Basmati Rice with Raisins, Nuts & Peas

For Valentine’s Day this year, Judd and I opted to stay home and cook something lavish… something we would never make if it weren’t for this “holiday” (which is basically just an excuse to consume gluttonous amounts of chocolate and nosh). He suggested Indian food, which sent me on an immediate recipe hunt. Since we both seem to gravitate towards the Chicken Tikka Masala on any Indian menu, I felt that it was the clear choice for dinner. But you can’t just make Tikka Masala and call it a night… you gotta give that chicken a tasty side dish to cozy up to. I believe this basmati rice was the perfect Valentine to our chicken (which will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog post).

Years before I met Judd, I was having a relationship with a local Indian restuarant. No really… I would call to place my order, which was always the same and they would know immediately that it was me. I even had a delivery boy ask me once why I hadn’t ordered in awhile… was it because I was learning to cook for a husband? No joke… that is actually what he said, verbatim! Sadly, one day Star of India burned down and my relationship ended without anyone ever consulting me. I have explored many other Indian spots in town, but non seem to offer the amazing Masala Rice dish that I had come to love at Star of India. Filled with nuts, raisins and whole cardamom pods, the Masala Rice often out shined the main dish it was sitting next to on the plate.

So, when I came across this recipe, you can only imagine my delight. Having hints of my long forgotten favorite, this rice dish offered nostalgia with a splash of newness. The sautéed onions soaked up the spice mixture (cumin, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon) adding an additional layer of flavor. Rice cooked in heavy cream and water might seem odd, but the thick dairy plumped the rice grains and coated them with a glistening layer of fat that melted in your mouth. Top off all this goodness with saffron, almonds, golden raisins and frozen peas and I believe we have ourselves a winner.

Makes 6-8 servings

2 cup basmati rice
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions; thinly sliced
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
12 whole black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
6 whole cardamom pods (I used ground 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
4 cup water
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until golden, about 8 minutes. Add cumin, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon; sauté until onions are brown, about 4 minutes.

Add rice to spices and stir 2 minutes. Add 4 cups water, cream, salt and saffron. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover saucepan almost completely and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Add peas to rice. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Sprinkle with nuts and raisins.

*Note: this side dish has whole peppercorns, cardamom and cloves. They are not meant to be eaten, so discard them when serving the rice.

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