Mmmm…. just cooked a scrummy crusty Persian Pilaf for lunch, courtesy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.
There are a few such pilafs in the book, and I’ve been eyeing them for a while but put off by their seeming complexity. But this morning I just went for it and… it wasn’t so bad. Basically, you just need to almost cook some basmati rice, then a layer of this goes in a large non-stick pan on top of some melted butter and water. Build a layer-cake of rice and whatever else you’re putting in the pilaf (in my case this was green lentils and sultanas), finishing with rice. Cover the pan tightly, cook for four minutes on medium-low heat, turn the heat to medium-high for four minutes, then take the lid off, pour a pre-infused mixture of melted butter, boiled water and saffron over the top of the rice, put the lid back on but this time with a tea-towel underneath it (mind you tuck those ends up… don’t want to go starting any fires!), turn the heat way down low and cook for another half-an-hour.
When it’s all done you need to get it out upside down – the graceful way would be to cover the pan with a plate and then invert it, but if you’re like me you’ll probably just end up digging out chunks – what you end up with is a kind of ricey gratin, nice casseroley bit underneath and gorgeous golden-brown crust of rice on top. A crust like that is worth killing for! I was surprised that mine came out looking absolutely perfect, even though I was a bit lax in following Madhur’s instructions, and was all out of butter so I had to use Olivio instead (yeah, lost a bit in flavour there, no doubt). And finally in the case of the particular recipe I was following, you sprinkle some crispy onions and butter-fried dates on top. Oh, and then don’t forget to eat it.