“I’ll never forget the first time I bit into a cardamom in one of my dad’s curries – it was quite the shock to an eight-year old mouth”Simon Hopkinson, in Food And Travel Magazine
This dish represents a triumph for me. For decades the Chief Taster has been in charge of rice. He, and the rest of the family, were of the firm opinion that he was the rice expert, and I was better off in the soups and salads department. But I’ve now made this a few times, and the last time the CT commented, “I really like the way you do rice these days”.
This makes a good, simple lunch for two. The Indian spices, in particular the cardamom, give it an exotic perfume, the asparagus is perfect for spring, and the crispy shallots and cashews give it texture. Even better, what does work wonderfully well is using red onion with pistachios. The green of the whole green pistachos complements the red of the onion; and the green pea-sized pistachios provide a sort of visual witticism with the peas.
It makes an interesting, and different, lunch. Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients – most are spices which you either have, or do not have to hand. If you don’t have them, just leave them out. But the cardamom pods give a wonderful fragrance – try to include those.
If you have any leftover chicken it becomes a substantial and excellent dinner.
Very conveniently this dish heats up well in a large frying pan with butter. Reheat the asparagus separately in the oven.
Outside the asparagus season you could substitute a hard-fried, just-blistered green pepper; or quick-boiled green beans.
Fluffy, exotic mixed rice for an Indian spring
Serves – 2
- 3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with some textured salt
- 2 banana shallots, or one small red onion
- 1 tsp flour – just enough to dredge the shallot, don’t use more than you need
- 80g/⅔ cup roughly chopped cashews or whole pistachios
- 1 tsp each of cumin and fennel seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 5 green cardamom pods
- Butter for frying
- Olive oil, also for frying
- 130g/1 cup frozen peas
- About 2 inches/5 cm/35g/1 oz of mild chorizo, cut into small dice
- 125g asparagus tips
- 150g/¾ cup basmati rice
- 360 ml/1½ cups chicken stock (made with one stock cube)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Take the frozen peas out of the freezer.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Add a knob of butter to a medium-sized saucepan, add the garlic. Crush the seeds (cumin, fennel, and the seeds in the cardamom pods) in a pestle and mortar, and add them.
- Add the rice, and stir to coat with the butter. After a minute or two, add the stock. Add the turmeric (taking care not to get it on your clothes). Snap the cinnamon stick in two and add it in.
- Cover the saucepan, and put in the oven for 15 minutes. Take out and keep warm.
- Cut the chorizo into small dice, and fry in a small pan. Fish out the chorizo with a slotted spoon and add to the peas, keeping both warm.
- Peel and slice the red onion or shallots finely, divide in two. Dredge with a little sieved flour. Add a little olive oil to the chorizo fat in the saucepan and get it good and hot. Add the red onion or shallots, get them crispy, add the pistachios or cashews, and turn down the heat.
- Set the whole lot aside to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus. When the rice is done, increase the oven temperature to 210°C. Roast the asparagus with some olive oil for 8-10 minutes – check it is done.
- To serve, mix everything, except half the crispy nut mix and the asparagus, together. Serve out onto plates. Garnish with the asparagus and the crispy mix.