This plain, but gently fragrant rice can be served with various curries. It is made in almost every North Indian home, with minor variations. It makes a nice change from boiled rice for special meals. Pulao is spelt as Pilaf or pilau in UK. Serves 6-8
500 gm. basmati or any good quality rice
1 tbsp. oil or ghee
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 large cardamoms*
2 bay leaves*
5-6 black pepper corns*
1 small piece of cinnamon stick*
1 litre water**
Salt to taste
* Use 1 heaped tsp. Garam Masala if you do not have these whole spices
A few strands of saffron, soaked in 1-2 tbsp. warm water
Pan with a tight fitting lid
1 medium sized onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. oil, to fry the onion
Wash and drain rice in a sieve.
Boil the water separately (put the kettle on).
Heat oil or ghee in a pan.
Add cumin seeds and all the whole spices marked * and let the cumin seeds splutter/crackle.
Add rice and stir-in gently for a 15-20 seconds, to coat each rice grain with oil.
Add salt and then boiling water. I tend not to measure water and use just enough to cover the rice and 1/2 inch/1.25 cm above the rice.
Let the rice come to a brisk boil for 10 seconds.
Add garam masala here, if not using whole spices earlier.
Add saffron and lower heat to minimum, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Try not to peek in every few minutes.
Meanwhile, fry the onion in a little oil until medium to deep brown.
Once cooked, fluff up the rice with a fork.
Serve hot, garnished with fried onions. Take care not to break the rice when lifting out into a serving dish.
Rice can be garnished with and a few fried cashew nuts, almonds etc.
Optional: If you soak 1 tea bag in the boiling water and use this tea-water to cook fried rice, it gives a delightful brown colour to it.
**To give it colour, you can add 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder when you add rice to the pan. Or, you can add 1 cup of strong, black tea to the total amount of water you are using; a trick I learnt from a young servant my mum used to have when I was living at home. He had previously worked an a roadside 'Dhaba' as a general dogsbody.
BBQ Biryani Pulao/Pilaf: Cook rice as per your recipe. Make small parcels, one parcel per person, each wrapped in aluminium foil. Place them on BBQ for a few minutes to heat, 5-10 minutes, turning over once. Serve the parcels straight from the BBQ.