Vegetable Pulao/biryani is a very common rice dish in India and this is something that you are sure to find on the menu of any self-respecting Indian restaurant 🙂 Over the years I have tried and made different versions of it and one of the reasons I like to change it up a little bit every now and then is because – I make it so often!!!. So this time I decided to give it a ‘Middle eastern’ twist… Of late I had been seeing a lot of pulao(pilaf) recipes with a middle eastern twist. Some of my blogger friends had posted different versions of vegetable pilaf dishes …I finally decided to make my version which is a combination of the different recipes that I had been seeing. I should state that this recipe is mainly inspired by the following bloggers’s recipes and I would like to thank them – Confused Bawarchi’s Moroccan pilaf and Savory and Sweet Food’s Mediterranean Pulao for the inspiration.! Ultimately whenever I embark on a new recipe, I invariably end up modifying the recipe …not because I simply want to but because of practical reasons ….I always like to work with what I have on hand in my pantry and in my fridge 🙂 Hence this version came about. So what were the main differences from the regular Indian vegetable pulao? Well, I decided to use some different spices (other than the usual garam masala that I use) – mainly ‘Harissa’ and ‘ras-el-hanout‘. I used store bought Harissa (dry powder) and ras-el-hanout (Did I tell you I got these as dry blends from Whole Foods and have been using them in so many different things? 🙂 ). But you could also make your own Harissa paste or make your own blend for Ras-el-hanout. ‘Ras-el-hanout’ by the way is quite similar to the Indian ‘garam masala’ with some slightly different proportions of the different spices which gives it a slightly different overall flavor. Then the other different thing I did was to use dried lime pieces and also added chickpeas to make it really a complete balanced meal.
Vegetable and Chick Pea Pulao (Middle Eastern style)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 of a dried lime, cut into 4 pieces(or you could also use fresh lime pieces)
1/4 cup sliced green pepper
1 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas(1/4 cup dried chickpeas soaked overnight and then partially cooked)
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp ras-el-hanout (use less for mild)
2 tsp harissa powder or harissa paste (use less for mild)
2 cups Basmati rice,washed and drained(preferably 15 minutes in advance)
1/2 cup tomato sauce/puree
3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated carrots
1 tbsp sliced almonds
1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
1 tbsp raisins
1/2 tsp rose essence mixed in 1/4 cup milk(or you could also use saffron)
fresh cilantro or parsley chopped (optional)
1. Take a heavy bottomed large cooking pot with a tight fitting lid (or you could use a pressure cooker without the whistle) and add the oil. When the oil gets hot add the onions and saute for about 2 minutes and then add the green peppers and the dried lime pieces and saute for 1 more minute.
2. Next add the cauliflower,the chickpeas and the tomatoes. Also add the spices and stir for about 30 seconds.
3. Then add the rice and again stir for about 2 minutes on low to medium heat until the rice is well coated with the spice mixture and the oil.
4. Now add the water, the tomato sauce , the grated carrots and salt. Check for seasoning (it should taste more salty than how you would like it since the cooked rice will taste less salty). Bring the water to a boil and immediately turn to low heat and cover and cook for about 10-12 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes – if all water is drained and the rice is still not perfectly cooked then add about 1/4 cup of hot water and let cook for another couple minutes. If there is already water left then no need to add more water). Once all water has evaporated, turn the heat off and sprinkle one tbsp of water over the rice and remove the pot from the stove. Keep covered for about 15 minutes. then open the pot and lightly fluff with a spoon or fork to separate the cooked grains and let cool uncovered.
For the final garnish, toast the almond pieces in the butter in a small pan until golden and toasty. Add this over the rice and also add the raisins on top. Then mix the rose essence (or the saffron) with the milk and pour it all over the rice. top with fresh parsley or cilantro.