Growing up in a Chinese household, it’s impossible to imagine a day where rice was not part of our regular dinners. Everyday. Without fail. Plain white rice to go with stews, curries, stir frys. Sometimes congee (rice porridge). On very, very special occasions my grandmother would make biryanis, an Indian dish of basmati rice cooked with curry spices and vegetables or meat…usually with a good amount of ghee (Indian clarified butter). She would start in the morning, peeling and cooking the potatoes, searing the meats (usually beef), warming up the spices, etc… By late afternoon the whole kitchen would smell fragrant… I drool each time I think about it.
Grandma’s biryani was definitely one of things I missed the most when I lived abroad. Stuck in student residence, the closest I got to making biryani-like dishes was by making Ottolenghi’s Cardamom Chicken, which used some of the same spices and method. It never reached the same level of depth and warmth that I craved, but it was always just enough to keep me happy. (If you’re on a student budget and looking for a one-pot meal, Cardamom Chicken is a real winner for ease and quantity!) Here, I’ve reduced it as a side by keeping it to just rice, raisins and onions.
Basmati Rice with Raisins and Crispy Onions
1 cup of basmati rice
1 1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup of dried raisins
1 large onion, sliced
2-3 tablespoons of flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup of sunflower or canola oil
Sliced green onions, optional
Peel the onion and cut into thin slices. Toss in a bowl with the flour and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high. Add half of the onions into the pan to fry for 5 to 7 minutes. Stir occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onions take on a nice golden brown color and turn crispy. Adjust the temperature as you go, making sure the onion doesn’t burn. Transfer the onion to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a little more salt. Do the same with the other batch of onion.
Clean the saucepan and add some more oil. Stir in the basmati rice and let it toast for about one minute before adding the water and the raisins. Bring the pan to a boil, cover with a lid, and let simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes or more. Usually, you’ll be able to tell it’s cooked through when you see uniforms of pockets throughout the rice.
Remove the pan from the heat, lift off the lid, and quickly cover with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. Once it has rested, add the fried onions and stir gently with a fork. Top with some sliced green onions if desired.