Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pilaf with turmeric, mustard seeds, and cardamom

Cooking plain basmati rice, I tend to throw it into about three times its volume of boiling water, simmer for 10 minutes, and drain. That’s it. Works fine every time. The absorption method is hard to perfect, in my experience: cooking utensils, brands of rice, and other factors may vary, and have significant effects.

However, if you want a pilaf, you need to use an absorption method – try mixing pre-cooked rice with fat and spices, and you’ll end up with a sticky clump. Here is what works pretty well for me.

Measure the rice. You’re going to cook it in one and half times its volume of water. (I have little measuring pots.)

Soak the rice for 30 minutes or longer – soaking results in softer (more digestible?) grains, which need to be cooked in less water, and which will soften by steaming more readily.

Warm a knob of butter or about a tbsp of oil for each person in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add what spices you like – this week, for three people, I used a tsp of turmeric, half a tsp of mustard seeds, and the seeds from five cardamom pods. Let them sizzle briefly, then drain the rice and add it to the pan, turning it in the spicy fat.

Add the water, with salt if you like, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to its lowest setting. Cover the pan loosely with foil, crimping it round the edges to make a seal, and clamp the lid on top. (Probably you should use a tea towel, which absorbs the steam. But foil works ok for me.) Simmer for 10 minutes, and leave to rest for a further five.

You do need basmati rice for this recipe. Long grain rice takes longer to cook, and tends to be stickier.

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