Pilau rice with coconut and coriander pesto


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook: 300 Classic Recipes from the Great Regions of India

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

By Mridula Baljekar

Published 2017

  • About

A fabulous flavour triangle is created when fresh coriander, mint leaves and green chillies combine in this sumptuous pilau, Chatni Pulao, which can be a vegetarian meal in itself when served with a raita. The pesto sauce used here is not dissimilar to the Italian version, although the Indian recipe does not contain pine nuts, and includes coconut to add richness.


  • 225 g/8 oz/generous 1 cup basmati rice
  • 25 g/1 oz/ cup desiccated (dry unsweetened shredded) coconut
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2.5 cm/1 in piece of fresh root ginger, roughly chopped
  • 15 g/½ oz fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
  • 15 g/½ oz fresh mint leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1–2 fresh green chillies, roughly chopped (deseeded if preferred)
  • 50 g/2 oz/4 tbsp ghee, or 25g/1 oz/2 tbsp unsalted butter and 30 ml/2 tbsp sunflower oil or light olive oil
  • 25 g/1 oz raw cashew nuts
  • 2.5 cm/1 in piece of cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 75 g/3 oz/½ cup green beans, cut into 2.5cm/1in pieces
  • 75 g/3 oz/½ cup peas, frozen and thawed, or pre-cooked fresh ones
  • 5 ml/1 tsp salt, or to taste


  1. Wash the rice in a sieve (strainer) in several changes of water until it runs clear, then soak in a bowl of cold water for 20–30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

  2. Put the coconut in a large heatproof bowl, then pour over 150 ml/5fl oz/½ cup boiling water. Leave to soak for 10 minutes.

  3. Transfer the rehydrated coconut to a blender or food processor with the water in which it was soaked. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, mint and chillies, and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can pound the ingredients to a smooth paste using a large mortar and pestle. Set aside.

  4. Melt the ghee or butter and oil in a heavy pan over a low heat. Add the cashew nuts and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until browned. Take care not to let them burn. Drain on kitchen paper.

  5. In the same pan, stir-fry the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves for 30 seconds.

  6. Add the onion to the pan, increase the heat to medium and fry the onions for about 10 minutes, until they are golden brown, stirring regularly.

  7. Add the drained rice, stir to combine and cook for 1–2 minutes.

  8. Add the ground coconut mixture. Stir-fry for 2–3 minutes.

  9. Add the beans, peas and salt. Pour in 450 ml/16fl oz/scant 2 cups warm water, bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to low.

  10. Cook for 8–9 minutes without lifting the lid and then switch off the heat. Let the pan stand undisturbed for 10 minutes, fluff up the rice with a fork and serve.

Per portion Energy 418kcal/1736kJ; Protein 8.2g; Carbohydrate 56g, of which sugars 5.8g; Fat 18g, of which saturates 9.4g; Cholesterol 0mg; Calcium 76mg; Fibre 3.8g; Sodium 10mg.