This traditional Pakistani recipe was given to me by my mum and it is one of my favourite foods of all time. You might be familiar with this dish having seen it on the takeaway menu or in a South Asian restaurant. If you have tried it before you’ll know that this type of rice has a very fragrant flavour. If you haven’t tried it before, hopefully you’ll love it.
Ingredients 3 cups of basmati rice
2 small onions or 1 ½ large onions
100g of frozen garden peas
5 tbsp of oil
2 tsp of garam masala
1 level tsp of salt
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of black cumin seeds (optional)
3 black cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
Bay leaves, black cardamom pods, garam masala, cinnamon sticks
Place the rice in a bowl and give it a few rinses with lukewarm water (fill up the bowl with water then gently tip out the water as opposed to using a strainer). This step will help dispose of some of that excess starch which causes the rice to stick together when cooked.
Leave the rice to soak in the water whilst you complete the other steps.
Take out 100g of frozen peas and place them in a bowl so they slowly start to defrost at room temperature. By the time you complete the next few steps they’ll be ready to use.
Frozen peas for the pilau rice
Put the kettle on with enough water for 3 ½ cups. Use the same size cup you used to measure the rice throughout the recipe.
Whilst the kettle is boiling, thinly slice the onions and place them into the cooking pan. You will need quite a large pan as the rice will expand.
Add the oil and turn on the heat to a medium heat setting. Stir the onions with a wooden spoon to stop the onions from burning. I usually use olive oil but the oil you decide to use depends entirely on your personal preference. Tip; avoid using extra virgin olive oil in this recipe as it will not cook properly and it will mask the flavour of the spices.
The sliced onions being cooked in the olive oil
Once the oil has heated and the onions slowly start to cook, add the salt and all the spices mentioned on the list. With the cardamom pod cut it in half (length way) to help release the flavour of the seeds. The onions should be cooked until they are light golden brown.
As soon as the onions have cooked get half a cup of water from the boiled kettle. This stage should be completed with care and caution. Turn up the heat slightly and pour in the water from the cup. Then immediately place the lid over the pan, remember to use a tea towel or oven gloves to protect your hands. You can expect a loud sizzling noise, after roughly 30 seconds turn the heat down but keep the lid on for a further minute. This stage draws out the flavour from the spices.
After a minute has elapsed remove the lid and add the peas. Turn the heat up slightly for about 2 minutes. Stir every now and then to stop anything sticking to the pan.
Turn the heat down whilst you get the soaked rice. Gently tip out the water from the soaked rice bowl into the sink. You’ll notice that the water looks quite starchy. It’s ok if you can’t dispose of all the starchy water.
Take the drained rice and add it to the same pan on the heat.
Add 3 cups of heated water from kettle, don’t worry if it has cooled down slightly.
Rice in the pan once the water has been added
Turn the heat up and gently bring back to the boil. Stir gently every now and then.
The idea is to dry off most of the water until you are able to see a layer of rice, this will take roughly 3 to 5 minutes. Once the water around the rice resembles a puree or a very runny potato mash, you are ready for the simmer stage.
Place the lid on the pan and adjust the heat to the lowest setting you have. If the heat is too high the rice at the bottom of the pan will burn and become hardened. The rice should be simmered for 20 minutes.
Once 20 minutes are up remove the lid. Stir the rice and serve.
Cooked pilau rice in the pan
This rice can be served with your favourite curry. Or you can have it with some plain yogurt and salad. Enjoy!