This is my SO's favorite pilaf, who describes it solely as "delicious." It's flavored with a combination of onions, garlic, cumin, cardamom, and other spices; it's extremely flavorful and aromatic while not being overly spicy (so it won't overwhelm the dish you serve it with). We try to cook either Patiala pilaf or Banaras-style pilaf whenever we have Indian food that calls for rice. They're both excellent pilafs; we find Patiala pilaf to be a bit tastier than Banaras-style pilaf, but Patiala pilaf also takes longer to make. Since we made this for breakfast this past week (to go along with a batch of lentils with cumin and garlic), this is this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.
As I said in the Banaras-style pilaf recipe, if all you've ever eaten are American-style pilafs ("I cooked my rice with chicken stock; now it's a pilaf"), you're in for a pleasantly flavorful surprise.
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water, plus more to rinse the rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon (~5 cloves) garlic, finely chopped or pressed with a garlic press
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 black cardamom pods (or 6 green)
8 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 3" cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1. Rinse the basmati rice repeatedly with water in a large bowl until the water draining off is mostly clear.
2. Drain as much of the rinsing water from the rice as you can, and then add 4 cups fresh water. Let soak for 30 minutes.
3. Drain the rice, reserving the soaking water (it will be used to cook the rice later).
4. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and fry, stirring constantly, until the onion starts to turn brown (~8-10 minutes).
5. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.
6. Add the spices (cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon) and fry for 30 seconds.
7. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice turns translucent (~5 minutes; Sahni states the rice should begin to brown, but it never does for us).
8. Mix in the reserved soaking water and salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. At the end of this time the water should be mostly absorbed.
9. Turn the heat to the lowest setting possible, raise the pot an inch or so above the burner (we set it on a wire roasting rack placed over the burner), and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
10. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
11. Fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.
While this pilaf is good enough to be eaten on its own, it's absolutely delicious when combined with most Indian dishes (e.g., lentils with cumin and garlic, yogurt braised chicken, royal braised vegetables in cardamom nut sauce). This dish keeps relatively well, and makes enough to easily serve at least six people (or go along with a full recipe of any of our Indian dishes). We'll often make a batch of this and then reheat it for the rest of the week as we cook additional food. To reheat this, we add a little bit of water (a tablespoon or two), microwave it for a minute or two in a covered container, and then let it sit, covered, for another minute or two before fluffing the rice. We find this reheating method helps rehydrate the rice.
You can leave the whole spices in the dish when you serve it, but should probably avoid eating them. This recipe is from Sahni (1980).
Sahni serves this pilaf with a topping of fried thinly sliced onions; while these are delicious, they take more than 20 minutes to fry, and thus we don't make them with this recipe anymore. If you do want to make them, thinly slice two onions and cook them, stirring constantly, over high or medium-high heat in 6 tablespoons oil until the onions are a deep golden brown (probably at least 20 minutes; they will quickly brown, and possibly even burn, near the end of the cooking time, so watch them carefully). Remove the onions from the oil, and continue cooking the recipe as stated above, starting by frying the chopped onion in the remaining oil.
Sahni, Julie. 1980. Classic Indian Cooking. William Morrow & Co, NY. pp. 366-368.