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Paul Winalski

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RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Paul Winalski » Sun Jun 03, 2007 2:55 pm

This is one of my favorite Indian recipes using our current featured ingredient, saffron. It is from Neelam Batra's 1000 Indian Recipes.

KESARI PULLAO (Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice)

1-1/2 cups basmati rice, washed in 3 or 4 changes of water
2-3/4 cups water
1/3 tsp saffron threads
1 TBS ghee or vegetable oil
1 1" stick of cinnamon, bruised
2 bay leaves
5-7 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised to break the skin
1/2 teaspoon black cumin seeds (shah jeera, also called kala jeera)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garam masala


1. Soak the rice in the water for 30 minutes.

2. Put the saffron in a small pan and roast over medium heat, shaking the skillet, until the saffron is fragrant and a bit darker, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and crush lightly with a spoon.

3. Heat the ghee (or oil) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon, bay leaves, and cardamom pods. Stir until golden, about 1 minute.

4. Add the cumin seeds and then the rice with the water it was soaking in. Mix in the saffron and bring to a boil over high heat.

5. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan, and cook until the rice is done, 10 or 15 minutes. Do not stir the rice while it cooks.

6. Remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, and garnish with the garam masala.


NOTES:

If you can't get shah jeera, substitute 1 tsp of conventional cumin seeds.

The bleached white cardamom pods more commonly found in supermarkets will probably work, too.

If you wish, you can take out the whole spices and bay leaves before serving, or just tell guests to push them to the side of the plate.

-Paul W.
Last edited by Paul Winalski on Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Cynthia Wenslow » Sun Jun 03, 2007 2:58 pm

Well, yum! Thanks for posting this, Paul.
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Re: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Jenise » Sun Jun 03, 2007 3:34 pm

Paul, this is unlike any Indian style rice I've ever made--sounds fantastic. With the cinnamon (which I've used in rice) and the cardamom (which I haven't) together, the aromatics must be insane. I've got some chicken drumsticks sitting in a brine, but no plans for the rest of the meal. I think I'll go add a few Indian flavors to the brine--nothing in there beyond salt and sugar but fresh sage and thyme now--and make this rice. Of course, I'll use a little less water than your recipe asks for. :)
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Re: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Stuart Yaniger » Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:09 pm

When do you add the saffron?
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Re: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Jenise » Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:39 pm

Stuart Yaniger wrote:When do you add the saffron?


Surely at step 4? That's where I put it in at, anyway--got a pot on the stove right now, since dinner has to be mostly made before I get too inebriated on the raft-out this afternoon. The house smells wonderful!
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Re: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Paul Winalski » Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:48 pm

Stuart,

Yes, the saffron goes in at step 4--mix it in just before you bring the rice to a boil.

I've edited the post to add the missing information. Sorry about that!

-Paul W.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Jenise » Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:41 pm

Paul, this is delicious. This finally gets the taste of some of the best Indian rices I've had in restaurants on my table. Some comments and some questions, though.

You call the black cumin seed shah jeera. I have black cumin seed (from Penzeys) but it's called kala jeera. If you know, are these two names for the same seed, or two variants of the same seed? I loved the flavor so much that after the rice was cooked I added another half teaspoon to it while it was still warm and in the evaporation stage. (I never cook and serve rice, always allow it to cool down and evaporate off steam, which hugely intensifies flavor and improves texture, the kernels become more separate and chewy. Flavored rices are always better reheated.)

Also, I was surprised at the inclusion of bay leaf. I've never seen bay leaf in Indian cooking before (my one Madhur Jaffrey book). Is this typical? I used them, but included a few dried curry leaves too, because I love the way they look in the rice.
Last edited by Jenise on Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Paul Winalski » Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:34 pm

Jenise wrote:You all the black cumin seed shah jeera. I have black cumin seed (from Penzeys) but it's called kala jeera. If you know, are these two names for the same seed, or two variants of the same seed?


Two names for the same thing. "Shah jeera" roughly translates as "noble cumin", in contrast to the more common (and less expensive) variety. Kala jeera is another Indian name for the same spice. I just updated the recipe to include both names.

Glad you liked the recipe.

I was surprised to see bay leaves in several of the recipes in Neelam Batra's cookbook, too. But remember that a lot of Northern Indian cooking (the Mughlai cuisine; Parsi cuisine) draws from Middle Eastern and Central Asian sources, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

-Paul W.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Christina Georgina » Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:48 am

Thanks for this post Paul. I love spiced rices and will be trying this soon.

I have a question though about the rice/water proportions. Ordinarily when I make basmati I rinse it and let it sit till the grains are uniformly chalky in color and then drain. For each 1 cup of rice I use 1 1/3 cup water. I have always found, no matter what type of rice that the 2:1 ratio water:rice make unsatisfactory rice. Do you really need that extra liquid ?
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Paul Winalski » Tue Jun 05, 2007 1:45 pm

Regarding the amount of water to rice: I just repeated what was printed in the recipe. I use aged basmati rice and it came out OK, although I'd say the water amount is at the high end of the range. I don't know whether aged vs. ordinary basmati rice makes a difference.

1-1/3 cups of water to 1 cup rice comes out to 2 cups water to the 1-1/2 cups of rice called for in this recipe. So try cutting back 1/2 cup on the water from what's called for. I think that's what Jenise did.

-Paul W.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Jenise » Tue Jun 05, 2007 2:44 pm

Paul Winalski wrote:Regarding the amount of water to rice: I just repeated what was printed in the recipe. I use aged basmati rice and it came out OK, although I'd say the water amount is at the high end of the range. I don't know whether aged vs. ordinary basmati rice makes a difference.

1-1/3 cups of water to 1 cup rice comes out to 2 cups water to the 1-1/2 cups of rice called for in this recipe. So try cutting back 1/2 cup on the water from what's called for. I think that's what Jenise did.

-Paul W.


You flatter me imagining I would be so precise! I didn't soak the rice, I just rinsed it well in the shallow but wide strainer I always use rinse rice. I then used one 1998 BP Polyprolyene Project Coffee Mug of rice (never measured it's contents, but it's a little tall so I always presume it holds about ten ounces) plus about half more, and then about the same amount of water, imagining that the wet rice was carrying 2-3 tblsp extra water. From experience, I know that this is the proportion that works for my rice and my textural preferences (from what had been a ten pound bag and is over two years old, so effectively aged at this point in time), and that trumps any recipe.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Christina Georgina » Tue Jun 05, 2007 3:00 pm

Speaking of aged rice...what does the aging accomplish ? depth of flavor ? change in texture. To be honest when I have seen sacks of "aged" basmati I've thought it an affectation considering that when other starches age they are just over the hill. I'm speaking out of total ignorance on this subject so I apologize for being lazy and not tracking this down before now.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Paul Winalski » Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:28 pm

I think the story is that aged basmati rice has a lower moisture content and this results in rice that cooks up fluffier and with better separation of the grains. I don't know whether it's because the producers take greater care selecting only the best lots of rice to undergo the aging process, or that the aging itself does something, but whatever, I do see a positive difference. Not a very big one, though.

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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Jenise » Tue Jun 05, 2007 9:17 pm

That's what I've observed too, Paul. Also, there's a little flavor difference, more towards nutty vs. the new crop basmati's popcorn.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Paul Winalski » Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:33 pm

Jenise wrote:You flatter me imagining I would be so precise! I didn't soak the rice, I just rinsed it well in the shallow but wide strainer I always use rinse rice. I then used one 1998 BP Polyprolyene Project Coffee Mug of rice (never measured it's contents, but it's a little tall so I always presume it holds about ten ounces) plus about half more, and then about the same amount of water, imagining that the wet rice was carrying 2-3 tblsp extra water. From experience, I know that this is the proportion that works for my rice and my textural preferences (from what had been a ten pound bag and is over two years old, so effectively aged at this point in time), and that trumps any recipe.


Whatever works for you, Jenise--you won't get any argument from me.

I have to say that when I first read this recipe, I said to myself, "What? That's far too much water--and soak for 1/2 hour on top of it all??" But I followed my policy of always following a new recipe verbatim the first time I make it, and my fears it would come out mushy did not materialize. That being said, I think I'll cut back by 1/2 cup of water next time.

-Paul W.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Karen/NoCA » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:44 pm

Always looking for a yummy way to use my Indian spices that friends brought to me. Thanks, I am going to try this in a few days.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Thu Dec 13, 2012 4:56 am

Made this tonight, but had to substitute charnushka for the kala jeera. Loved it anyway. Two observations: 1. I had to cook the rice for 10 minutes longer than the recipe says because there was still a couple mm of liquid in the pot; and 2. I thought it seemed a tad oily so I will reduce that a bit.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Jenise » Sat Dec 15, 2012 4:22 pm

Jeff, did you cut back on the water or just use the recipe amount? The discussion indicates most of thought there was too much water.
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Re: RCP: Kesari Pullao - Roasted Saffron Basmati Rice

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:06 pm

Jenise wrote:Jeff, did you cut back on the water or just use the recipe amount? The discussion indicates most of thought there was too much water.

I did use the recipe amount.

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