When I was planning what to put on my blog this week, it was snowing, and inevitably my thoughts turned to comfort food. This week’s recipe has a double dose of carbs, guaranteed to satisfy even the most hearty of appetites. It is a fragrant, fruity pilau rice cooked in a pan with thinly sliced potatoes. I ask you, what’s not to like?
The basmati rice is flavoured with the warming spices straight from the souks of Persia: cumin, coriander and cardamom. I always lightly toast cumin and coriander seeds before grinding them in a pestle and mortar; this helps release their inmost aromatic essences. Split the cardamom pods and either leave whole in the rice or pick out the tiny black seed from the green casing and crush into the mixture for a more intense flavour. If you are leaving them whole, remember to warn your fellow diners in case they come across one of the pods when the dish is served. Forewarned is forearmed!
Staying with the Persian theme, I added some dried barberries to the rice. These reddish-orange small dry berries are tart and tanniny – they remind me of rose-hip – and are a classic ingredient in Persian cooking. If you can’t find them, chop some dried cranberries or dried sour cherries to use instead. When combined with sweet, juicy sultanas, you get the perfect balance of sweet and sour to flavour your pilau.
There is a bit of preparation to do before you start cooking, but the dish reheats very well if you want to make it up in advance, and will also freeze too. The pilau cake makes a substantial main meal served with fresh veg or a crisp salad, or serve in smaller wedges as an accompaniment.
Serves: 4 to 6
- 200g basmati rice
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ tsp each coriander seeds and cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
- 6 green cardamom pods, split (or seeds removed and finely crushed)
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 10g dried barberries
- 40g sultanas
- 350g firm-fleshed salad potatoes such as Charlotte, scrubbed
- 3 tbsp. cold-pressed rapeseed oil (or olive or sunflower oil)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- Fresh coriander to serve
- Put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 2 hours, then drain and rinse well. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the salt and spices and then add the rice. Bring back to the boil and cook uncovered for 2 minutes until the rice is very slightly tender and opaque.
- Drain and rinse the rice in cold running water to remove the excess starch. Shake off the excess water and return to the saucepan. Stir in the dried fruit.
- Meanwhile, very thinly and evenly slice the potatoes. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a 22cm diameter frying pan and gently fry the potatoes for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring, to coat them in the oil. Remove from the heat and arrange the potatoes in a neat layer over the bottom of the frying pan. Sprinkle with the garlic.
- Pack the rice mixture on top. Make indents in the rice using the end of a wooden spoon and drizzle over the remaining oil.
- Cover with a layer of foil and then place a lid on top of the pan. Cook over a very low heat, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and foil, check that the rice and potatoes are tender, then raise the heat and cook uncovered for 4-5 minutes to brown the potatoes. Turn off the heat, cover loosely, and stand for 10 minutes.
- To serve, place a large serving plate over the frying pan and carefully flip the pan over to turn the contents on to the plate. Leave the pan in place for a couple of minutes before removing to allow the potato and rice to settle. Serve immediately, potato-side up, sprinkled with fresh coriander.
To freeze, turn the cooked rice cake on to a freezer-proof plate or board, allow to cool, wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
To reheat, transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment, cover with foil and reheat in a preheated oven at 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4, for about 30 minutes until piping hot. Serve as above.