Sweet Pilaf : Mishti Pulao

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Rice is intertwined with human life as a thread in a fabric. Any important event in ones life is celebrated with either cooked rice or uncooked grains.

Take for example ” Annaprashan”, an event to celebrate a child’s first solid food eating event. This is as big an event as a wedding. Rice is the main course along with other supporting dishes. A new bride is welcomed in her  husband’s family with a potful of rice grain, signifying prosperity for the whole family. “Serving rice” to the extended family is the first ‘token’ chore for a new bride. Blessings from the elders involve a few grains of rice. Puffed paddy grains are sometimes offered to mourner’s during a man’s last journey to the crematorium.

Pilaf or Pulao recipe changes with every geographic location. We in Bengal love it on the sweeter note. This dish goes very well with any main dish. It is a bit heavy on the oil and butter, but celebrations don’t happen every day, does it?

Here is the recipe.

Recipe: Serves 6.

Ingredients;

Basmati Rice                                         3 cups

Cashews                                              1/3 cup

Raisins                                                 1/3 cup

Butter                                                   1/2 stick ( 1/4 cup )

Canola oil                                              1/3 cup

Bay leaves                                            4-5

Cumin seeds                                        1 tsp

Saffron                                                  big pinch

Milk                                                      1/3 cup

Cardamoms                                          5-6 pods

Cloves                                                  6-7

Cinnamon                                             2, 2 inch pieces

Ginger paste                                           2 tbsps

Salt to taste

Sugar                                                    2 Tbsps

Method;

Preheat gas to 400 degrees F.

Soak the saffron in warmed milk. Make a paste from the fresh ginger.

Wash the rice in two changes of water. Take a big saucepan with boiling water. Put the rice in, as soon as it is half done, take it out drain the water.

In another pan take the canola oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot add the bay leaf, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks and cumin seeds. Saute gently, as soon as the cumin seeds get a bit of colour add the raisins, wait till they get plump. Add the cashews next, fry till lightly coloured. Add the ginger paste and fry a few minutes. Make sure the spices do not burn, a sprinkle of water can be added now and then. Put the gas off when the raw smell of ginger is gone.

Take an ovenproof casserole. Pour the rice and the above spice mix, spread evenly. Sprinkle the butter on this mixture, add the salt and sugar, cover and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Take the casserole out, add the milk with saffron. We want some grains to remain white. Gently fluff it with a fork. Keep covered in the oven again for another 30 minutes with the gas off.

Give another mix and serve.

The rice grains should be separate. Check the salt and sugar to your liking. Enjoy!

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