The Persian Pilaf
In the Middle East and India, Pilafs are served as a side dish instead of plain boiled rice. But they can also form a vegetarian main course, topped with plain yoghurt and accompanied with Indian bread, such as Nan or chapatti. Pilafs are traditionally made with clarified butter (ghee), but this recipe uses groundnut oil, which is healthier. In India and the Middle East , the rice is gently simmered until all the cooking liquid has evaporated or bean absorbed, Use basmati rice for this dish- its fine texture and sweet aroma are especially suitable for Middle Eastern cooking. The crust that forms at the bottom of the rice is considered a great delicacy in Persian cookery, Called “Tahdiq” it is reserved for special guests. Serve the Pilaf as a starter or main dish with a green salad and freshly chopped mint, if desired.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Standing time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
350 grams of basmati rice
1 medium onion
8 cardamom pods
4 medium, ripe tomatoes
3 table spoons of groundnut oil
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
75 grams of pine nuts
50 grams of raisins or currants
Fresh coriander for garnish (optional)
Calories per serving: 460 Low in cholesterol. High in fibre from rice, nuts and currants
Put the rice in a sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, and then put to one side. Chop the onion finely. Crush the cardamom pods into a fine powder in a mortar with pestle, or with a rolling pin on a flat surface.
Plunge the tomatoes into a bowl of hot water for 30 seconds, then cold for a minute, until cool enough to peel off the skins with your fingers. Roughly chop the peeled tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole dish. Then add the onion, cardamom and turmeric, and cook over a gentle heat, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes, until the onion is soft, but not brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and the rice. Mix well with the onion, then pour in 600 ml of boiling water. Stir well and season to taste, then cover the pan tightly with a well fitting lid and cook over a very low heat for 15 minutes, without lifting the lid.
Uncover the pan, add the pine nuts and raisins or currants and fork through gently. Cover with the lid again, turn off the heat and leave the pan to stand for a further 15 minutes without lifting the lid. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to warm serving dish, or you can leave it in the cooking dish so that the “tahdiq”, or rice crust, is preserved in the bottom of the bowl. Garnish with fresh sprigs of coriander and serve immediately.