Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Food of India: A Journey for Food Lovers

The Food of India

By Priya Wickramasinghe

Published 2005

  • About

Pulao or pilaf can be plain or a festive, elaborate dish with fruit, nuts and spices as here. Rice dishes that reflect these flavours can be found as far afield as Southern Russia, persia and morocco, a legacy of dishes travelling with conquerors and traders.


  • 500 g (2½ cups) basmati rice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped almonds
  • 2 tablespoons raisins or sultanas
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ginger juice
  • 15 saffron threads, Soaked in 1 tablespoon warm milk
  • 2 Indian bay leaves (cassia leaves)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or frozen peas rosewater (optional)


    Wash the rice in a sieve under cold, running water until the water from the rice runs clear. Drain the rice and put in a saucepan, cover with water and Soak for 30 minutes. Drain.

    Place a small frying pan over low heat and dry-roast the cumin seeds until aromatic.

    Heat the ghee or oil in a karhai or heavy-based frying pan and fry the almonds and raisins until browned. Remove from the pan, fry the onion in the same ghee until dark golden brown, then remove from the pan.

    Add the rice, roasted cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, sugar, ginger juice, saffron and salt to the pan and fry for 2 minutes, or until aromatic.

    Add the bay leaves and coconut milk to the pan, then add enough water to come about 5 cm (2 inches) above the rice. Bring to the boil, cover and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, or until most of the water has evaporated.

    Add the peas to the pan and stir well. Reduce the heat to very low and cook until the rice is cooked through. Stir in the fried almonds, raisins and onion, reserving some for garnishing. Drizzle with a few drops of rosewater if you would like a more perfumed dish.