This pulao is definitely comfort food, but the kind you can feel good about. Warming, filling, and slightly saucy, the mixture of rice, chickpeas, sweet onions, tomatoes, and spices is packed full of heartiness and flavor, and has lots of good protein and vitamins. With a spoonful of the sweet and spicy date and onion chutney stirred in, it becomes a head-clearing mess of goodness that’s almost impossible to stop eating.
Pakistani Chickpea Pulao
Note: The rice needs to be soaked at least an hour in advance, so plan ahead. This can be made on the stovetop or in the oven. If you plan to finish it in the oven, make sure you use an ovenproof pot with a lid for the initial stages. Because the cooking times are relatively short for each stage, it’s important to have your ingredients prepared ahead of time – i.e. measure out your spices, pound your garlic and ginger, and slice your onions before you start cooking.
- 2 c. cooked chickpeas
- 1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt, divided
- 1 c. basmati rice
- 4 c. water, divided
- 2 TBS vegetable oil
- one small piece of cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
- 2 medium onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 c. crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 c. coarsely chopped almonds, for garnish (optional)
- 1/2 c. chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- Sweet Hot Date-Onion Chutney, for serving (optional, recipe below)
- Toss together the chickpeas and 3/4 of a tsp of salt. Set aside. Rinse the rice in several changes of cold water, then add 3 cups of cold water and let the rice soak for at least one and up to three hours. After this time, drain the rice and set it aside.
- If using the oven (for finishing the cooking, you may also use the stovetop), preheat it to 325°F. Place a wide, heavy-bottomed pot that has a lid over medium heat (use an ovensafe pot if finishing in the oven). Add the vegetable oil, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, and bay leaf, stir together, and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Place the garlic and ginger into a mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. Alternatively, finely mince both. Add the garlic and the ginger to the spices and stir fry, stirring constantly for about 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, about 10 minutes. If onions are starting to brown before they soften, lower the heat – you want the onions to remain a pale golden color.
- Add the chickpeas, coriander, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne to the pot, stir to coat the chickpeas with the spices, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then, add the tomatoes, turmeric, and remaining 1 c. water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then sprinkle the drained rice over the top. Return to a boil, then lower the heat and tightly cover. Place covered pot in preheated oven, if using, or keep at a simmer on the stovetop. Cook for 45 minutes in the oven or 30-40 minutes on the stovetop,then remove from heat and let stand, still covered, for 15 minutes. If you’re cooking on the stovetop, you may want to check once or twice for burning on the bottom while it’s cooking – just give it a quick stir and then replace the lid.
- If you can spot them, fish out the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, clove, and bay leaf before serving, to avoid inadvertently biting into them. Serve in bowls with chopped almonds, cilantro, and sweet hot date-onion chutney.
Sweet Hot Date-Onion Chutney
Makes about 1 cup.
- 3 dried Thai chilies, stems removed
- 1 TBS vegetable oil
- 1 TBS sesame oil
- 1 large sweet white onion, about 1/2 pound, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1/4 c. chopped pitted dates
- Bring a kettle of water to a boil, then pour about 2 cups of the boiling water over the dried chilies in a heatproof bowl. Let stand and soften for 10 minutes.
- Add the vegetable and sesame oils to a frying pan, and heat over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown all over with darker brown spots, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Drain the chilies from the water, then place chilies in a food processor with the chopped dates and pulse several times to coarsely chop. Add the cooked onions to the food processor and pulse several more times until the mixture is coarsely ground. Season to taste with salt. Store in a sealed glass container in the fridge for up to several weeks.