I have decided to start trying more African dishes and the first country we’re heading to is Tanzania. I decided to start with an entry level dish: Pilau rice. It’s an Indian inspired spicy rice dish eaten often in Tanzanian homes. Because it was my first time to make it, it took a while, but for the experienced cook, it probably isn’t that taxing.
I obtained the recipe from Miriam Rose Kinunda at tasteoftanzania.com. Her website is soley for Tanzanian cooking. She also has videos for those who benefit from watching someone cook rather than just reading. I also watched her video for pilau just to make sure I was on the right track. The written recipe is here and the video is here.
The written recipe is for plain pilau, i.e with no meat or vegetables. The recipe in the video is for Christmas pilau which has raisins, and cashew nuts. I decided to follow the Christmas pilau recipe minus the raisins and nuts.If you want to keep things simple, try the plain pilau recipe first. The adjusted recipe I used is below:
- 1 cup Basmati rice (I only had Jasmine rice so I used that instead)
- 2 cups chopped chicken breast
- 2 tbsp olive/vegetable oil
- ½ cup Onions (finely chopped)
- ¼ cup green pepper
- 1 tbsp Crushed garlic
- 1 tbsp crushed ginger
- ½ tsp Saffron (can be replaced with ¼ tsp turmeric)
- 2 to 3 cups Boiling plain chicken broth or (chicken flavor cube mix in 2 cups of water)
- ¼ – ½ cup Coconut milk (canned)
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Crushed Coriander
- Vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp pilau masala (ingredients below)
Pilau Masala ingredients
- 1½ tbsp Cumin
- 1 tbsp Cardamon
- ½ tsp Black pepper
- ½ tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Cloves
Mix the spices and store in a cool dry place. Miriam recommends you buy the whole spices and grind them at home for extra freshness.
- Heat oil on medium heat. Fry chicken pieces till they are white and beginning to brown.Add rice, green peppers and onions. Stir until the translucent color of rice starts to turn white.
- Add garlic, ginger and pilau masala. Continue to stir until the garlic is cooked. Then add saffron/tumeric. Stir for a minute.
- In a separate bowl, mix boiling coconut milk with ½ cup of hot chicken broth.
- Add the coconut mixture to the rice.
- Cover the pot and turn heat to medium-low settings. Cook until the liquid is absorbed. Taste to see if you need to add salt.
- If you opt to bake it this is where you can transfer to a baking dish if you are going to bake the rice. Add remaining chicken broth and coriander and put in 180 degrees C oven to dry or until cooked.
- If you would rather complete the cooking on the stove, again add the remaining chicken broth and coriander and mix well. Cover and leave on low heat till it dries or until it’s cooked.
And that’s it! I must say, since the invention of the rice cooker, cooking rice in a pot is an art! The trick is getting the heat setting right and the proportion of liquid to rice correct: too little liquid and it won’t cook through, too much and it becomes mushy. It also has to cook slowly, so avoid extremely high heat.
This dish is not too spicy, it’s actually fairly mild so people who don’t like hot spicy food will be able to eat it as well. If you want to add cashew nuts or raisins, add them at step 6 or 7. This recipe makes enough to feed 4/5 people so if you are cooking for less, reduce ingredients by half.
I am not a pro at this recipe yet, but with practice I’m sure I’ll get better.
Make a salad (Miriam insists on kachumbari as it is the salad always paired with pilau) and enjoy!