A good pilaf is all about light but fragrant spicing and gently methodical cooking of the rice. As best you can, the aim is to try and get the grains of rice fluffy and well separated. Placing a tea towel under the lid helps to absorb condensation in the pan, which in turn helps the grains separate.
- 200g brown basmati rice
- 1 onion
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 large or 2 small parsnips
- 2 garlic cloves
- olive oil
- 200g portobello mushrooms (any mushrooms will work)
- 1 orange
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp ras el hanout
- 100g spring greens
- 30g parsley
- 40g walnuts
- 40g dried cranberries
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 200°/Gas Mark 6. Put a kettle of water on to boil. Rinse the rice under cold running water in a sieve. Place the rice in the pan with a good pinch of salt, cover with boiling water, return to the boil and simmer for 6 minutes. Peel and finely slice the onion.
- Cut the celery into fine ½ cm dice. Peel the parsnips and chop into fine ½ cm dice. Peel and chop one of the garlic cloves. Drain the rice well, keep to one side and give the pan a quick clean. Put the pan back on the heat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion, celery and parsnips, season them lightly with salt and pepper. Fry them gently for 10 minutes, until starting to soften.
- While the onion cooks, clean the mushrooms with damp kitchen paper or a cloth. Place the mushrooms in the roasting tin, toss them in some oil and season well. Add a dash of water to the tray and cover tightly with foil. Pop into the oven for 25 minutes to bake, removing the foil for the final 10 minutes to let them colour. Pull 3 long strips of zest from the orange with a peeler. Add the zest to the onion along with the bay leaf and garlic.
- Fry for a further 2 minutes before adding the ras el hanout. Cook lightly for 1 more minute. Tip 75ml (5 tablespoons) of water into the pan and add the rice. Gently turn it through the onion, trying not to compress it too much. Gently level it out and press 8 holes into the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon. Drape the tea towel over the top of the pan and pop the lid on, fold the edges up and over the lid so they don’t catch.
- Cook on a very low heat for 10 minutes. While the rice cooks, wash the spring greens, strip away the tough central stalks and finely shred the leaves. Wash the parsley, shake it dry, pick the leaves off and finely chop them.
- Peel the remaining garlic clove and finely chop or crush it. Finely chop the walnuts. Mix the garlic, parsley and walnuts together and add enough olive oil to give you a pesto consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Add the spring greens on top of the rice. Replace the lid and cook for 5 minutes, until the rice is tender and fluffy and the greens wilted. Coarsely chop the cranberries and add them to the pilaf, stirring them through with the cooked greens.
- Check the seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper and a squeeze or two of orange juice to your taste. Cut the baked mushrooms into chunky slices and serve them on top of the pilaf. Spoon over the walnut pesto.