This luxurious Indian/Pakistani dried fruit and saffron pulao dish is usually reserved for special occasions. It also goes brilliantly with baked ham, roast goose, spiced lacquered duck, turkey, or any other roast fowl and it makes a lovely change from potatoes etc.
You can use any long grain rice but I recommend fragrant Himalayan basmati rice for the best results. If you can’t find good quality Spanish saffron, leave it (and the milk) out of the recipe and make up the difference with extra water and 1 teaspoon of yellow food coloring.
*Don’t confuse the royal cumin with regular cumin. If you can’t find royal cumin, leave it out as it’s an entirely different spice.
If you don’t have access to an Asian supermarket, http://a1spiceworld.com is a great online source for spices.
You’ll need a heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid.
PULAO with SAFFRON, DRIED FRUITS & ALMONDS
½ teaspoon of Spanish saffron threads
3 fl oz (75ml) of hot milk
2 oz (50g) of unsalted butter
6 green cardamom pods, slightly split open
4 whole cloves
*1 teaspoon of royal cumin (aka ‘black’ cumin or ‘shahi jeera’)
Two 2 inch (5cm) sticks of cinnamon, roughly broken
2oz (50g) of slivered/sliced almonds – or 1 oz (25g) each of slivered almonds and plain unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
10 oz (300g) of basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly under running water for a minute then soaked in a large bowl of water for 30 minutes, drained
1 oz (25g) of ready-to-eat dried apricots, sliced
1 oz (25g) of golden raisins
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
18 fl oz (525ml) of warm water
Wash, soak and drain the rice first.
Dry roast the saffron in a heavy pan for a minute or so until it turns one or two shades darker – watch it carefully as you don’t want it to burn. Pound the saffron in a pestle and mortar and pour over the hot milk – set it aside to soak.
(If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, crumble the saffron into the milk with a couple of spoons. It’s worthwhile buying a small pestle and mortar and most kitchen shops sell them).
Heat the unsalted butter in the saucepan until it’s foamy – add the cardamom, royal cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Stir-fry for 15 seconds.
Add the sliced almonds/pistachios and stir-fry for another 30 seconds then add the rice, apricots, raisins, salt and saffron milk (make sure you include all the saffron strands) and give it a good stir.
Add the warm water, bring it to a boil, cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce the heat to very low. Allow it to cook completely undisturbed for 12 minutes then take it off the heat and let it rest for another 12-15 minutes. Do NOT be tempted to take the lid off until the resting time is up – the steaming process is essential for perfectly separated rice grains. Once the resting time is up, take the lid off and fluff everything with a fork to serve.
You can make this ahead – tip everything into a serving dish, dot it with a little extra butter, cover tightly with heavy duty foil then warm through in a low oven. It also freezes well.
The whole spices aren’t meant to be eaten but they do look interesting in the serving dish.
(Adapted from a Mridula Baljekar recipe)