Neelam’s Festive Rice Pilaf


by: Chef Cracks

Neelam Batra, the author of the prize-winning book 1,000 Indian Recipes, generously shared this recipe with me. It is a glorious one-pot rice dish loaded with nuts, dried fruits, and vegetables. Neelam suggests serving it with yogurt to which minced fresh ginger, mint, cilantro, and scallions have been added. Without it, the dish is vegan. A dry Pinot Gris from Alsace has enough fruit to stand up to the spices.


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serves: 4-6

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

6 slices (quarter-size) peeled fresh ginger

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

1-3 fresh serrano chiles (to taste, coarsely chopped)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup shelled raw almonds, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup shelled raw pistachios

1/4 cup each raisins, dried cranberries, and dried blueberries

1 stick (2 inch) cinnamon

5-6 black cardamom pods (crushed lightly to break the skin)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 cups finely chopped fresh vegetables (such as carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers of mixed colors, summer squashes)

1/2 cup frozen peas

sea salt

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Nutrition Facts
Neelam’s Festive Rice Pilaf

Servings Per Recipe: 4

Amount per Serving

Calories: 710

  • Total Fat: 26.8 g
  •     Saturated Fat: 10.4 g
  •     Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 166.3 mg
  • Total Carbs: 106.3 g
  •     Dietary Fiber: 13 g
  •     Sugars: 13.7 g
  • Protein: 17.4 g

how is this calculated?

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1.  Wash the rice in 3 or 4 changes of water or until the water runs almost clear. Then soak the rice in 2 3/4 cups water for about 30 minutes. Using a small spice grinder or food processor, make a fine paste from the ginger, garlic, and serrano chiles.

2.  Heat a teaspoon of the oil in a 3-quart saucepan or a skillet large enough to hold the rice. Add the almonds and pistachios and cook over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant and a few shades darker, about 1 minute. Add the dried fruits and cook for another minute. Set aside.

3.  Heat the remaining oil in the same pan. Add the cinnamon and cardamom and stir over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds—they should sizzle on contact with the hot oil—and the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger-garlic paste and turmeric, then add the vegetables and the peas and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.

4.  Pour in the rice and its soaking water, add 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pan (partially at first until the foam subsides, then snugly), and cook until the rice is done, 10 to 15 minutes. Do not stir the rice while it is cooking.

5.  Remove from the heat and lightly fork in the reserved nuts and fruits. Cover the pan and allow the rice to rest for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle the garam masala on top, and serve.

Cooks' note:
While the rice is snaking, gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients, make the chile paste, and cook the nuts and dried fruits. Then bring everything together.

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