Spring is finally approaching! We’ve moved the clocks ahead, huge chunks of ice are falling from our roofs and Purim is here. It’s a time for festivity, bright colors and celebration. And this fragrant rice pilaf, with its sweet carrots, butter, raisins and toasted almonds fits the bill. Just the perfect Persian-style dish Queen Esther would have served to her King and to Haman. To make this dish, you have to put in a little extra effort in preparing the rice. Rinsing, soaking, rinsing again, boiling and another final rinse before the final steaming will yield grains that separate beautifully to incorporate all the wonderful additions. Don’t hesitate because of the slight demands of this pilaf. The results are worth it. This recipe cooks up enough for eight generous side dish servings. If you aren’t doing dairy, use your favorite pareve butter substitute.
What You Need:
Large bowl for soaking the rice
Colander for rinsing
A large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid
A large pot to boil the rice
A nonstick sauté pan
1 clean tea towel, large enough to wrap the pot lid and tuck the loose ends securely into the handle.
Serving fork to fluff the rice and distribute the add-ins
1 ½ cups Basmati rice, rinsed three times, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes, and rinsed again until the water is clear
½ C coarsely chopped pistachios
½ C coarsely chopped and lightly toasted almonds
1 C coarsely chopped red raisins, golden raisins and/or dried cranberries, dried cherries, or even chopped dried figs
1 C coarsely shredded carrots
Good pinches of the following spices: cumin, ginger, coriander, cardamom, clove or allspice
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 ½ Tbl. salt
4 Tbl. butter
2 Tbl. sugar
2 Tbl. salt for the boiling water
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. saffron threads dissolved in ¼ C hot water
What To Do:
Melt two Tbl. butter and 1 Tbl. water in the sauté pan. Add the 2 Tbl. sugar, stir for a couple of minutes, then add the carrots. Stir the carrots around to thoroughly coat them in the sweet mixture. Add the cardamom, cumin, ginger, coriander, allspice (or clove) and cinnamon, blend well, remove from heat, cover and set aside.
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water and the 2 Tbl. salt to a boil. Add the rinsed rice and boil it for 6 minutes. Pour into a colander and rinse again with warm water.
Pour the saffron liquid into the heavy-bottomed pot. Over medium heat, add 2 T water, a pinch of salt and 2 Tbl. butter to the saffron liquid. Once the butter is melted in the hot saffron liquid, add the rinsed and boiled rice. Using the rubber spatula will help push all the grains out of the colander. Blend the rice with the saffron and butter. Once the rice is coated, cover the pot with the tea towel-wrapped lid. Turn heat down to medium-low. I used the low setting on a gas cooktop. The tea towel will prevent moisture from dripping down onto the steaming rice.
Allow the rice to steam on a medium to low heat for ten minutes. After ten minutes, turn off the heat and using the large fork, toss in the seasoned carrots and the raisins and other dried fruits. Add 1 Tbl. hot water and cover, steaming on low heat for 5 minutes. If you feel a bit more water is needed, add just a teaspoon or a tablespoon. You do not want to overcook those grains.
Transfer the pilaf to a serving plate and garnish with the chopped nuts. You can also serve it in the pot to keep it warm, garnishing with the chopped nuts right in the pot. Do not cover once the nuts are added or they will get soggy.
Enjoy Purim and your Purim Pilaf!
By Lisa Reitman Dobi