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Allen Diwan's Pilau Rice

Margerita Pulè writes up Allen Diwan’s simple and quick method for Pilau Rice


 
Allen Diwan's Pilau Rice

Information

Main Ingredient Rice
Preparation Time Up to 15 mins: Quick
Cooking Time Less than 30 mins
Course Rice
Recipe Serves 2
Recipe Type Contemporary Indian
Margerita Pulè writes up Allen Diwan’s simple and quick Pilau Rice recipe.
Method

I once spent six months or so in the small town of Broome in Western Australia. I worked in a Thai restaurant called Noodle Fish, owned and run by and extremely eccentric and moody man by the name of Mitch. As the season went on, and the town became hotter and more humid and the customers lessened, Mitch’s erratic behaviour increased. One night he heard that a restaurant down the road was hosting an offal evening (I’m glad I didn’t work there). He took this as a personal challenge and created a dish of spicy red prawn heads for us to try. On one occasion, he decided the spring rolls weren’t being rolled to his liking and he started roaring and flinging them at the poor girl making them. Needless to say, she quit that night.


Despite Mitch’s madness and moodiness, I learnt and tasted a lot at his restaurant; I learnt about how essential coriander and basil are to Thai cooking; I tasted paw-paw salads that were exquisite in their dried-shrimp-flake saltiness; I learnt to sharpen a knife and test it for sharpness, so it’s just how the chef likes it.


Above all, I learned about rice; about how its texture and stickiness have to be just right for the food it’s accompanying; Thai rice is short-grained and sticky perfect so it can soak up the sauce of a soupy green curry, just like bread soaks up sauce in Europe. The first job of every Noodle Fish shift was to get the rice on: first wash the rice over and over again until the water runs clear. Then put it in the rice-cooker with two-and-a-half times of water and don’t touch until it’s cooked. When it’s done, go around the whole perimeter with a flat paddle, and sort of fold it in towards the middle, to fluff up the rice a little bit without mashing it. To plate, dip a small dish in water, fill it with rice and turn it out onto the dish to make a sort of rice sand-castle.


Then, believe it or not, I worked for a while in a sort of mini sushi factory in Sydney, getting up before dawn to make the California Rolls that Sydney’s office workers would eat for lunch. The rice was cooked up, then folded with sushi vinegar and sugar in front of a fan, before fulfilling its destiny in a Maki Roll. Hundred of sushi boxes made before the sun had even showed its face; needless to say I didn’t work there for very long.


Then, a whole different type of rice altogether; I only watched and never touched the huge vat of basmati rice in the Indian restaurant where I worked; lots of spices thrown in, and a huge slab of Irish butter on top. Lastly, a large spoon of red food colouring was poured into the centre to give the final Pilau Rice its characteristic flecks of red grains. One of the dishes that Allen Diwan taught us at the Mona’s Meals Contemporary Indian Workshop was Pilau Rice, perfectly fluffy but without the food colouring.


Method


Whole spices – half a stick of cinnamon, a star anise, some cloves and half a nutmeg


1 teaspoon cumin


1 cup basmati rice, soaked in cold water


2 cups water


A knob of butter


Tea-towel


 


On a high heat, fry the whole spices and the cumin. Add the rice, which has been pre-soaked for about twenty minutes because you were clever enough to put it in a bowl of water twenty minutes ago. Add enough water to go over the rice by about a centimetre. Keep it on a high heat until the water has boiled off to the level of the rice and bubbles are forming on the surface. Turn down the heat, add a knob of butter and lay a wet tea-towel on top of the rice, inside the pan. Put the lid on the pan. Leave it for only about five more minutes; the water should all be gone and the rice cooked.

 

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