1 November 2012

FRAGRANT PILAU RICE

FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
At home in Austria when we do rice for Wiener Schnitzel we add half an onion to the rice during cooking, peeled but uncut and spiked with several whole cloves. The rice is then simmered very slowly until all water has been absorbed, by which time the rice is done and the aroma of the added onion and cloves have deeply penetrated into the rice with their warm and sweet flavour. This rice is similar in the way it is prepared and flavoured, but of course the type of rice is different and also the spices: the spicy warmth of cinnamon, the sweet cloves, the herbal flavour of bay leave, the citrussy cardamom, and
the very faint, almost medicinal yet so appealing saffron make this such a wonderfully fragrant rice. At first I found it strange not to dissolve the saffron before adding it to the rice, but this way the finished rice ends up with pretty yellow flavoursome dots all throughout. I am by no means a specialist in Indian Cuisine (not that I am an expert in any cuisine!), but this recipe, found a few years ago online, seems to be absolutely fail-safe, so therefore I need to share it. Every time I make it, and I do follow it to the T, the grains are perfectly cooked, never sticky, and the rice tastes fantastic. All that's missing is our home-made CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA on its side  ;-)

Recipe based on: 'Fragrant pilau rice' by Jo Pratt
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Serves 4 or more as side dish
450g (1lb) basmati rice
1 medium onion
large knob of butter, plus extra to serve
4 cardamom pods
8 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
pinch saffron threads
2 bay leaves
600ml/1 pint hot vegetable stock (or chicken stock, or water)
salt, if needed
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
First of all wash the rice. This will remove the starchy dust from the grains making sure the rice will not become sticky during cooking. There are a couple of methods to do this: 1) put the rice into a large pot, fill the pot with cold tap water and stir the rice. Refresh the water several times, then leave the rice to soak for about 30 min in more fresh cold water. 2) Alternatively put the rice into a large enough sieve, then place the sieve under running cold tap water and wash for a minute or so. 3) I first wash the rice several times following method 1) until the water becomes pretty clear, then I strain the rice into a sieve that fits into one of my black bowls. I place the bowl on the sink and let the water run into the sieve and bowl in a strong stream. The water keeps on running over the top, refreshing itself. I do this until the water in the black bowl looks clear. At the end pour off the water and drain the rice. 
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
Meanwhile prepare the hot stock, then peel the onion and cut it into very small dice. 
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
Melt the butter in a high, rather than wide, saucepan, then add the onion and fry gently over medium heat for app. 5 min until the onion is softened. 
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
Add the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick, saffron and bay leaves and cook for a couple of minutes. 
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated with the butter. 
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
Add the stock and stir well. Taste and add salt if necessary. 
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
Bring to the boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. If the lid isn't very tight, cover the top of the pan with aluminium foil before putting on the lid. 
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
Turn the heat down to low and leave the rice to cook very gently for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat completely, but leave the pot on the stove and don't remove the lid. Leave the rice to continue cooking in the pan for about 5 minutes or until you're ready to serve. The rice should now be soft and should have absorbed all the liquid. To save it from cooking further at this point replace the aluminium foil with 2 paper towels to absorb any steam inside the pot.
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE
Before serving fluff up the rice: put a small knob of butter on the rice then gently fluff up the rice with a fork: don't stir, but rather pull the fork in small movements through the rice to fluff it up, thereby stirring in the butter. Remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and any visible cloves and cardamom pods. Serve immediately. 
FRAGRANT PILAU RICE

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FRAGRANT PILAU RICE

 

Serves 4 or more as side dish

450g (1lb) basmati rice
1 medium onion
large knob of butter, plus extra to serve
4 cardamom pods
8 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
pinch saffron threads
2 bay leaves
600ml/1 pint hot vegetable stock (or chicken stock, or water)
salt, if needed

First of all wash the rice. This will remove the starchy dust from the grains making sure the rice will not become sticky during cooking. There are a couple of methods to do this: 1) put the rice into a large pot, fill the pot with cold tap water and stir the rice. Refresh the water several times, then leave the rice to soak for about 30 min in more fresh cold water. 2) Alternatively put the rice into a large enough sieve, then place the sieve under running cold tap water and wash for a minute or so. 3) I first wash the rice several times following method 1) until the water becomes pretty clear, then I strain the rice into a sieve that fits into one of my black bowls. I place the bowl on the sink and let the water run into the sieve and bowl in a strong stream. The water keeps on running over the top, refreshing itself. I do this until the water in the black bowl looks clear. At the end pour off the water and drain the rice. Meanwhile prepare the hot stock, then peel the onion and cut it into very small dice. Melt the butter in a high, rather than wide, saucepan, then add the onion and fry gently over medium heat for app. 5 min until the onion is softened. Add the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick, saffron and bay leaves and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated with the butter. Add the stock and stir well. Taste and add salt if necessary. Bring to the boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. If the lid isn't very tight, cover the top of the pan with aluminium foil before putting on the lid. Turn the heat down to low and leave the rice to cook very gently for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat completely, but leave the pot on the stove and don't remove the lid. Leave the rice to continue cooking in the pan for about 5 minutes or until you're ready to serve. The rice should now be soft and should have absorbed all the liquid. To save it from cooking further at this point replace the aluminium foil with 2 paper towels to absorb any steam inside the pot. Before serving fluff up the rice: put a small knob of butter on the rice then gently fluff up the rice with a fork: don't stir, but rather pull the fork in small movements through the rice to fluff it up, thereby stirring in the butter. Remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and any visible cloves and cardamom pods. Serve as side-dish with CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA.
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