Caramelised onions, whole spices and moist chicken pieces peeping through fluffy basmati rice that clings to the pieces. The layers of flavours in this comforting dish make it so special.
Indian pulaos are one pot dishes and something cooked as a meal in itself. My mother would also serve pulao at dinner parties after most guests would have finished eating Indian bread with the main curries.
This is our family recipe and one that mum would make so often when we grew up. The smell of onions caramelising, the spices infused with rice in a big handi (steel cooking pot) and the smell of homemade ghee is something I will always remember. Our home was filled with aromas when she cooked pulao and all too often even our neighbours would know that she was making pulao! Mum has always taken pride in her cooking and more than that feeding family and friends some amazing meals.
Every stage of making chicken pulao was carefully done. With onions thinly sliced, spices spluttering in ghee. The laborious task of cooking the onions which is really what yields the colour in the resultant dish, cooking the chicken and adding the long grain rice simmering until it was just done making sure the grains don’t break.
Mum would give the pulao a ‘dum’ and turn heat off to let the dish rest before serving.
Taking the lid off the pot with the steam wafting through when she served it out. Oh my! And just for that it’s worth slaving on the stove to make this recipe.
Indian pulao can be made with meats, paneer or even just simple vegetables. Also the use of spices varies in most. Unlike Biryani there is no layering of the meat with the rice. In Pulaos the rice is cooked together with meat or vegetables. This recipe includes whole spices, chillies and onions mainly. Most of the ingredients in this dish are easy to find. What takes long is cooking the onions; make sure to give that some time as it makes all the difference. Simply served as a one pot meal with some raita and salad or onions it’s a reminder of what home cooking.
1kg chicken on the bone, skinless and cut to medium pieces
250gms basmati rice
525mls water or stock
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black pepper
2” cinnamon stick
2 black cardamom pods
2 large white onions thinly sliced
2 green chillies slit lengthwise
5 garlic cloves
1 heaped tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
20gms freshly chopped coriander
Juice of 1/2 a lime
In a blender add the garlic and ginger with a splash of water and make a smooth paste. Set aside.
In a heavy bottom sauce pan heat the oil. Add the whole spices letting them sizzle and infuse their flavours for 30 seconds. Now add the white onions and fry on a low heat for 30-35 mins. They will soften and start to colour. Make sure to stir every few minutes making sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. The quantity of onions for this dish is quite a lot so give it time to fry and retain a light brown colour.
At this stage increase the heat to medium, add the green chillies and fry for a few seconds followed by the ginger and garlic paste. Fry for 2 minutes until the raw flavours from the paste cook through. Now add the chicken pieces along with the coriander powder stir well making sure the spices coat the chicken pieces sealing through for 8-10minutes. Add salt and continue to fry the chicken. Add half the water quantity and bring to a boil simmering with a lid on for 10 minutes. Stir half way through the cooking process. The chicken will nearly be done by this time.
Now add the rice, little fresh coriander and the remaining water. Bring to a boil; simmer for 18-20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the chicken & rice are tender.
Add the remaining coriander at this stage. Cover the pulao and turn the heat off. Leave to rest for 10minutes to let the rice cool slightly before serving. Serve with some lime juice, salad and raita.