Pilau Rice

Not sure how “authentic” this Pilau Rice is but it works pretty well. Based on a BBC recipe.
If you own a microwave this is great to do a couple of hours in advance and microwave to reheat.
The pilau rice really is best if it sits warm for 20-30 minutes after initial cooking to allow the flavours to mingle and the grains to be fully rehydrated.


  • 450g basmati rice (please don’t use “easy cook” rice)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • large knob butter, plus extra to serve
  • 4 cardamom pods, cracked to allow the flavour of the seeds to escape
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • decent pinch saffron threads
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 600ml vegetable stock or water (I’ve used water and it is fine)
  • salt


  1. To make sure you get lovely fluffy rice, wash it in several changes of cold water, then leave to soak for about 30 minutes in fresh cold water. If you don’t have time for this, place in a sieve and wash under the cold tap for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the onion in the butter for around 10-15 minutes until nicely softened but not browned. Add the spices, saffron and bay leaves and cook for a minute or so. The spices will give a fragrant flavour to the rice.
  3. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated in the butter before stirring in the stock or water and salt. Bring to the boil and then cover with a tight-fitting lid at the gentlest simmer you can manage.  Keep the heat down low and leave to cook for 10 minutes before turning off the heat. Don’t remove the lid; just leave the rice to continue cooking in the pan for about 5 minutes until you’re ready to serve. Or sit it to the side with the lid on until you are ready to reheat. (Reheating is most easily done in a microwave. I use a ceramic serving bowl and reheat in that dish, which I then use for serving.)
  4. The rice should have absorbed all the water and will just need fluffing up with a fork. Add a knob of cold butter before serving.

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