Sometimes, there comes a dish that makes you happy just by looking at it. Our Rice is Right Orange Pilaff is one of those dish (to us anyway). Ever since a friend of ours made it, we’ve been meaning to try our hands at the amazing, delectable Maqluba/Makloubeh, which is a one-pot Middle Eastern layered rice, meat, and vegetable dish, normally served overturned onto a platter with its shape intact (the name itself means upside down, or so we are told).
Now, to be clear, this dish of ours isn’t a Maqluba. We did, however, take inspiration from it when we wanted to make a simple, no fuss, yet festive rice dish that would be perfect to serve up to guests for Christmas. What we came up with was something we could make in our rice cooker, full of flavour, and also bright and colourful enough to solicit the appropriate amount of ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ when presented at the table. It’s perfect for vegetarians, especially if served with spiced potatoes, yogurt and/or eggplant. Meat lovers, meanwhile, can enjoy it with chicken, or mutton.
- 1 1/2 cups rice, washed
- 3 cups chicken stock [For pure vegetarian version, replace with vegetable stock]
- 1 large orange/ two medium oranges
- Zest one 1 orange
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 4 pods cardamom
- 2 star anise
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup cashews, roasted and slightly crushed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- Water to top up
- 1/2 pomegranate, seeded
- Small handful cilantro, rough chopped (for garnish)
- Heat some oil over medium heat, in a pan big enough to fit the rice.
- When hot, add the raisins and cook for a few seconds, stirring frequently, until the raisins are puffed up. Take care not to let the raisins burn or stick to the pan.
- Remove the raisins and set aside to cool. In the same pan, increase the heat to medium high, add the spices - the cumin, cloves, star anise, cardamom and cinnamon. Temper the spices for just a few seconds until you can get their aroma.
- Immediately reduce the heat and add the rice, salt and pepper, stirring to mix. Continue for a few more minutes until the rice is heated through and the grains are well coated in the oil and spices. Remove from heat.
- Prepare the orange. Skin the orange and cut thin round cross sections (about 7- 8 slices). Chop the rest of the oranges.
- Add the chopped up oranges, orange zest, cashews and 3/4 of the raisins to the still warm rice and mix well.
- Grease the base of the rice cooker pot with oil. Alternately, you can line the base with greased baking paper, cut to shape. Lay the orange cross sections on the base and fill the gaps with the remaining raisins.
- Top that with the rice, adding the rice gently. Press down firmly with your hand so that the rice is even and packed tight.
- Gently pour in the stock, using a spoon to disperse over the rice so that the rice isn't displaced. We used short grain rice which required a rice to liquid ratio of 1:2. However, you can adjust the amount of liquid according to the instructions for the rice of your choice. You can add water if you need more liquid. Just avoid sticky rice.
- Cover the lid and begin cooking the rice.
- Once the rice is cooked, remove the rice pot. Check the rice as you may need to add a little more water if you find it a tad dry.
- Cover the pot with a tea towel and put a lid on it. Leave for 10-15 minutes.
- Time to serve. Remove lid and tea towel. Place serving plate over the rice pot and gently but quickly, overturn the rice onto the plate. It will not be the end of the world should the structure collapse but it should (and hopefully does!) hold its shape.
- Distribute the pomegranate seeds around the rice. Top the dish with cilantro and serve.