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Berry pilaf
Vegetarian Living

Berry pilaf

Posted Wednesday, 13 May 2015   |   1225 views   |   Food & Drink   |   Comments (0) The Britannia & Company Restaurant in Bombay, where this pilaf is served, has been in existence since 1923. It is a Bombay (now Mumbai) landmark.

The original owner, a Zoroastrian called Rashid Kohinoor, came from Iran and started out serving Iranian dishes. His son, Boman, married a Parsi, an Indian Zoroastrian, and she added many local Parsi dishes to the menu. A third generation heads the kitchen today.

It was Boman, 90 years old, who took us to our seats and offered us a fresh lime soda on a very hot day. He jokes around and is full of stories. I ask him for the berry pilaf recipe. He laughs and tells us that the British ambassador (he probably meant the American ambassador) once asked him for the same recipe and he answered: ‘If you give me the recipe for Coca-Cola, I will hand over the recipe for berry pilaf!’

I never did get the Persian–Indian recipe from him, so I have created my own version. The berry used here is the tiny Iranian barberry or zareshk, sold by Indian and Persian grocers. If you cannot find it, use dried cranberries. The final flavours are sweet and sour.
Serves 6 | Prep 10 mins soaking
Cook 40 mins

475ml measure of best quality basmati rice from India
1 tsp saffron threads
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp very hot milk
about 30g barberries or dried cranberries
3 tbsp olive or peanut oil
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half lengthways, then into fi ne half-rings
1 1/2 tbsp salt
5 cardamom pods
4cm cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
3 cloves
3 tbsp melted butter
1.  Wash the rice in several changes of water. Put in a bowl, cover generously with water and set aside to soak for 3 hours.

2. Combine the saffron and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a mortar and pound together so you have a powder. Put in a small bowl. Add the hot milk, stir, then set aside for 3 hours.

3. Rinse the berries a few times and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

4. Put the oil in a medium frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until it starts to brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until it is reddish-brown. Add the drained berries and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir once or twice, then remove from the heat.

5. Preheat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3.

6. Bring about 2.5 litres water to a rolling boil. Add the salt, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf and cloves. Stir once and add the rice. Let it cook in the boiling water for about 5 1/2 minutes, or until it is three-quarters cooked but still has a thin, hard core. Drain in a colander.

7. Working quickly now, spread 1 tablespoon of the melted butter in a medium ovenproof pan. Spread half the rice over it. Spread another tablespoon of the butter, plus half the saffron mixture and half the onion-berry mixture and some of its oil on top of the rice. Spread the remaining rice on top of the first layer. Pour the remaining tablespoon of butter over it, followed by the remaining saffron mixture and onion-berry mixture. Cover tightly with foil and a lid and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

8. Remove and let the pan sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Toss the rice gently to mix before serving.

PER SERVING
421 cals, fat 16.5g, sat fat 7g, carbs 68g, sugars 15.5g, protein 5g, salt 3.5g, fibre 0.5g

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