A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.The Emperor, Mulan (1998)
This simple dish is one of those things I’ve been making for years. I learnt how to do something similar at the Oriental Cooking class I took in 2008 with my sister, Smyles. It was an amazing class and I learnt so much about cooking different Asian dishes, techniques, and how to use spices I’d never even heard of at that point. Our teacher was from Malaysia and she taught us so much and so well that there are different things Smyles and I still make, to this day, that she taught us.
The following recipe is kind of a mash up of different ones that she did with us, including a Saffron and Sultana rice that was incredibly tasty. I don’t have any saffron at the moment and I wanted to try something different in any case and this is the result. I personally think the fried onions and toasted almonds make all the difference and elevate this dish out of the stratosphere and towards the exosphere (which I learnt about today and it is the outermost layer of the earth’s atmosphere). Regarding stock or water, I really don’t mind which I use and choosing only water is usually an accident as I forgot to boil the kettle or I’d already poured it in before I realised my mistake. I’m only human!
Now, a funny story with a moral before we move on to the recipe. When I was toasting the almonds, on low under the grill/broiler, I had left the door open so I could keep an eye on them. However, I am short and, as I was stirring the onions, I knocked the door closed and didn’t realise for a few minutes. Well, as I pulled them out I could see it was quite bright inside – and, in fact, the greaseproof paper had caught on fire! Luckily, nothing was damaged, except the paper and most of almonds were just perfect. So, moral of the story – grow tall so you don’t accidentally bump your oven door closed or make sure you keep it open at all times!
Lastly, the beautiful dish in the photos was a birthday present from my sister last Christmas (my birthday is just a few days afterward X-mas day). Thank you, Smyles!
Carrot and Sultana Spiced Rice
- 1 cup of basmati rice, soaked for a minimum of 30 minutes, and then rinsed.*
- 3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil, divided
- 1 bay leaf
- 4-6 cardamom pods, put a small slit in each one
- 6 crushed garlic cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 onion, died
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1 cup of sultanas
- 1.75 cups of cold water or cooled down vegetable stock, either way it should just barely cover the rice and vegetables.
- 1 cup of frozen peas (optional)
- butter 2-3 tbsp
- 2-3 onions, sliced
- salt, pepper
- 1 cup flaked almonds
- After soaking the rice for a minimum of 30 minutes, drain and rinse the rice. Set aside.
- Heat a pot on medium heat and once hot, add the oil and heat for 30 seconds.
- Then add the bay leaf, cardamom pods, garlic and cinnamon to release the aromatic flavours. Heat for 1 minute to allow them to become fragrant.
- Add the onion, carrot and sultanas and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are softened. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in the rice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the water or stock, stir scraping the bottom to get any of those cooked on spices and increase heat to high and bring to the boil.
- Cover with a lid and reduce to low. Cook for 10 minutes or until the water is absorbed, which shouldn’t be more than another minute or two.
- Once the rice is cooked, add butter and the frozen peas, if using. Put the lid back on and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
- Then stir the peas and butter in with a fork. Season with salt and pepper
- Meanwhile, heat a frying pan on medium heat, add the 2 tbsp of coconut oil. I recommend doing this when you add the rice in Step 5.
- Heat for 30 seconds and then add the onions, and fry, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste, and then set aside until serving.
- While the rice is resting (step 8), using a broiler or a grill, toast your almonds.
- Stir in the onions and place in your serving dish. Then sprinkle on the almonds and fresh coriander and serve. Delicious with Oven Roasted Yogurt Chicken and Vegetable Curry and Stir-fried Lentils and Vegetables.
*If you can, soak your rice for longer. If I know I’m making rice for dinner, I put the rice plus 2-3 cups of water to soak for the whole day (6a.m to 4.pm) while I’m at work. I then drain it, rinse it and leave it soak for another 30 before draining and re-rinsing. Otherwise I do the 30 minutes suggested above.
To make into more of a meal, add paneer to your onions when you are frying them. Add when the onions are softened and cook until the paneer is browned on two sides.
Alternatively, cook your favourite meat dry-rubbed with a 1/4tsp cumin, salt and pepper per piece and serve alongside the rice. I love duck. Along with lamb, it’s my luxury meat when I want a treat that isn’t crisps or chocolate. It feel luscious and decadent to eat and the smell is so tantalising. For duck, I’ve been following the method suggested by Woks of Life for their Easy Peking Duck recipe for years and it’s amazing.
That chili sea salt that I’ve mentioned before is also really tasty sprinkled on top.