Peas pilau

Peas pilau

Pilau rice means the rice is cooked in the liquid – water or stock.  Plain steamed rice is boiled in a lot of water (like pasta) and strained when the rice is al dente and then  put back on the hob on low to steam.   All sorts of vegetables can be added to pilau rice – peas, all variety of beans, carrots, potatoes, French beans, runner beans and whatever takes your fancy.  

There is no one way of cooking peas pilau – every household will have it’s own favourite tweak!  Sometimes I add fried onion which makes the pilau creamier and sweeter.  Other times when I can’t be bothered with chopping and frying an onion, I use this recipe which is simple and a good variation.  

Basmati rice comes in a variety of grades – some better than others.  That being so, it is not always easy to give precise measurements of how much liquid you will need. But don’t panic – usually a ratio of 1:1 of rice and water does the trick.  And it is always possible to adjust the water while cooking the rice – see tip below.  Less water is probably better than using too much – keep a kettle on the boil and add a little more if required.  Once you’ve cooked pilau rice a few times you will know how much water to use just eye-balling it.  

You could use brown rice if this is what you prefer although typically pilau rice is cooked using white rice – brown rice will take a little longer to cook.

4 servings


300 grams Basmati rice (soaked for 1 hour)
2 cups frozen peas
Whole garam masala: 4 black peppercorns, 4 cloves, 2 cardamoms, 2 small sticks cinnamon, 2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black zeera or jeera (black cumin seeds are from the same family as regular cumin seeds but smaller – available at Asian stores, see link)
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons oil
600ml water (see tip below for adjustment)
Good vegetable stock cube (I use Kallo vegetable or French onion and it is by far the best)


  1. Rinse rice 3-4 times
  2. Heat oil in a large pan (small pans mean squished rice), lower heat and add whole garam masala and black zeera and fry for 30 seconds
  3. Add turmeric and peas and fry for a further 2-3 minutes
  4. Add rice and 600ml water and bring to boil
  5. Crumble the stock cube into the rice, lower heat to low/medium and simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has disappeared – about 3-4 minutes. (If you need to add more water, make sure it is hot water)
  6. Cover the lid with a clean tea cloth and place tightly over the rice
  7. Lower heat to lowest and steam for about 15 minutes (use heat diffuser if you have one – I don’t know what I’d do without mine!)

Tip:  As there are various varieties of Basmati rice it is not always possible to give exact measurements of how much water you will need. However, it is easy to adjust the amount of water during cooking.  If you think you’ve added too much water, simply turn the heat on high and let it dry (only takes a minute or so);  if there is too little water and the rice still uncooked, add a little boiling water.  Rice needs to be watched and checked while it is on the boil – it should be al dente before covering and steaming 

Remember, rice freezes well and can be reheated in the oven

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