Roasted Squash & Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf
One of the perks when I worked at the Times of India in Bombay was the food all around the historical downtown setting. You could eat anything ranging from hot vada pao, a vegetarian burger with a fried spiced potato fritter served with hot and spicy chutneys at Aram to a full thali meal on a second floor lunch hall at Bhagat Tarachand, crammed into small booths we’d order the buttermilk drinks served in recycled beer bottles, teetering back to work in complete food-coma having just consumed 5-6 types of curries, bread, rice and deserts.
But my most favorite place was and still is, Britannia and Co., an old-world Irani café, established by the Parsi community that migrated to India from Iran in the early 19th century. With flavors rooted in ancient Persia, they brought with them flavors and methods of cooking that are very quintessential to these cafes and their foods. And the star of the café apart from Mr. Boman is their berry pulao – a layered rice pilaf made with meats, eggs or vegetables and topped with sweet caramelized onions and tart barberries.
Their berry pulao has been hard to forget over the last twenty years and I’ve recreated it several times but this Thanksgiving version of the pilaf with the addition of the dried cranberries and walnuts and the accompanying apple cranberry chutney really brought it home. The Kandy Spice blend from Curio Spic Co. played a major role in bringing the flavors together without adding the spice that you’d usually associate to Indian foods.
Time Approx. 50 Minutes
For the Rice:
- Rinse and wash 1 cup of long grain brown basmati rice
- Boil the rice, 1¼ – 2 cups of water and ½ tsp. of salt
- Simmer, cover and cook for about 30-45 minutes
- When cooked, fluff the rice and set aside to cool, you could also rinse out the excess starch and drain, this will keep the grains separated and easy to stir-fry in the next steps
For the Squash:
- Clean, peel and cut any winter squash or pumpkin you prefer into small bite sized pieces
- Take 3 cups of cut squash, 2 tbs. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. Kandy Spice, ¼ tsp. crushed black pepper – and bake at 375F for about 30-35 minutes until fork tender and browned – flip the pieces after 15 minutes and add 1 tbs. maple syrup at this point and continue baking
For the Pilaf:
- Slice 2 onions lengthwise, crush approx. 1 tbs. garlic and stir-fry over low heat with 2-3 tbs. olive oil until the onions start to caramelize – about 20-25 minutes, take care not to burn the garlic
- Add ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. crushed black pepper and 2 tsp. of Kandy Spice
- Add the cooked rice and stir in to coat with the onions, adjust salt & seasonings
- Mix ¼ cup of dried cranberries, ¼ cup walnuts & the squash before serving