I was recently introduced to VahRehVah.com, which is a great website by Sanjay Thumma with great Indian recipes, as well as ones from other countries in the region. His videos are very helpful and are a wonderful resource for people wanting to learn more about cooking Indian cuisine.
Biryani is a layered meat/sauce and basmati rice dish that is baked and becomes so flavorful. I have been wanting to make this dish for some time, but I had some leftover cooked chicken that I was trying to use up, which did not seem to fit with a biryani dish. So when I can across the Pulau recipe, it was just what I was looking for. Sanjay's version did not have any meat included, but I added the chopped cooked chicken with the other ingredients in the rice to make a more complete meal. I also added some cardamom seeds and cumin seeds and some leftover chopped canned tomatoes with lime and chipotle flavor. So the link to Sanjay's original Pulau Basmati Rice is http://www.vahrehvah.com/Pulau++Basmati+Rice+:2688. What follows is my adaptation of his recipe. Because I used brown basmati rice, the cooking time was longer and I had a little difficulty getting the grains on top to completely cook, despite adding extra water. I love the flavor of brown basmati rice and it is full of nutrition, but the only place I found it was at the local Indian grocery store. If you use this, just be aware that it takes longer to soak and cook.
1 medium-large onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp oil
3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
3 whole cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 large (approximately 4 inch) cinnamon stick, or a couple smaller ones
1/3 cup mixture golden and dark raisins
1/2 cup cashews, broken or pieces are alright to use
1 1/2 cup basmati rice
1 tsp salt
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 1/4- 2 1/2 cups water
1 cup chopped cooked chicken (had already been cooked previously with fajita seasonings)
1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes with lime and chipotle
Soak rice in a bowl covered with water for about 30 minutes, draining it in a fine mesh strainer and then soaking in fresh water after about 15 minutes. In a large pot, sauté onions and oil, adding in the other spices and stirring together. As the onions are becoming translucent, add in the raisins. Drain the rice and put into the onion mixture. Add salt and continue to stir around in the frying pan for a couple minutes. You may need to add another Tbsp of oil at this time. Then, if using some canned tomatoes, put them in the measuring cup first, then add the necessary amount of water to equal the total amount needed. (Start with the lesser amount first, and add more if necessary after rice has cooked about half the time). Add all the liquids to the rice mixture, as well as the chicken, chicken bouillon and nuts. Stir well and bring to a boil and make sure the bouillon cubes have dissolved. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Give the rice a good stir after about 12 minutes and if much of the liquid has dissolved and the rice that was on top is still not very soft, then you may add about 1/4 cup water. Cover and finish cooking for another 15 minutes or until rice seems soft but not mushy.
To serve, remove bay leaf and other whole spices (cloves, cardamom and cinnamon). The cumin seeds are very small and do not need to be removed. Serve on a platter and garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired. It is also wonderful accompanied by the Indian breads- either naan or paratha, warmed in a skillet and spread with a little butter. I have shown both the naan (the white colored flatbread) and the paratha (the darker colored wheat flatbread) in the picture above. We enjoy using the bread to scoop up rice and take bites of both together.
Traditionally, pulau would be only one part of the meal. In addition to this, some of the other foods one might serve include some Indian pickles, raita (cucumber and yogurt mixture) or some vegetables cooked with some spices and served on the side. I also love to have a mixed greens salad with this dish for some added nutrition.