December 14, 2011

Pressured-cooked Chicken Pulao or Pilaf with Raita and Pickles — easy, hearty, satisfying meal

Pin It
Despite the chill in the air, the sun is bright and warm. As I look past the French window in our dining room, I cannot help but admire the sight of these sporadic visitors—parrots—squawking around as if they are celebrating the season. I see them everywhere in the afternoons: in our garden, under the roof tiles, or just fleeting about. Then there are these small birds—I’m no ornithologist and I’m not exactly sure, but I think they are sparrows—perched on my frangipani tree with their cheep and chirrup notes that sound like a happy melody. I could let my whole day slip away peacefully, finding inspiration just about anywhere I look, enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Sometimes it is the wonder of a bright blue winter sky studded with clouds—mind you, clouds are not a regular sight in Qatar. Or, the sudden downpour of rain... fresh blooms in the garden... fallen leaves fluttering in the wind... Sights that we often take for granted, or go unnoticed when we don’t have the time. I revel in the beauty of these little, little scenes before me.

It inspires me, lifts my spirit and makes me live in the present.

It usually takes me a fair amount of time to collect my thoughts before I start to punch something up. But times like this when the adrenaline is flowing, it banishes all the grimness and things just happen without much effort. You know what I mean?

This pilaf has been something I’ve been wanting to share ever since my friend and schoolmate Latha requested for the recipe a couple of weeks back when I shared a picture on my facebook page. At least it is not sitting on the back burner like the biryani recipe request by my dear friend and ex-colleague Hend. For some reason, there never seem to be a good enough time to share my biryani recipe though it’s one of the first recipes I had in my draft when I started blogging. If you happen to be reading this, I'm sorry Hend, but I'll get to it sooner than later!
Rice is a staple in South Asia. Whether it is steamed rice served with a curry, or rice dressed up with spices and other ingredients for a flavorful one-pot meal like the classic biryani or pulao (pilaf or pilau). There are many variations of Indian pulao. Ideally, it is prepared by frying spices in a bit of fat to awaken flavors and then the rice grains are thrown in and stir- fried for a good few minutes to break down the starch before cooking. Bay leaf, star anise, cinnamon, clove and cardamom all add fantastic taste and aroma to the pilaf. Put it all together—spices, rice, vegetables, meat and broth—in a big pot, or pressure cooker in this case, and you have a fragrant, comforting meal in a snap. Easy to cook and delicious to enjoy; even easier to freeze and reheat later!

Long grain, fragrant basmati rice is used to prepare rice-based dishes like biryani, ghee rice and pulao. Personally, I like to use these extra-long grained rice cooked to the right tenderness: chewy but not sticky. There’s nothing unappetizing like mushed up rice.

Pressure cooker is a kitchen staple in our homes back in Kerala. It makes cooking so much easier and healthier. Not to mention, it’s energy efficient and time saving too. However, if you don’t own a pressure cooker, you can adapt this recipe for closed pan cooking using a large skillet or saucepan. Just adjust the water ratio and cooking time in this case. Generally, a 2:1 ratio is followed for closed pan cooking: 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, but follow the instructions on your rice package for correct measure and cooking time. You may also want to check out my ghee rice recipe for a better understanding of cooking basmati in a closed pan, if you like.

With winter and the holiday season here, this seemed a better time than any to share my pilaf recipe. Chunks of vegetables, sausage and rice are poached in veg broth in the pressure cooker and cooked in merely 3 minutes. The rice is infused with the heady flavors of spices and all other ingredients. With raita on the side, this makes an excellent lazy weekend lunch or dinner. Or take it you your holiday potluck party and have fun!
You can make this a totally vegetarian meal by adding a delightful variety of vegetables, or a non-vegetarian meal by throwing in some meat—I used chicken sausage because it was so much easier. You can add or substitute any number of fresh, colorful veggies—carrot, peas, bean, potato, mushroom and baby corn will do particularly well. Just be careful not to use any thing that may turn mushy. For a milder dish, reduce the number of chilies. Vegans can eliminate the meat and substitute vegetable oil for butter.

Pressure-cooked Chicken Pulao or Pilaf
Serves 6-8

3 cups basmati rice (I used Indus Valley extra long grain basmati)
3 ½ cups water
1 cube vegetable stock (I used Maggi)
1 star anise
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods
2 2” cinnamon sticks
1 cup onion, finely sliced
16 baby carrots, halved or quartered lengthwise depending on size
1/3 cup green peas, fresh shelled or frozen (I used frozen)
16 green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon green chili, stemmed and thinly sliced, or to taste
3 chicken sausage, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
4 tablespoon butter-oil mixture (2:2 ratio)
salt, to taste
fried onion, to serve

Rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water runs clear—this will also remove excess starch. Leave to soak in enough cold water for a minimum of 30 minutes, then drain in a colander.

Dissolve 1 cube vegetable stock in 3 ½ cups of water to make the vegetable broth.

Meanwhile, heat oil and butter mixture over low heat in a large pressure cooker (I used 6.5 liter cooker). Tip in star anise, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and green cardamoms, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onions and sauté over medium-low heat with a bit of salt, stirring often, until onions are softened but not brown, about 15 minutes. Now tip in the ginger-garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the peas, carrot, beans and sausage and stir-fry for 3 minutes.

Add the rice and stir well until all the grains are evenly coated with the spice infused fat—take care not to break up the grains. Continue cooking and stirring for a good 3 minutes until just translucent around the edges. The rice will smell pleasantly toasted at this stage. Pour in broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Taste and adjust salt as needed (I used just ½ teaspoon salt as the stock is high on salt). Stir to combine.

Close cooker and bring to full pressure on high heat (the cooker whistles when it reaches this stage). Then reduce heat and cook for another 3 minutes. Take off heat and allow to cool naturally.

Once cool, open lid and let the rice sit for a 2-3 minutes to lose steam and the wet texture, then gently fluff up with a fork. Transfer to a large serving dish and garnish with fried onions, if you like. To fancy up, I cut a few star shaped carrots using a cookie cutter and threw it on top.

Serve on its own, or with raita and my radish and cucumber pickle on the side. Any leftover will stay in the refrigerator and just gets better. It freezes magnificently too; freeze for an easy meal later and reheat in the microwave.

Radish and Cucumber Pickle
This’s a quick vinegar pickle and you can make it using any firm vegetables.


5-6 small radish, finely sliced
5 firm cherry tomatoes, finely sliced
1 cucumber, finely sliced
2 tablespoon vinegar
3 tablespoon water
salt, to taste


Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and season to taste. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Raita
This is slightly different from the raita recipe I shared on my ghee rice post. Here yogurt is seasoned with dry roasted cumin and pepper.

Serves 4-5

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
5 black peppercorns
¾ cup yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 green chili, chopped
½ small onion, chopped
1 small tomato, deseeded and chopped
salt, to taste


Place yogurt in a bowl and beat in smooth with a fork. Season to taste.

Preheat a small pan over medium-high heat. Add cumin and peppercorns and stir roast for 1 minute or until the spices release their aroma. Remove pan from heat and leave to cool. Crush the dry roasted spices in a mortar and pestle and stir into the yogurt.

Thrown in the diced cucumber, onion, tomato and chili, and mix well.
My favorite way to enjoy this comfort food? Hmm, cozying up on the couch with a big mug of pilaf and a good movie—ideally a romantic comedy like Ugly Truth, Pretty Woman, The Proposal… er, it’s quite a long list and I know you have better things to do than read my favorites.

So until next time, I hope you have fun and enjoy this lovely holiday season!


  1. Assalam Alaikum sweet Nashi,
    I Love the post as usual :) rice in pressure cooker is a new thing for me..really! but seems interesting so i will try definitely! wish you a happy season! the birds(sparrows)are so cute! close like Love Birds..haha..shooo shweet..thanks for sharing awesome pics!

  2. OMG! this is a beautiful post with a wonderful recipe....luv your pics and presentation dear...

    SYF&HWS - Cook With SPICES" Series - CARDAMOM (Dec 5th to Jan 5th)
    100 Friends/Followers & GIVEAWAY

  3. Lovely menu! Everything looks so delicious and tempting.

  4. Wonderful post ! Thanks for sharing those lovely pictures :)

  5. mmmm.... mind blowing simply, no words to describe Nash. Your pics make me drool always.

  6. Lovely pics as usual,Nash!You have to tell me how you design all these so beautifully and immaculately,seriously.Pilaf and raita is my go to dish when pressed for time,specially during the weekends.

  7. Looks absolutely incredible and prefect..

  8. Pilaf looks absolutely droolworthy. Amazing clicks.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  9. lovely post all the clicks...Yummy pulav

  10. That's some jaldi rice..Definitely bookmarked and useful for my hectic days..! :)

  11. And how how how on earth did you manage to click such wonderful pics of the parrot??

  12. Nash darling !!!! superb pics kto..kandittum kandittum mathiyakunnilla..

  13. Awesome pics and true visual treat....

  14. Nice meaningful post..The pictures talk and sing..It's classic.

  15. I love this post with those cute birds, particularly the parrot, awesome recipe with beautiful pictures.

  16. very satisfying meal indeed. love the raita

  17. What a beautiful post dear,great job..stunning pics and satisfying meal...beautiful

  18. I just love some (actually most all) of your pictures...I like that pickle recipe, should try that sometime.

  19. beautiful post, love the recipes and excellent clicks..kudos to your hardwork in presenting each recipe and the photography..:)

  20. Delicious and drool-worthy pulao! We love it so much and have it all winter long!!!

  21. Lovely post with beautiful pictures.

  22. post, awesome pictures..thank u so much for sharing this...loved your pilaf too :)

    Spicy Treats
    Ongoing Event : Bake Fest # 2
    Do participate in My 300th Post Giveaway

  23. A lovely post! I love the tranquil of your surrounding!

  24. Everything looks so good here.

  25. Must try your Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Raita, I love the taste of cumin.

  26. Nashi...i just loved what you wrote...amazed to see those picture of birds...i could find only Doves over here in Qatar..

    And all those clicks were just superb... loved ur recipe as well..

    good one dear :)

  27. Beautiful birds!

    Love the pilaf recipe. Perfect for the festive season!

  28. beautiful pictures Nashira.......kandittu kothi varunnu......

  29. Nashira, i had been keeping away from the computer the last couple of months and i know what i have missed. I cannot tell you enough how much i love your photos and styling, loved everything and especially that heart shaped carrot in the raita cup. Pilafs and biryanis are my favourite food of all time, something i would never refuse even on a full stomach. Pilaf in a mug?!, new to me but sure sounds comforting :)

  30. Your photos speak millions! Beautiful captures and that chicken pulao is too tempting! :)

  31. The recipe is perfect ..... I luv one pot meals ! I am sure you would have stirred it out in a jiffy. Must appreciate your efforts towards making the presentation and the clicks. I bet you would have spent a lot of time for those ..... and it's worth the effort !! Luv every inch of your clicks as much as I luv the recipes.

  32. woohoo gal, with all the poetic beauty around you , I would rather live in a dreamy mirage than live in the present :P ; the platter looks festive,fresh,breezy,homey and sensuous (all-in-one)

  33. splendid and breathtaking pics! that's a nice one-pot meal for busy weekdays!

  34. Once again Pulav never looked better before! Lovely shots :)
    I am a great fan of one pot rice dishes in winter. Comforting and filling!

  35. Such attention to detail, Nash...Incredible. I learn so much from coming to your space.
    I am curious to know what is in that metallic bottle.

    The chicken pulao looks delish and so do rest of the accompaniments.
    I completely understand what you mean by just revel at the transformation around us these days.

  36. veendum veendum kothipikkuvanalleeee...beautiful clicks and pulav dear..perfect.

  37. woman, I can't focus on the recipe cause the photos are so excruciatingly tempting. *EYESGLUEDTOSCREEN*

  38. Aww, thank you all for your lovely feedback. You made my day!

    Salam, Kadeeja. Sweetie, you should try this in the pressure cooker. It’s so easy!

    Thanks Anu, Ambreen, Raks, Zareena. You are so sweet!

    Aw Farwin, thanks hon. This’s just one of those things that gives me the thrills.... I just have trouble stopping when I’m in such a mood :)

    Divya, Deepa, Aarthi: Thank you lovelies!

    Gayathri, like I said, I see these parrots—lots of them—flying around in our compound in the afternoons. It’s a lovely sight especially since I’ve seen them caged most of my life :)

    Thanks so much sweet, sweet Sarah! :)

    Nisa, Melange, Ayeesha, Sayantani, Suja, Manju, Shobha, Kiran, Pavithra, Sangee, Anh, Anthony: Your comments are really appreciated, thank you!

    Sylvie, I’m pleased you like the raita. It’d make a wonderful side to any meal.

    Manjoo, I’m fascinated to see them too.. :)

    Thank you Indu and Ganga!

    Aww, thanks La. You are so generous with your words. You know, it’s comforting to cuddle the mug and nibble on the rice, while watching a movie :)

    Love2cook, thanks much for your sweet words :)

    Satrupa, this’s just the way I like. I don’t fancy spending too much time in the kitchen cooking. But styling and taking photos, I don’t mind at all! :)

    Thanks Rumana!

    Priay, you are a sweetheart! Thanks for the lovely words and for following me on fb & twitter. Sweet of you!

    Sarah, oh yea, it’s a perfet one-pot for busy weekends :)

    Thank you sweet Chinmayie!

    Ani, that’s a bottle of Freez--carbonated drink in ice lemon flavor. And what you actually see here is one of their limited edition bottles. Yea, we have a great understanding and that’s why I enjoy talking to you so much!

    Oh Tina, thanks dear!

  39. Aw Arva, thanks sweetness! Big hugs!

  40. Parrots look beautiful!Just love the way you have cut carrots in star and heart shapes,also that your writing touches so many:
    "You can make this a totally vegetarian meal by adding a delightful variety of vegetables, or a non-vegetarian meal by throwing in some meat—I used chicken sausage because it was so much easier."
    "Vegans can eliminate the meat and substitute vegetable oil for butter."
    Noting down/bookmarking this,thank you for sharing!:-)

  41. Wonderful, yummy, delicious and tempting pulav. Very beautiful presentation. Parrot looks very cute.

  42. Hello Nashira
    Your Pilaf looks lovely and the photographs are pure art.


  43. Beautyfull post and pictures Nash! Girl you are always a great inspiration and I am looking up at you, I mean it! I have noted down your pulav recipe, I love the touche of different spices with chicken sausage slices. Nice for a change. Rice is pretty much a every day side dish, new styles are always welcome! thanks for sharing a piece of your life. =)

  44. Beautiful recipes and clicks! The pulao, pickle and raita look amazing and so festive.



  45. Okayy.... And againn you created a masterpiece!!!!! Wow is the word!!

  46. Wow, a refreshing meal. would love to have a plate of that. We have completed one year of blogging. I wish to thank you for your support and words of encouragement, Nash. You have been a sure motivator. Thanx

  47. I had chicken pulao for dinner last night... Just love them so much!
    And hey lovely pictures you have there.. Hope you could share some of your photography tips and tricks too:)

  48. Nashee, A Fabulous Blog Award is waiting for you at my space. I will be happy if you could drop in and collect it :)

  49. Delicious, yummy and tempting dish. Wonderful presentation.

  50. too good. lovely presentation :)

  51. Ah, yes! The pressure cooker, aka the most genius creation of our day (ok maybe that's exaggerating but I just adore pressure-cooked dishes).

    Your raita looks outstanding, too.

  52. Everything looks so beautiful here. It's just so hard to take my eyes off the pictures. Great recipe too.. The cucumber radish pickle is too good...

  53. Beautiful recipes and pictures. Lovely food styling as usual!

  54. delicious looking colourful meal

  55. Your pictures are gorgeous. Merry Christmas!

  56. Hey really do know how to make me salivate with goodies and savouries..u know what, you should seriously come visit me so we could cook and bake together! Hope you have a wonderful holiday season, merrily and happily, and an astounding new year ahead for you and family..lots of luv xx

  57. Lovely post, super clicks n delicious meal.

  58. Hi, I’m Sonia, italian food blogger (and your 'fan') sorry for my bad english, I want tell you that I have included the link of this recipe (which I liked very much) in the section on my blog dedicated to “10 ways to make” (“10 Modi di Fare”) pilaf.
    The post is ‘Riso pilaf’ I hope not to bother you, have a nice day.

    1. Thanks Sonia! Thank you for including my pilaf recipe and letting me know. You too have a good day!


A million thank you's for stopping by, taking the time to connect, and coming back to visit again. I genuinely appreciate each of your kind thoughts, lovely words, love and support. Happy, happy to hear from you, and hope to see you again!

♥ Nashi