There’s several ways of cooking rice, but for this dish I use the ‘absorption method’. You measure both the rice and the water it is cooked in by volume at the ratio of one part water to one and a half parts of water. You need a crock-pot or large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid that is also oven-proof. I usually make about 9 portions and freeze them in plastic tubs.
The rice is first cooked in spices and a little oil:
Enough oil to just coat the base of your cooking pot
Cardamom pods, bruised open with a roiling pin..one per portion is sufficient
Cloves, whole…one per portion again.
Salt….a level teaspoon per four portions
Bay leaves …one per three or four portions.
Fennel seeds…a teaspoon per four portions.
Star anise, one head per four portions
Cinnamon stick…an inch per portion
Indian cooks actually use something slightly different and a lot cheaper…it’s called Dalchini and is rolled bark of a type of bay tree. If you can find it…one square inch per portion.
I later finish the rice with some bought-in fried onions, the way restaurants always used to dress any biryani, pillau or pilaf.
Fry the spices gently in the oil until the smell rises, meanwhile put the kettle on full of water.
Then add a coffee mug of dry rice to your pan and stir the spiced oil through.
Add one and a half coffee mugs of boiling water to the rice…beware, it will sizzle!!!
You can, at this stage, include some saffron strands in hot milk in your ‘one and a half coffee’ cups of boiling water. It was always done this way once, but few use such an expensive spice these days.
Now put the lid on the pan and turn the oven on to LOW…say 90 degrees C.
Turn the heat down under the pan as it returns to the boil and listen for a gentle ‘bibble’ of simmering water…not a boil! Cook the rice for 8 minutes exactly.
After 8 minutes lift the lid carefully to make sure all the water has been absorbed…if not give it another minute. Now take the pot and put it in the low oven for 2 hours.
After two hours you can gently ‘fork’ the rice through and remove the whole spice portions. You can add a few drops of food dye at this point for that real restaurant look.
Return the pot to the oven for another hour, then serve, or portion into tubs for the freezer and dress with the fried onions. You could make your own onions but it takes an hour and it’s so easy to but them in. They come from Denmark, by the way…there are some American ones but they are far far too salty.
You can vary the rice with coconut milk or cream in your ‘one and a half coffee cups’ of boiling water. You can dress the rice with desiccated coconut instead of the onion and you can add other spices to the oil at the beginning…the bargar…if you wish.
Frozen portions of this rice take just a two-minute ‘ping’ in the microwave to cook through fluffy and hot.