Pilafs, pulaos, pulau, mixed rice dishes – many names for a delicious technique for smartening up a plain grain (usually rice) to use as a flavoursome side dish. It can be simple – just a few spices added – or a complex layering of flavours. They are usually without a dressing although they are sometimes topped with a dollop of yoghurt. Today we bring you a collection of our favourite pilaf recipes.
Jeera Rice is the rice that is most commonly available in Indian restaurants of a certain standard in Australia. Buttery and tasting of cumin, it really is a delight. It is easy to make – this version anyway – and is a perfect accompaniment to any Indian meal. There are versions with onions, and a lot more spices, but this one is a great partner with any other dish. When you over-complicate rice, it restricts the dishes it can pair with.
Sometimes we forget that simplest is bestest.
Elizabeth David is the best source of simple but utterly delicious salads. I love to read her books, and today I have taken the liberty of reproducing some of her beautiful salads.
Similar posts include 30 Great Salads for Early Summer.
There are so many different rices in India – what we see here is one small fraction of the varieties across India. Many varieties are regional and rices are not only white, but brown, black and red too. There are other grains very common in areas, ones that we never hear of here, sadly. For example there are a dozen or more varieties of millet. And here? One or two varieties.
However we can cook our locally grown grains with Indian flavours, there is nothing to stop us doing that, right? For example, I will often cook up a grain with tomatoes, onions, chillies and curry leaves. It is that easy. This method can be used with quinoa, millet, buckwheat, freekeh, pearl barley, many rices, amaranth, and so on. Today I have cooked up a pot of glutinous black rice and given it the same treatment. It is a hearty and gorgeous accompaniment to the meal. Because black rice is quite assertive, we have paired it with more subtle dishes, but if you are using quinoa or moriya, for example, you can boost up the flavour levels of the accompaniments.
BTW India has black rices too, and from what I gather they are very similar to the black rice that we can get from our Asian stores here.
Most people I know associate glutinous rice with a sweet, divine pudding from S. E. Asia. But glutinous rice can be used in savoury dishes as well. I love the nutty crunchiness of it. If you are a kindred spirit in that you love breakfasts that break the mould of cereal-and-toast, then this is the best of breakfast dishes. Black rice is very warming to the body, so it is a great Winter Morning dish. You could add mushrooms.
Aama Vadai (also called Paruppu Vadai or Masala Vadai) is a traditional snack that is made during Tamil New Year and also Ramnavami. Made from a variety of lentils and spiced with chillies, asafoetida, curry leaves and coriander, it is a delicious snack. It is also a very popular street food snack in South India.
Aama means tortoise in Tamil. But never fear, they do not contain tortoises, it is named this way because of the hard crispy outer shell of the vadai.
Remember Rice-a-Riso? It seems it is still being made and sold in supermarkets, but only in Chicken flavour. As a teenager and young adult I loved the tomato one. Imagine my surprise when I first made this dish and it tasted exactly like tomato rice-a-riso. It was a nostalgic moment.
This recipe is very simple, but because it is versatile I need to walk you through a few things first.
There are many many versions of Kitchari – I recently saw a list of 90 different kitchari recipes. And that would just be the tip of the iceberg. Today we make kitchari with Moth Beans.
Moth Beans (pronounced Mot-h) are packed with nutrition. Here they are cooked with rice, onions, garlic, spices and tomato, for a delicious any-time meal or snack. Omit the onions and garlic if preferred.
Saffron rice – it’s a classic of the Middle East, and one that is so gorgeous. This is a simple recipe that gives 2 colours to the rice. Always use good saffron – nice long threads with an earthy and sweet aroma.
Serve with any Middle Eastern or even Indian dish. You will love it.
Are you wanting other ways to use saffron? Try crushing a tiny piece of saffron into a glass of champagne or sparkling apple cider, turning the drink into a golden elixir. And coffee spiced with saffron and cardamom is a wonderful, soothing drink. Try our Saffron and Spices Tea – relaxing and amazing.
India must be the country that has the most appreciation of rice. It boasts thousands of different rice varieties and many many more dishes that feature rice as the main ingredient. Rice is never ever relegated to a side dish, playing second fiddle to the main dish or dishes of the meal. There it is, front and centre, always. Pulaos, Kitcheri, Biryani, Bhats, Pongal and Mixed Rices are examples of well known rice dishes.
Pulihora is a South Indian rice which is usually made with tamarind. But the same dish can also be made with green mango or with lemon juice as the souring agent. It is a rice dish that plays homage to the love of sour tastes in Tamil Nadu and beyond. In this recipe, the tamarind is replaced with green mango, and some carrot adds a sweet counterbalance and colour.
This dish is also called mangai sadam and mavinakayi chitranna in different regions. The recipes vary a little, e.g. coconut might be added, but the base is essentially the same. In South India mango pulihora is made during certain auspicious occasions and festivals too.
Similar dishes include Jeera Rice (Cumin Rice), Red Rice in Tomato Juice, 30 Indian Dishes for Mid Summer, Saffron Rice, Saffron, Date and Almond Rice, Ghee Rice with Pandanus, and Green Mango and Coconut Rice.
Across India there are many versions of rice cooked with lentils, called various names such as kitchari (and variations on this) and pongal. In Andra Pradesh, it is called Pulagam and is made with short grain rice and mung dal.
It is a very pared-back version of pongal, without any tempering and with only turmeric as spice. But it is surprisingly delicious, mixed with a little ghee and well seasoned.
It is often used as naivedyam in festival such as Sankranti and Varalakshmi Puja.
You might want to browse our 25 or so Kitchari recipes, collected together for you.
We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.