A traditional Indian rice dish, pilafs are great for everyday meals but are complex enough for entertaining — serve at Diwali with your favourite curry and naan bread. If you like, you could add a generous pinch of saffron threads to the rice just before you cover it and let it simmer.
2 cups basmati rice
3 tbsp olive or canola oil or ghee
One 2" cinnamon stick
1/2 medium onion, sliced into fine half rings
2 tbsp slivered blanched almonds
2 tbsp golden raisins
1 tsp salt
2-2/3 cups water*
* You can substitute chicken stock instead of water.
Step 1: Put the rice in a bowl. Wash in several changes of water. Drain. Let the rice soak in water that covers it generously for 30 minutes. Drain through a sieve and leave in the sieve suspended over a bowl to drip.
Step 2: Pour the oil into a heavy, medium pan (that has a tight-fitting lid) and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cinnamon. Let it sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the onions. Stir and fry the onions until they start to brown. Add the almonds. Stir until they are golden. Add the raisins. Stir until they are plump, just a few seconds. Add the drained rice and salt. Stir very gently to mix. Add water or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn heat to very, very low, and simmer gently for 25 minutes.
Reprinted with permission from Madhur Jaffrey's At Home With Madhur Jaffrey (2010 Knopf Canada).