This recipe is one that once you make it, will stay in your menu rotation. It's really so good - made even more special with one of my favorite rice brands, Three Horses Jasmine Rice, and coconut milk, Chef's Choice. This pulao (rice) recipe is a combination of my own family recipe and one from the cookbook 'A Little Taste of India'. I love how they use coconut milk in their version and started incorporating this ingredient into my own rice dishes when my family wants something just a tiny bit different. I changed some of the steps around and clarified cooking times for you. One tip, if you are looking to save a little time, do steps 3, 4, and 5 ahead of time.
Desi Corner: Sundays were always the perfect day for a good pulao growing up. The idea was that the flavored and salted rice essentially became our meal. It was an easy dish for mom after the hectic week of cooking and everyone absolutely loved it. It would be served with a simple side of raita, or flavored yogurt. I still remember visiting my Yog Mamaji (uncle) in his home in Luton, England where he would so expertly make a pulao for us with tons of veggies and serve it to us for lunch with yogurt on the side. It's the perfect one-dish meal.
Saffron Spiced Jasmine Pulao
2 cups Jasmine Rice (Three Horses Brand)
1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk (Chef's Choice), whisk until smooth, divided
1 pinch Saffron (about 20 strands)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 (2-inch) piece ginger
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil or ghee (coconut), divided
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted almonds, cashews, or pistachios or combo
2 tablespoons raisins (green or yellow preferred)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 3/4 cups water
1. Wash and rinse the rice a few times and set aside. I usually rinse my rice three times to ensure any excess starch is rinsed away.
2. Warm 1/4 cup of the coconut milk - be sure not to bring it to a boil. Between two fingers, crush the saffron and sprinkle it over the milk and set aside. It will be ready to use once you have your other ingredients prepped.
3. Roast the cumin seeds in a shallow, dry pan. No oil or water. Once they turn reddish brown transfer to a plate to cool.
4. Grate or puree the ginger in a food processor. Squeeze the juice out into a small bowl. You can save the ginger pulp in the fridge to use later in a curry or in your chai. While most of the juice is extracted, it's still full of flavor.
5. In a frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons of oil. Add the onion and cook about 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a plate to cool.
6. In a large pan, warm the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add nuts and raisins and cook 1 minute until slightly brown. Transfer to a plate.
7. In the same pan, add the cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, and sugar. Cook 1 minute.
8. Add the rice. Cook 1 minute. Stir well until all the grains are covered.
9. Add the cumin, ginger juice, saffron and milk mixture, and salt. Stir well. Cook 1 minute until fragrant.
10. Add coconut milk, peas, and nuts and raisin mixture. Stir.
11. Add water. No need to stir. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer until the rice has soaked up all of the moisture and is soft, about 14 minutes. Cover the pan, but leave the lid slightly ajar to avoid the water boiling over. Never stir the rice as it cooks.
12. Turn the heat off and let the rice sit covered completely for 1 to 2 minutes.
13. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, and add the onions just before serving.
To watch me make this delicious recipe, check out this Facebook Live cooking class. It's about 1 hour, but feel free to speed up to the stovetop steps. You can also go to my YouTube Channel, where I break down the time segments in the description for you. Just click on those time slots and the video will automatically fast forward. No need to watch the whole video in one sitting!
Three Horses Jasmine Rice is the highest quality Jasmine rice sourced from Thailand. Their Jasmine is never mixed with other varieties of rice or with broken grains. I was so pleasantly surprised when I started working with their brand. The grains are so soft and silky to the touch and amazingly delicious. I promise I am not exaggerating. Three Horses is sold and available nationwide both in chain grocers, smaller specialty grocery stores, and Asian markets. It is high-quality pure Jasmine rice from Thailand. Some brands mix their Jasmine rice with other varieties of longer grain rice or with broken rice. Not Three Horses. They are known for their superior quality, which is evident from the fragrance and quality of the rice after cooking it. Please look out for them and support your local markets by purchasing directly from them. You won't be sorry, and during these uncertain times you may just help a small grocery stay in business. Remember, I always say, 'It takes a village!' I always encourage all of us to think about where we are buying everything we use - as it ensures that the stores we love stick around.
Chef's Choice Coconut Milk: High quality coconut milk is what you can expect from this brand. Imported from Thailand, the milk is not only fragrant, but incredibly creamy right out of the can. Look for it wherever you shop.
Saffron: I will show you how to use saffron in this class. It is the harvested and dried stigma of the purple crocus flower. It's incredibly tiny and harvesting is labor intensive. Just one pound of the spice requires 75,000 flowers and can cost upwards of $1,500 for the highest quality. Not to worry, we are only using a few strands. Very little goes a long, long way. And, the flavor and beautiful color in your cooking will make it well worth incorporating it into your cooking. Also, when you think about the hundreds of hours of pure labor used to bring you this spice from Iran, Spain, or Italy, you'll hopefully use it more sparingly and appreciate it that much more. The most common way we use it in Indian cooking is to take about 15 strands, and let them sit in 1/4 cup of milk (or milk alternative) for about 30 minutes. The beautiful color will soak into the milk and this whole mixture can then be added to your dish. Here's how that process looks. These are my own photos that I put together over half and hour to show how beautifully simple it is to use saffron.
Crispy Onions: I always keep a container of crispy onions in the my fridge. It's so easy to do while your busy with other things and it will save you a ton of time when pulling together a meal that calls for crispy onions. Thinly slice one small yellow onion. Heat up a tablespoon of oil or ghee in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Put your onions in, lightly salt them, and cook about 10 minutes total, stirring often. The onions will start to beautifully crisp up and brown. Once finished, transfer them to a plate to cool. Use immediately or store in an airtight container to use later. They will last up to a week in the fridge. Use for your rice dish above or to top steaming cups of soup, mac and cheese, whatever you are eating. These are addictive by themselves, too. I can't tell you how many times I've had to make a second batch because I've eaten up the first.
Ginger Juice: Use the juice of ginger whenever you want the flavor of ginger without the actual texture of ginger in your food. It really complements rice dishes like the one above, just enhancing all the flavors we are cooking with without overpowering them. Just grate a 2-inch piece of peeled ginger. Once grated, squeeze the product in one hand over a bowl. There is your juice! The remaining ginger still has flavor, just use it in other dishes or in Chai. I usually save it in a little baggie either in the fridge or freezer. You can also put it into ice-cube trays (no water or oil needed) for use later. Another use for the juice? Mix it with a little honey and lemon juice for sore throats. I did that for my girls when they were little and they would clamor for it - it tastes so good and fun for them to see the ginger turn pink with the lemon juice added.
Always look for these cooking class announcements to know when to join in the fun right from your kitchen!