Rice is a staple which is commonly consumed by a large portion of the world’s inhabitants daily. There are long, medium and short grained rice varieties and each type has its own appearance, flavor and characteristic. Long grain rice tends to stay separate once cooked, while medium grain rice yields a stickier outcome; the best example of which is Thai Jasmine rice. Short grain rices are much more glutinous and are best in congees, rice puddings and risottos. Among the finest and most expensive rice strains is Basmati rice. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and is well known to be the King among rice varieties. It is a long slender grain which is highly fragrant and has a distinctive nutty perfumed flavor that is well loved and appreciated in Indian, Persian and Arabic dishes. One favorable quality of Basmati rice is it boasts a lower glycemic index than Jasmine or other rice varieties, which makes it a very good starch option for diabetics.
Different types of rice grains: long (Basmati), medium (Jasmine) and short (glutinous)
When preparing Basmati rice, the traditional method is to wash the grains several times to remove as much starch as possible. Afterwards, the rice is soaked in fresh water for about an hour prior to cooking. This method is said to reduce the cooking time of the hard grain as well as to ensure that the rice grains stay distinctly separate. This makes basmati rice perfect for pilafs.
I find that this fragrant rice goes beautifully with grilled meats, poultry or vegetables. It’s a special dish and takes time as it is a two part cooking process. I cook the rice first in chicken stock and whole spices then sauté it with aromatics spices, fruit and nuts for a truly special flavor. The aroma that fills the kitchen when this dish is being cooked is just wonderful.
Fragrant Rice Pilaf with Fruit and Nuts
2 cups basmati rice
5-6 cups Water for soaking
1 cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
2 tsp crushed garlic
½ cup chopped onions
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
For sautéed rice
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp cumin
1 tbsp turmeric
¼ cup raisins or cranberries
¼ cup pine nuts
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley or cilantro
Wash rice several times and drain. Soak in 5 cups fresh water for about an hour. When ready to use, drain in a colander.
Dried rice in the upper bowl and the soaked rice in the lower bowl.
Heat chicken stock, add cinnamon stick, whole cloves and cardamom pods. Add the rice, 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Stir together. Allow to come to a rapid boil and then lower the heat to the lowest setting and cover the rice. Cook rice for 20 minutes. Remove spices, fluff rice gently and allow to cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods and discard.
Cinnamon sticks, green cardamom and cloves.
Cooking the basmati rice with whole spices.
Soak raisins or cranberries in ½ cup warm water to plump up for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large deep sauté pan, add 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter quickly brown the pine nuts. Add the cranberries or raisins, minced garlic and chopped onions; sauté together. Add the turmeric and cumin. Cook together for a few minutes.
Frying the turmeric and cumin with the pine nuts and cranberries
Add the cooked basmati rice and combine well. Add 1 tbsp butter and the chopped parsley or cilantro. Taste for seasoning and if desired, add salt and black pepper to taste.
Stir frying the rice with the aromatics.
Note: you can also use 1 tsp curry powder instead of turmeric. If making a vegetarian rice, you may cook the rice in water instead of chicken stock.
You may also reserve the dried fruit and pine nuts to serve atop the rice or on the side. If this is the preferred way, then you can sauté the pine nuts and raisins together in a little olive oil or butter and sprinkle over rice to serve.