriander on top.  It is not necessary to remove the larger pieces of spice before serving, although you may prefer not to eat the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves.

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