Vegetable pulao, or sabzi pulao, is a common rice dish served throughout India, particularly where there was a Mughlai influence.
Because it is part of the culinary heritage of almost all of India, it has a very wide variation in its preparation. Some variations use saffron, some regions make it much hotter, some use fruit and nuts, and all the variations use different vegetables. The Jain community will use asafoetida instead of garlic and onion. The further north you go the greater is the use of spices like cardamom and the dish becomes closer to the original Mughal or Persian inspired dish.
What is agreed though are a couple of things. Firstly, it is a rice dish, so the proportion of rice to vegetables is important. Secondly, it is a one-pot dish and not an assembled dish like a biryani.
This is our family version, and came from the time the family was in Kolkatta, or Calcutta as it was known then. The cook was from Hyderabad and the recipe is typical of Hyderabadi cuisine.
This recipe can be easily scaled up for cooking in larger quantities. The key ratios are that you use not more than 1-1½ cups of diced vegetables to each cup of rice, and you use twice as much stock as rice, by volume. This is a slightly higher ratio of liquid to rice than usual because the vegetables will absorb some of this liquid.
You can use whatever are your favourite in-season vegetables, although my grandmother’s notes specified no potatoes or other starchy vegetables. We use peas, beans, capsicum, tomatoes, carrots, or cauliflower florets. Your choice. Look for a mix of vegetables that will add colour to the presentation.
If you are making spinach dishes, this could be a place to use the spinach stalks. A little wilted spinach in this dish works well, too.
This is really a meal in itself, but you might consider serving it with a raita.
- wide pan with lid
- 300 g basmati rice
- 2 tbsp gingelly oil
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ stick cassia
- 2 cloves
- 3 black peppercorns
- 2 green cardamom pods - broken open
- 1 indian bay leaf
- 1 red onion - chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 20 g ginger - minced
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 green chilli - finely chopped
- 1 tomato - pulp removed and finely diced
- 50 g carrot - finely diced
- 50 g green beans - finely sliced
- 50 g peas
- 50 g cauliflower - cut into small florets
- ½ tsp garam masala
- ½ lemon - juiced
- 750 ml vegetable stock
- Wash the rice in several changes of water to remove excess starch. Cover rice with cold water and soak for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a wide pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds, cassia, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom, and bay leaf. Fry for one minute, or until they sizzle.
- Add the onions and sprinkle with the salt. Fry, stirring continuously for about seven minutes, or until onions soften and become translucent, but without colouring.
- Add the ginger, garlic, and green chillies. Mix well and fry, stirring continuously for one minute.
- Add the tomato, carrot, beans, peas, and cauliflower. Mix gently, to not break up the cauliflower. Ensure vegetables are well coated in the masala. Fry for one minute, stirring gently.
- Add the garam masala and lemon juice and mix well, but gently.
- Drain the rice well and add to the vegetables. Stir gently to combine, and fry for two minutes, stirring frequently, but being cautious not to break up the vegetables.
- Add the stock, and very gently mix. Bring to the boil, mix again, and then reduce heat to very low. Cover and cook for fifteen minutes, or until all the stock has been absorbed into the rice.
- Remove pan from the heat and gently fluff the pulao with a fork. Cover the pan with a tea-towel and replace the lid. Allow to stand for another five minutes, then serve.
- 300g of uncooked rice is approximately one and a half cups.
- Gingelly oil is Indian sesame oil. It is very different from the Asian sesame oil, being much less intense in flavour. Substitute with vegetable oil if unobtainable
- When dicing the vegetables, try to keep them about the same size. They should be kept quite small.
- The amount of vegetables refers to the amount after dicing.
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