Pilaf for a Curry Banquet

Fragrant and festive, this rice will go with any curry entree. The best thing is that it will keep warm for up to an hour after it cooks, so no last-minute stress!

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. nigella seeds
2 1/2 cups basmati rice
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Cook the onions over a medium-low heat in the oil in a deep saucepan that has a lid along with the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and nigella seeds. When the onion is slightly brown and softened, after about 10 minutes, stir in the rice.

Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pot with a clean dish towel and clamp the lid back on. Leave it for at least 10 minutes, or up to an hour. Fork the rice through when you are ready to serve and sprinkle the almonds on the top.

Serves 8-10

Saffron-Scented Chicken Pilaf

This bright and flavorful supper dish will delight everyone. It’s just the right mix of cinnamon-scented chicken, tender rice and toasted nuts.

4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs. whole milk yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1 quart chicken stock
1 tbs. butter
2-3 tbs. peanut oil
2 1/4 cups basmati rice
3-4 cardamom pods, bruised
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup cashew nuts
1/4 cup flaked almonds
2 tbs. pine nuts
3-4 tbs. shelled pistachios, splintered
small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Marinate the chicken pieces in the yogurt, juice of 1/2 a lemon and cinnamon for about an hour. Soak the saffron thread in the chicken stock.

Over a medium heat in a large pan with a lid, melt the butter with 1 tbs. of the oil and add the rice, stirring to coat until glossy. Pour in the chicken stock, add the cardamom pods, lemon juice and zest, then bring to a boil. Clamp on the lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, shake the excess yogurt off the chicken. Heat the remaining oil in a skillet and cook the chicken until done. If the skillet is not large, do this in batches so that the chicken browns and does not braise.

In a small skillet, add the cashews, almonds and pine nuts. Toast over a low heat until they just become browned. Remove from the skillet.

When the rice is done, fork it through and add the toasted nuts and the parsley. Stir in the chicken and transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle with the pistachios to serve.

Serves 6