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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Mishti Pulao: Bengali Sweet Pilaf

Bangali'r Mishti Pulao which can be roughly translated into Bengali Cuisine's Sweet Pilaf is a delightful dish. It reminds us Bengalis of leisurely lip-smacking Sunday lunches. When I was young, Sunday lunches used to be special. Everything from global issues to neighborhood's 'friendly' football match used to get discussed with gusto. Long before Fried Rice and Chili Chicken took over, Sunday lunches  would mostly be plain rice and mutton or chicken curry. On very special Sundays  there would be Mishti Pulao along with Mutton Curry. Now Sundays are all about preparing for the busy week ahead. 
Mishti Pulao is also served at Pujas as a part of the Bhog, along with Khichdi, Mixed Vegetable (Labda), Luchi & Payesh.
Mishti Pulao is traditionally made with the aromatic 'Gobindo Bhog Rice' but since it is not available here I used Basmati Rice.


Ingredients:
  • Basmati Rice - 1 Cup
  • Water - 1 3/4 cups
  • Ghee - 1tbs + 1 tsp (if required)
  • Cashew Nuts - a handful 
  • Raisins: a handful
  • Ginger - 1 tsp, grated
  • Bay Leaves - 2 small or 1 big
  • Whole Garam Masala consiting of: Cinnamon - 1 inch, Green Cardamom - 4 pods, split and Cloves - 4
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Nutmeg Powder - a fat pinch
  • Sugar - 1 tsp (or a little more)
  • Salt to taste

For the yellow color popularly saffron is used. But I had seen my Ma use turmeric many a times to get that beautiful pale yellow hue whenever she did not have saffron on hand. Saffron is a very expensive spice and was not always available. She used to wash the rice, make sure all the water has drained, coat the still-damp rice with turmeric and let the rice dry overnight. Too many steps for my comfort. I wash the rice and using a strainer let all the water drain for at least 20 minutes. I add the turmeric direct to the ghee.
In a pan, heat ghee and fry the cashews and raisins till the cashews turn lightly golden brown and the raisins plump up. Using a slotted spoon fish these out and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. To the same pan (you can add a little bit more ghee if you want) add the 'Whole Garam Masala', bay leaves and and fry till fragrant. Now sprinkle the turmeric powder and fry it for just a few seconds till the raw smell is gone. Add the rice to it and fry, stirring gently till all the grains get coated with the ghee and turns yellow. Add the grated ginger, nutmeg powder, fried cashews, fried raisins, salt and sugar. Stir to incorporate. Pour in the warm water, cover and cook till done. Make sure to fluff the rice gently using a fork once while cooking. 
I have served Mishti Pulao with Mutton Curry, Chicken Curry, Mixed Vegetables, Scrambled Eggs, Chingri (Shrimp) Malai Curry or just a little bit of pickle. It adds a grand touch to the simplest of meals.

I am sending this recipe to Kolkata Food Bloggers 

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