rice pilaf with a crunchy crust

23rd July 2021

I posted a similar pilaf recipe a while back; this version is easier, quicker and uses the option of olive oil, or if you prefer, replace it with ghee. I change the vegetables to what I have in the garden, sometimes using thinly sliced potatoes, fennel, zucchini or freshly picked sweet peas. It is easy to swap the vegetables around. If the season or garden is overgrown with parsley, coriander or similar soft herbs, they can be used instead.

Serve with a crisp garden green salad and a bowl of tahini.

There are a few steps in achieving the success of this dish; the crispy golden bottom makes it worth it!

  • Washing the rice to rid it of any surface starch, which might make it sticky.
  • Boiling the rice for 8 minutes in boiling water, then draining and allowing it to steam dry for a few minutes.
  • Cover with a cloth, as well as a lid, to protect it from the drops of condensation as it steams.
  • Achieving “the golden crusty bottom” at the bottom of the pot by cooking it over low heat for an extended period.

It is recommended to use a non-stick pot. For the recipe, I use a cast-iron 10-inch (24cm) pot. Also, try to use a pot with a flat bottom and one large enough to give the rice plenty of room to expand. If your pot is too small, the rice will clump together. If you are using a pan, make sure you have a lid that will tightly fit.

rice pilaf with a crunchy crust

Serves 3

Preparation 20 minutes

Cooking 45 minutes

ingredients

1 cup/200g white basmati rice

1 medium/140g carrot

1 medium/160g medium fennel

2 medium/125g potatoes

1 large bunch/30g each fresh dill and coriander

6 Tbsp/60g olive oil or ghee – divided 

1 tsp fine rock salt – divided 

½ tsp freshly ground pepper – divided 

1 tsp turmeric powder – divided 

prepare the rice

1.  Wash the rice and drain. Repeat three more times to flush out all the excess starch (this helps the rice be fluffy with nice separate grains when cooked). Drain and set aside.

2.  Fill a medium saucepan (with a lid that fits.) Bring the water to a vigorous boil and cook the rice for exactly 8 minutes, starting the timer from the moment the rice enters the pot. Drain in a colander and let sit for 5 minutes or so to steam dry.

prepare the vegetables and herbs

3.  Finely slice the vegetable into 2mm thick slices and set aside. Finely chop the leaves and tender stems of the herbs, and mix the herbs together and set aside. 

assemble and cook the pilaf 

4.  Return the empty pan to the stove, add half of the oil.

5.  Split the pile of herbs in two – setting aside a handful of herbs for garnish.

6.  Layer half of the vegetables in the bottom of the pan and half of the herbs for use now.  Sprinkle over half of the salt, pepper and turmeric. Add one-third of the rice over the top. Do not mix. Repeat with the remaining vegetables, then the next third of the rice and the other half of the herbs. Sprinkle the remaining salt, pepper and turmeric. Finish with the last third of rice. Drizzle the remaining oil over the top.

7.  Cover the pot with a tea towel, then place the lid firmly on top, folding the corners of the tea towel over the top so that they don’t catch fire. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes (#7 setting on an electric stove), then place the pot on the lowest heat you can manage (#2 setting on an electric stove) and continue cooking for another 40-45 minutes.

8.  When the rice is ready, gently mix the reserved herbs and pile it all onto a good wide platter or bowl. Scrape up the crisp rice at the bottom of the pot and tuck it into the pile of rice shards – it’s delicious. It is optional to sprinkle with lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice – taste and season with salt and a few rounds of pepper. 

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