Toasty cashews with sweet peppers and a raft of spices and fluffy rice. Its all there. Indians taking a staple dish way up there towards Nirvana and beyond!!!!!!
A simple rice dish (don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients) with some seriously tasty touches. Toasted cashews are ever delicious. Pulao is basically a side dish, but can really be a main course, something like a Biryani for example, with a few more veggies and a little more spice. Pulao is like a toned down cousin of Biryani. Just like all Indian food, flavours here are turned up to 11 and the possibility of spice combing are fully explored. This may seem like alot spices to be putting into your rice, but they are worth it and if you are interested in cooking Indian food, you will find that all of these spices are used almost on a daily basis in your average Indian kitchen.
A SPICY CONUNDRUM
When you see the recipes for many Indian dishes you are immediately confronted with the sheer length and seemingly mind boggling array of spices in even a simple dish. Do not fret, once you get them all together and start cooking more Indian food, your dhaba (spice rack) will become your best friend. I always bang on about this, but keep your spices in sealed containers and preferably in the fridge (if you live in a hot place or your central heating is potent). Don’t mix strong smelling spices with, like Hing (Asafoetida) with other spices, they’ll all be tinged with the funk of hing. Get your spices ready, in one bowl if possible, before hand. Then when the pan is hot and the spatula is flying, you can simply pour them in with no real fuss. Bear in mind however that some spices are better added earlier or later in the cooking process, depending on the dish/ spice. Its a little complex really! Being a bit organised with your spices beforehand saves you clambering around with slippy jars and unruly spice bags.
I’ve used brown rice and thrown some of my favourites, flax seeds in, but both are not exactly traditional. If you use white rice, you could knock 10 minutes off the overall cooking time.
1 tbs cooking oil (vegetable/ sunflower etc)
400g brown rice
600ml light vegetable stock
1 green pepper (as finely diced as you can)
1 handful of cashews (chopped in half lengthways, like half moons)
2 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed up or finely diced)
1 large tomato (finely diced)
1-2 large red chilli (dried and cut lengthways, remove seeds for less heat)
6 green cardamom pods (split)
1 small cinnamon stick (2 inches long)
6 green cardamom pods (split)
1 teas cumin seeds
1 teas fennel seeds
½ teas nigella seeds
1 tbs flax/linseeds
1 handful toasted cashews
1 handful fresh coriander leaves (roughly chopped) – we didn’t have any (soz)
In a large saucepan, with a good fitting lid, warm the oil on medium high heat and add the green peppers, fry them for a couple of minutes before adding the cumin and nigella seeds, stir for a minute and then add the rest of the spices and garlic, stirring all the time. Cook these for a minute and then it’s time to pour in the rice and tomatoes. Combine all the ingredients well and leave to warm through for yet another minute.
Pour over the stock and turn the heat up a little until the rice is vigorously boiling. Now place a well fitting lid over the rice and turn the heat down to minimum. Leave to steam away for 40-45 minutes (white rice, know off 10 minutes cooking time).
While the rice is cooking, grab a small frying pan and on medium heat, add the cashews and toast them gently. Tossing them about, getting them nice and coloured. Toasty. Gorgeous. Dark golden.
Once cooked, have a peak, the rice should be nice and fluffy. With a fork, being careful not to scratch your nice, non-stick pan (if you are lucky enough to have one), gently tease and fluff the rice. If you like added richness, you can add a drizzle of oil here and coat the rice. It gives nice shine and richness and would be condone by most Indian cooks I know, although they would probably add a good knob of ghee. Pop the lid on and leave to sit for a few minutes before serving. The final, fragrant mingle……
Pulao is an occasion. Mix in most of the cashews. Warm a platter and pile it in the middle, this makes for a lovely centre piece for any Indian feast. Or you can line some tea cups with cling film and spoon the pulao into them, packing it down quite well. Turn the cups over, onto the plate you’re using for serving and gently lift off the cup. This will leave you with a very neat and professional looking pile of rice. Scatter with some freshly toasted cashews and a little fresh coriander.
All these spices are so very good for you. At random let me pick cinnamon, a serious, serious anti-oxidants. So much so, that it should be offered in all pharmacies across the country to treat and prevent things like colds. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help to stabilise insulin and hormones and can even help against heart disease.
Spices are our natural friends and the more spices you can add to your food, namely cook plenty of food from India or the Middle East, the healthier you will no doubt be. Imagine the cumulative effects of eating decent amounts of cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, cumin, coriander…………….you’ll live a healthy life until you’re 200 (with some decent karmic conditions along the way).
JUST ADD SPICEX
We eat pulao as a main dish too. This variation looks yummy…