Basmati pilaf

Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Serves 6
Basmati pilaf
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So far, I’ve made only seven dishes from “1,000 Indian Recipes” by Neelam Batra (Wiley Publishing, $35). But these have turned out so well, I am happy that 993 remain. In this case, quantity and quality are not separate issues.

Yet this book might be passed over because it contains no photographs and looks rather bland. That would be a shame because photos can’t capture the sensuous experience of cooking an Indian meal. The tantalizing scent that arises as spices are sauteed, the color of the vegetables as they are chopped and cooked and the aroma of a simmering curry are as pleasurable as consuming the food when it’s done.

Batra, who lives in Santa Monica and teaches Indian cooking, draws on recipes from friends in India and the U.S. The Santa Monica farmers market also provides inspiration.

Quite a few of the recipes are vegetarian. But Batra includes meat and seafood too -- not just tandoori chicken -- but concepts such as roast turkey with Indian seasonings, pot-roasted lamb with almonds and poppy seeds and a rack of baby lamb seasoned with balsamic vinegar and rosemary along with fenugreek leaves, ginger and chiles.

The recipes are not difficult, but they require a full range of Indian seasonings. A few may be too exotic for dabblers -- lemonade flavored with roasted cumin seeds, black salt and black pepper isn’t for everyone. Others, such as rice pilaf with broccoli, should please many tastes. Batra’s teaching notes are informative and interesting. Maps of India and a glossary supplement the explanations.


Soak rice in the water 30 minutes.


Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, stirring, 30 seconds. Add the onions and cook until golden. Sprinkle with sugar, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are dark brown, 20 minutes. Remove half the onions, drain on paper towels and reserve.


Add the rice, its water and salt to the pan; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover partially until the foam subsides, then cover snugly and cook until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Let rice rest 5 minutes.


Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan; add the cumin and mustard seeds. Lower heat; cover until the spluttering subsides. Add the broccoli, stir 2 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick from the rice; transfer the rice to a platter and mix in the broccoli. Top with the reserved onions.

Ghee and black mustard seeds are sold in Indian stores.