Easy Spiced Basmati Pilaf

[Photograph: Denise D'silva Sankhe]

About the author: Denise Dsilva Sankhe is a writer & creative director by profession. But that's only when she isn't eating her way across India. She recreates this delicious cuisine in her Mumbai home, which she shares with her husband, who has long since given up his determination to have salads for dinner.

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Easy Spiced Basmati Pilaf

About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 2
Active time:5 minutes
Total time:25 minutes
Special equipment:Heavy-bottomed [lidded] saucepan
This recipe appears in: Beyond Curry: Easy Spiced Basmati Pilaf


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup sliced red onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 inch stick of cinnamon, broken roughly
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 1/2 cups Basmati rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 cups water (the level of water should be an inch above the rice level)


  1. 1

    Heat oil in a Heavy-bottomed [lidded] saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden brown and soft, about 8 minutes. Add the sugar just when the onions start to caramelize to give the oil a nice brown. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and star anise and keep stirring until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

  2. 2

    Add the fennel seeds and stir for 1 minute. Add the rice and stir carefully so that the rice doesn't stick to the pan. The oil will be tinged brown with the onions and this will coat the rice as you stir it. Stir for 1 minute. Add a pinch of salt and water and stir once. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover, and cook until the rice absorbs all the water, about 20 minutes. Serve.


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