I had a fridge full of vegetables, some of them past their prime. I also had a craving for something a bit less wet after yesterday’s soup. And suddenly, I knew exactly what I wanted to make for today’s dinner. A vegetable pulao with some fried fish on the side. So tonight I had the double satisfaction of having a dinner that I was craving and a crisper that looks considerably emptier.
A pulao is a rice dish. You have probably heard of other rice dishes from other countries which have very similar names. Pulao is the name for that thing in India. The rice is fluffy, has some spices and then you can put just about anything in it. A veg pulao has vegetables, a shrimp pulao will have shrimp, a fish pulao has fish, a mutton or chicken pulao has…you got it. Or you could put everything in all at once and call it “mixed” pulao and every Indian will know exactly what you are talking about. If you call it a mixed veg pulao then we understand that you added all kinds of vegetables into it. Like I did today.
What spices go into the pulao depends on the other main ingredient apart from rice, the region, and even the family. Also the country, as anybody who has tasted pilaf will say. Here is the recipe I came up with today. I might do it differently another day, just saying…
Recipe: Vegetable Pulao
2 cups of basmati rice or similar good quality long grain rice
500 gms of vegetables of your choice, just don’t use soft ones like zucchini or tomatoes (seems like a lot? Use less if you want)
A tablespoon of mixed aromatics like chopped onion, ginger and garlic
2 tablespoons of oil or ghee, I used one of each
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 small piece cinnamon
One or two cardamom pods cracked
1 or two cloves
Process: Wash and cut the vegetables into small pieces. Look at the picture to get an idea of the size. I had beans, carrots, green bellpepper, scallions or green onions, a long red chilli that was almost sweet (!), and some arugula and parsley.
Heat the oil/ghee. Add the dry spices. Fry until aromatic and then throw in the aromatics. After a minute, dump in all the vegetables (except the greens unless they are sturdy like kale). Saute for a couple of minutes and then add the rice. Saute until the rice looks translucent. Add 3.5 cups of water and your greens. Bump up the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add salt (I added about a teaspoon and half) to taste, the water should taste pleasantly seasoned. Now put a well fitting lid on the pot, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir gently to bring up the rice from the bottom. Replace lid and simmer for another 10 minutes if you are cooking on gas. If you have an electric stove, then turn off the heat at this point. After the next ten minutes, remove from heat source and fluff gently. If the rice is not done to your taste, replace the lid and let it steam for a few more minutes, no need to put it back on the heat. As always, don’t forget to keep it uncovered for five minutes before serving.
I served it with some fried fish but you can serve it with anything you like, fried or curried. That egg curry would go well with this pulao, or this keema. Heck! Even this. Or this. Or this. I also made a grated salad of beets, zucchini and little red radishes dressed in some lemon juice and salt. Was good (ear to ear grin).