Contemporary Pakistani food is a vibrant mix of Arabic, East Asian and Indian flavors that shine in food writer and author Sumayya Usmani’s new cookbook, Summers Under the Tamarind Tree. Beautifully written and photographed, this collection of more than 100 family recipes will inspire you to open up the spice cabinet and make something brand-new.
A wonderfully warm dish, this pulao is based on a recipe that was passed on to me by my friend Moneeza, whose father is from Attock. The pulao is cooked in a stock made with caramelized onions and spices. The addition of chickpeas and the use of brown basmati rice makes it a healthy dish – and well known for soothing a sore tummy (just leave out the green chili). I’ve adapted the recipe by adding black cardamom and star anise: It makes it even more earthy and smoky.
Ghee (makes 1 cup)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups brown basmati rice
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 star anise
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 black cardamom pod
- 2 large red onions, cut into half moons
- 1 teaspoon each of crushed garlic and grated ginger
- 2 14-ounce cans chickpeas (or 3 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and boiled)
- salt, to taste
- 2 green chilies, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons water
For the ghee
Heat 1 cup unsalted butter in a saucepan over a low heat until it’s melted and scum rises to the top – anything between 25 and 40 minutes. Skim occasionally, until all scum stops rising.
Allow to cool slightly before pouring through a sieve into a sterilized, heatproof storage jar with a lid. Cool completely before closing the lid. Keep at room temperature and use in 10-15 days, or keeps up to 3 weeks in the fridge.
For the pulao
Wash the rice, rinse and soak in a bowl of water for 1 hour, then drain. Heat the ghee in a saucepan with a lid over a medium heat until melted. Add the cumin, star anise, peppercorns and black cardamom and fry for about 30 seconds until the ghee is fragrant, or until the cumin begins to pop.
Add the onions, garlic and ginger and fry, stirring over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the onions are soft and light brown. Add the drained chickpeas, salt and green chilies and fry for a further 30 seconds.
Add the drained rice, stir and mix for about 1 minute, then pour in 1 cup water, or enough water to cover the rice. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan with the lid and cook for about 4-5 minutes in order to par-cook the rice.
Once par-cooked, the water should be almost absorbed. If it’s totally absorbed, add 2 tablespoons water and stir gently. Cover the pan with foil firmly around the edges, cover tightly with the lid, reduce the heat to low, and let it cook in its own steam for about 10-12 minutes until the rice is cooked through and all the water has been absorbed. Serve with Greek yogurt.