Tag Archives: pilau


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


Mushroom rice

Mushroom rice(1)

I’ve always wanted to go on a fungi foray!  Haven’t you?  This year I must try and contact a fungi group and go hunting in the woods with the experts – it is very important of course to have an expert on board to identify the good from the deadly bad!!  Just googled fungi forays and found this website – definitely going to sign up with them for a walk – can’t wait…..

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love mushrooms and we love mushroom rice and have it quite often with a vegetable dish or salad. It is super quick and so simple to make and never fails to deliver.  I used to add dried mushrooms to this recipe but that costs a bit and one day when I had run out of dried mushrooms, I just went ahead and did without.  Since then I hardly ever add dried mushrooms but if you wish to try, just soak a few in hot water for about 30 minutes and add to the rice with the soaking water.  Dried mushrooms are a good supplement if using plain white or chestnut mushrooms – shitake, oyster and the more flavoursome mushrooms can do without the assistance of dried mushrooms;  it is entirely up to you which sort you go for so experiment with plain or exotic and expensive!  Also, nothing to stop you adding a few peas, the carrot which needs using up or goes into the compost bin or even some soy chunks.

4 good servings 


300 grams Basmati rice, soak for 1 hour (you could use brown Basmati if you prefer, but adjust cooking time)
3 tablespoons olive oil
250-300 grams Shitake, Oyster or mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Half teaspoon salt or 1 teaspoon vegan bouillon
600-650ml water


  1. Fry the chopped mushrooms in oil for a few minutes
  2. Add rinsed rice, soy sauce, salt and 600ml water
  3. Bring to boil on high; lower heat to medium and cook for about 2-3 minutes until liquid is almost absorbed (at this point if you need more water, add a little hot water) – you will need to cook for about 20 minutes if using brown rice
  4. Cover lid with a teacloth and place firmly on saucepan.
  5. Reduce heat to lowest and steam rice for approximately 15 minutes. Check rice – it should be completely dry now with fluffy separate grains. If it looks moist, cover and steam for a few more minutes.
  6. Serve with a simple salad – olive oil and lemon juice dressing

Avocado, red onion & tomato salad

Note: Basmati rice comes in a variety of grades so a lot depends on the quality of the rice you are using. It is always important to check the rice while it is cooking and use any cooking times set out in recipes as a guideline only. 

Tip: Add a cup of frozen peas if you wish along with the rice – it’s very yummy


Rice, glorious rice

Demystifying rice 

Rice, broadbeans & parsley(6)
Rice with broad beans and braised tofu

Rice is simple!  In my view Persians cook rice to perfection! The treat it with the utmost respect and some special rice dishes are prepared with great ceremony.  My mother’s side of the family is from Iran and no one cooked rice like my grandmother and her mother before her and so on……

In my experience, for those who don’t do it regularly, cooking rice is a challenge but it needn’t be.   In Pakistan where I come from people don’t cook rice using exact measurements – in fact most people don’t use exact measurements for cooking anything other than dishes prepared in huge quantities for special occasions!  For everyday cooking women mostly rely on judgment, experience and the ‘eye’ to measure ingredients.  I remember when asking my mother for a recipe she would say put in a ‘muthi’ (fistful) of this or a ‘chutki’ (pinch) of that!

I decided to jot down some facts to demystify rice for those who have either never attempted to cook rice or those who have and not got it quite right and never looked back.  If you follow some simple rules and learn to use your ‘eye’, it’s as easy as pie.

There are literally thousands of varieties of rice grown around the world but we are going to talk about white long grain rice generally known as Basmati.

Cooking methods

To confuse the newcomer, there is no one way to cook rice.  Most commonly used are the following basic methods:

  • Boiled rice: boil and strain
  • Steamed rice: boil, strain and steam
  • Biryani: boiled rice layered with vegetables, lentils or beans
  • Pilau rice: cooked in broth and requires no straining

When cooking rice which is to be strained you need to use a lot of water to keep the rice grains separate, just as you would for pasta and this is simple.

Rice cooked in stock or a sauce is slightly trickier.  This method is used when you add vegetables or stock to the rice and wish to retain the flavours of the stock, for example all pilaus are cooked in stock or sauce.

How much water should I use?

Boiled or steamed rice is best cooked in a lot of water in a large pan to give the rice room to expand and fluff out.

Biryani is rice boiled to al dente, strained and then steamed with a layer of vegetable curry, lentils or beans sandwiched in the middle

Pilau rice is not strained but cooked in a stock usually with vegetables or pulses e.g. pilau rice.   As a rule of thumb I use 1½ -2 times of water for one measure of rice which has been soaked for 1 hour.  There is no exact rule; some people use a little more water and you may find that works for you; much depends on the type of rice you are using and the soaking time – read on!


All good quality rice should be pre-soaked in cold water for at least 1 hour.  Sometimes I have soaked rice for as much as 2-3 hours and all it does is fatten the grain and reduce the cooking time.  However, this does not mean that you can’t cook rice if you forget to soak it or simply don’t have the time – you need to use more water as it will take longer to cook and the grains won’t be as plump.   I try to buy the best long grain white rice which is generally known as Basmati (but beware, there are many grades of Basmati too)

Cooking time

Whether you are simply boiling rice or cooking in stock as in pilau rice, the cooking time will depend on:

  • quality and type of rice, and
  • soaking time

Generally, pre-soaked good quality Basmati will cook in less than 3 minutes once it has come to the boil. Brown rice takes a lot longer to cook.

Boiled rice

  • Soak the rice for at least 1 hour
  • Rinse rice 4-5 times until the water runs clear to get rid of most of the starch
  • Use a large deep pan
  • Cover the rice in cold water about 3 inches above the level of the rice – always boil rice in lots of water
  • Add a little salt and rapidly bring to the boil, stirring with a flat spatula to keep the grains separate
  • Once it comes to the boil, lower the heat a little to keep it from boiling over.  If it has been soaked and the rice is good quality, it should take about 3-4 minutes to cook
  • Strain in a colander and serve

Steamed rice

  • Soak the rice for at least 1 hour
  • Rinse rice 4-5 times until the water runs clear
  • Use a large deep pan
  • Cover the rice in cold water about 3 inches above the level of the rice – always boil rice in lots of water
  • Add a little salt and rapidly bring to the boil, stirring with a flat spatula to keep the grains separate
  • Once it comes to the boil, lower the heat a little to keep it from boiling over.  If it has been soaked and the rice is good quality, it should take no more than 2-3 minutes to get to the al dente stage with a tiny bit of bite
  • Strain in a colander
  • In the saucepan add a ‘splash’ of water, about 3-4 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon oil
  • Put the rice back in the pan
  • Cover the lid with a teacloth and place firmly on the saucepan
  • Steam for 15 minutes on lowest heat – the rice should be ready if steam pours out when you lift the lid


Follow the steps in my Step by step Biryani and see pictures below

Veggie biryani(4)

Vegetables cooked in curry sauce ready for layering with the rice


One layer of rice in the bottom of the pan topped with the vegetable curry

Veggie biryani(7)

Vegetable curry sandwiched between another layer of rice
Veggie biryani(8)

Lid covered with tea cloth, steaming on the hob

Pilau / rice cooked in broth

In this method, rice is added to vegetables or beans usually in a broth.  The broth will have been prepared and some vegetables or beans added.  In this case you will already have the liquid in the pan, either by way of stock or a sauce.  It is not possible to measure the sauce in the pan with vegetables!  Here is where  ‘eye balling’ is useful means of ensuring you don’t have too much liquid – if you do, dry it off a bit.  We are aiming to get a rough ratio of 1½  times liquid to one portion of rice.

Some points to bear in mind –

  • Soak the rice for at least 1 hour
  • For pilau rice, use a large pan to cook the vegetables/pulses – you will be adding the rice to this mixture
  • Rinse rice 4-5 times until the water runs clear
  • Add the rice to the vegetables/pulses cooked in stock or sauce
  • There should be enough liquid to just cover the rice (see picture below).  If it looks too dry add a little water so the liquid is skimming the surface of the rice and vegetables – eye ball!
  • Bring to the boil on high
  • Lower the heat to lowest.  Cover the lid with a teacloth and place firmly on the saucepan.  Steam for 15-20 minutes
  • Lift the lid carefully as it will be steaming.  There should be no liquid left and the rice should be cooked.  However, if the rice is still al dente, add a little boiling water and put the lid back on and continue to steam for a further 5 minutes

Cooking rice in broth is where people usually come unstuck.  If you follow the rule of the ‘eye’ to judge the level of the water in the saucepan, you will be fine.

Troubleshooting pilau rice

When cooking rice in stock it is all about the ratio of liquid to rice.  However, we need not panic – it is easily remedied.

If there is too much water, all you need to do is boil it rapidly to reduce the liquid before covering it with the lid to steam.  If there isn’t enough liquid, simply add a splash of boiling water – keep the kettle on.  Boiling water can be added at any stage if required.

Generally, if you don’t soak the rice or it isn’t the best quality, you will need to use more water.  Once you’ve done this a few times you will sail through it and wonder what the fuss is about.

Below is a picture of rice with broad beans in tomato sauce.  I usually use this large wide saucepan for rice with vegetables.  As you will see the liquid is skimming the surface – this rice required less water due to the tomato sauce.  Bring rapidly to the boil and then steam on lowest heat for 15-20 minutes – can’t go wrong!

Rice with broad beans Rice with broad beans(2)

Rice is a very versatile grain and a staple diet in many parts of the world. It is gluten free and perfect for those who are sensitive to gluten.   Pilau rice or rice cooked in stock can be slightly tricky but once you’ve tried it, you will get the ‘feel’ for it very quickly.  In any event, what is the worst that could happen? It would go a bit soggy maybe? a tad mushy?  it would still taste beautiful so why not give it a go.

If you get stuck or have any questions I am happy to help.  Let me know how you get on!


Rice with chickpeas


Rice with chickpeas(1)

I love rice tossed together with any old lentil, bean or vegetable.  Makes a quick all-in-one dish and served with a simple salad is all you need. This is yet another delicious combination of rice with chickpeas.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  If you have any queries about cooking rice please ask and I will do my best to help.  Good quality Basmati rice doesn’t take long to cook (specially if it has been soaked) and needs to be watched – you can’t leave it to look after itself and if you do, you will inevitably end up with a soggy, sticky rice.

4 good servings


300 grams Basmati rice, soak for 1 hour
1 tin chickpeas, drained
6 whole black pepper
6 cloves
4 white cardamoms
2 inch cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kala zeera (black cumin – click here)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped or grated
2 piece ginger, chopped or grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
600-650ml water


  1. Heat oil and add black pepper, cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon and bay leaves. As soon as these swell up, about 1 minute
  2. Take pan off the heat and add shah zeera, garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt and chickpeas.
  3. Give it a stir or two and add rinsed rice with 600ml water
  4. Bring to the boil on high then lower heat and simmer until almost all the liquid is absorbed. It should be moist though
  5. Cover with tea cloth and steam on lowest heat for 15 minutes until steam rises from the rice. I use a heat dispenser on my gas hob which works very well. Be careful when you lift the lid as the steam may burn your hand.
  6. Serve with simple avocado salad

Avocado, red onion & tomato salad