This is a fragrant rice recipe with a medley of vegetable and spices. Rice plays an important role in the Indian cuisine. If you have frequented an Indian home or even an Indian restaurant, you would have noticed that there is at least one rice dish.
The light fluffy Basmati rice speckled with spices and sometimes vegetables, which lavishly dissipates the beautiful aroma as the smoke spirals up, can barely go unnoticed.
Basmati Rice is a variety of long grain rice grown in mainly in the Indian Subcontinent; it is fragrant and delicate. The name means the fragrant or the perfumed one in Sanskrit. Rice is an important part of life in South Asia. It is the cornerstone of their food and culture and is a staple in many states of India. In India the Basmati rice is primarily grown in the northern regions.
Basmati rice is available in two varieties: white and brown. The main characteristic of the Basmati rice is the intense fragrance that fills the air when the rice is being cooked. The grains of Basmati rice are longer than most other types of rice and once cooked, and the grains are separate and free flowing like any long grain rice.
I have been making this pulao for many years now. We usually have this as a side dish with the curries with sauces or with grilled meat. The little trick that infuses the rice with immense flavor had been learned while watching a friend’s mom cook. It is not just the whole spices, but the quick frying of the coriander and the pepper powder in the ghee that makes this dish so pleasantly aromatic.
This is not a fancy or an elaborate dish like the Biryani; it is simple, and a quick recipe. Adding a few vegetables and spices is a good way to jazz up the plain old steamed rice at certain times and during special meal times. If I am serving a vegetable pulao as a main dish, I usually add a lot more vegetables to the rice. This is a lighter version and hence more appropriate as a side dish.
Ingredients: (serve 6-8 as a side)
- 2 cups white Basmati Rice
- 3 cups water
- 4 tablespoon ghee/melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 cloves,gently crushed
- 6 green cardamom, gently crushed
- 1 big black cardamom, gently crushed
- 1 – 2″ stick cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder/cayenne/paprika
- a good big pinch of saffron
- freshly ground black pepper, about 6 turns
- salt to taste
- 2 carrots,chopped in to tiny cubes
- 1 small potato, peeled and chopped in to tiny cubes
- 1/2 cup chopped green beans
- 1/2 cup peas, shelled or frozen
- fresh cilantro/coriander to garnish
- lightly toasted almonds or cashews for garnish (optional)
Note: Use any combination of vegetables. Here I have mentioned the vegetables that I usually use- sometimes all of them mentioned, and sometimes whatever I have at home. Try using vegetables that stays firm after cooking and not anything like squash.
To keep the flavors of the spices prominent, avoid using vegetables, (like cauliflower, broccoli, etc ) with strong pungent aroma. It is the fragrance of the spices that should be predominant in this recipe, rather than that of the vegetables.
Wash the rice grains till the water runs clear. Soak the rice in cold water for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Prepare the vegetables.
Gently crush the saffron strands and soak them in a tablespoon of hot water.
In a deep thick bottomed pan, add the ghee/melted butter and add the cinnamon, clove, green and black cardamom. When the spices start to sizzle and get fragrant, in a couple of minutes, add the cumin seeds. When the seeds sizzle, add the coriander powder, red chili powder/cayenne/paprika, and freshly ground black pepper in the pan. Stir the spices around quickly for a few seconds. They will be fragrant as soon as they hit the oil. Make sure that they do not turn dark and burn.
Add the prepared vegetables to the pan and cook them at high heat for 2-4 minutes till all the water evaporate, while tossing them frequently. Next add the rice and cook while constantly tossing and stirring for about 3 minutes. All the water will have evaporated by this time and the rice and the vegetables should be coated with the spice mix and start looking dry.
Add the salt, the saffron and 3 cups of warm water; stir everything together, and let it cook at medium to high heat for about 8 minutes or until all the water from the top has evaporated. All you should see is a moist layer of almost done rice and vegetables. Lower the heat to minimum and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Leave it on the stove top to cook for another 8-10 minutes.
Switch off the heat, uncover and fluff. The rice grains should be cooked, but the grains should be separate and not mushed up at all.
Keep it uncovered as the heat and the steam will over cook the rice. Cover the pan only when cooled.
The pulao tastes even better the next day or as it sits for a few hours. It heats easily in the microwave.
This dish could be served as a main dish with a side of salad and yogurt or as a side. I would want to mention here that this works better as a side dish; it is not overcrowded with vegetables, is light and pairs well with grilled meat and poultry like Sheekh Kabab, or Murgh Malai Tikka Kabab.