Monday, March 30, 2009

Orange and Cardamom Pilaf

Basmati rice is one of the best types of rice to eat if you need to load up for an endurance run. We ate this orange and cardamom pilaf on Friday night and then the left-overs for lunch on Saturday, followed by 15 miles in the afternoon (one of my least favourite routes, up the portway, over that god-forsaken M5 motorway bridge and then back along the towpath). 

Basmati rice, brown or white, is a low G.I carbohydrate, which means that it is slowly digested, releasing energy to your liver and muscles gradually. Note that short grain rice, for instance pudding rice, is high G.I.which is rapidly absorbed by the body, providing a quick blood sugar rush and so is not so great for endurance. The extra goodies like orange zest, spices, chicken stock, almonds, fresh herbs and currants add vital vitamins and minerals.

This pilaf is in my up and coming book (to be released on July 2nd by Vermilion) accompanied by deliciously crispy duck legs. It tastes exotic but is dead easy to make. When you finally lift the lid off this pilaf, the beautiful aroma just blows you away. It only takes about 30 minutes to make. Use good quality rice - I like Tilda and Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Basmati Rice

Orange and Cardamom Pilaf
Serves 4
Olive oil and a knob of butter
1 tsp allspice
1 onion, peeled and sliced finely
1 bay leaf
12 cardamom pods, crushed lightly with a pestle and mortar
freshly ground black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
400g basmati rice, rinsed a couple of times and then drained
3–4 tbsp currants
juice and zest of 1 orange
600ml chicken stock
handful of flaked almonds, toasted
handful of finely chopped fresh mint or coriander

  1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil and a knob of butter in a saucepan (make sure you use one with a tight-fitting lid) and gently sauté the onion until it is translucent. Add the allspice, cardamom pods, black pepper, bay leaf and cinnamon stick and stir for a minute or two to release the aromas.
  2. Add the rice and stir it around so that it becomes glossy. Stir in the currants and orange zest and then add the stock, the orange juice and some salt (the amount will depend how salty your stock is).
  3. Quickly bring the stock to the boil, turn down to a very low heat, place a circle of greaseproof paper over the liquid and cover with the tight-fitting lid.
  4. Cook on the lowest heat for 7 minutes and then turn off the heat and leave, still covered, for a further 7 minutes. Remove the lid,  enjoy the aroma and test for seasoning.
  5. Arrange the pilaf onto a large hot serving dish or four individual plates. 
  6. Scatter over the almonds and the coriander or mint. Delicious served with duck or spicy lamb or chicken kebabs.

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