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fragrant pilau rice with nuts and wild rice

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

I've been making this pilau rice for years for all sorts of feasts. It's based on a recipe by Delia Smith, but with a few of my own quirks. It goes with so many things - I often have it with my slow-cooked lamb or vege curries. The addition of pistachio nuts and pine nuts makes it more Middle-Eastern than Indian in palate, but it goes beautifully with Indian curries too. You can leave out the currants if you wish - it will be beautiful regardless.

Serves 6


300mL volume/250g basmati rice or basmati and wild rice mix (I love the extra bite the wild rice provides)

5-6 green cardamom pods

1 ½ tsp cumin seeds (I probably add a little more)

1 level teaspoon coriander seeds

1 ½ Tbsp neutral oil - groundnut, sunflower oil, grapeseed etc

1 small onion or two shallots, finely chopped

1 cup mixed nuts and currants: I use - raw cashews, flaked/sliced almonds, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, with the currants making up about a fifth of the cup.

600mL water

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon sea salt


  1. Rinse the basmati rice a few times at least half an hour before cooking in a fine-meshed strainer to remove excess starch. (I have to admit I'm a bit lazy about this and often leave it out when I can't be bothered. Incidentally I didn't for the pilau pictured).

  2. Crush the cardamom pods and cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar (if you don't have one, just crush them by pushing a heavy bowl over them a few times on a wooden board. It's just to release the oils, but the cardamom pods do need to open).

  3. Turn on the kettle on to boil the water

  4. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, and then add the crushed seeds and pods and cook until they start releasing their beautiful aroma, moving them around a little. It takes about one minute.

  5. Add the oil, onion and nuts/currants and stir-fry everything until the nuts turn golden brown.

  6. Stir the basmati rice into the saucepan, turning over everything until all the grains of rice are coated with oil. Now pour in the boiling water and add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and salt. Stir once right away, then quickly cover and turn the heat down to its lowest setting. Cook for exactly 15 minutes without removing the lid or disturbing in any way.

  7. Remove from heat, take off the lid, and cover with a clean dish towel for 5 minutes. Empty the rice into a serving dish and top with the cinnamon stick. If you're using pistachios, look out for the cardamom pods! I love biting in to them but they might be a bit surprising for some people.

I often do a version of this for Mexican meals with just cumin seeds instead of all the nuts and spices listed. After it cooks, I toss through some chopped fresh coriander leaves. utterly beautiful, and nice in a burrito too!

Print Version:

Fragrant Pilau Rice - Print Version
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