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Quick and dirty saffron pulao

I’ve been travelling for work and pleasure and hence my absence from the blog. I will post a couple of recipes to make up for my absence. The first of these was inspired by the Spanish saffron I got my hands on during one of my recent trips. Beautiful, long strands of saffron that impart a mild, yellow colour to rice and a wonderful and unique flavour too. For those of you who are unfamiliar with saffron, it is the most expensive spice in the world. Each saffron plant has upto 4 flowers and each flower has 3 strands of saffron and each strand has to be hand-picked from a flower. So when you go to the supermarket and see that 1gram of saffron costs 7 GBP, try not to balk.

Growing up, I almost never saw saffron until the time dad went to the Middle east for work and came back with some saffron. Mum used it mostly in desserts but it is also commonly used in flavouring and colouring savoury rice dishes. This pulao is no Spanish paella (pronounced pa-aye-ya) but there is taste in its simplicity. Also, it goes very well with a lot of curries – be they mild or potent. I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of the final product as we were really hungry and ate it pretty quickly. Hope you try this easy recipe and like it!

Strands of saffron on a bey leaf

Ingredients (serves 4-5 people):

2 cups of Basmati rice

8-10 whole cashew-nuts

A handful of sultanas (optional. If you don’t like sweet and savoury together, leave it out)

3 bey leaves (see picture above)

5 cloves (

4 whole green cardamom pods, light crushed in a mortar and pestle (

A pinch of saffron (see picture above)

2 teaspoons of vegetable oil



1. In a large pan/wok, heat the oil and add the bey leaves, cardamom and cloves to the oil.

2. Sauté the spices until they release their fragrance and add the cashew-nuts to the oil.

3. As the cashews start to turn golden, add the sultanas to the oil.

4. When the sultanas start to go plump, add the rice to the wok/pan and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the rice grains start to go translucent. Eventually, you will see them go slightly brown.

5. Finally add the saffron strands and turn the heat source off.

6. Pour the uncooked rice mixture into a rice cooker, add the recommended level of water and allow to cook.

7. If you don’t have a rice cooker, add 3-4 cups of water to the wok/pan and stir occasionally until the rice has absorbed all the water. I don’t cook rice in a pot very often so I don’t have a definite recipe for it.

8. Stir the rice before serving as all the spices will have risen to the top. The rice will have a light yellow tinge to it.

9. Serve while hot with a curry or on its own.



1. I sometimes add baby peas to the rice and it becomes a “peas-pulao”.

2. I also add paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and it becomes a “paneer-pulao”.

3. Spinach, beans, carrots, cauliflower are all good candidates to make this pulao richer in vegetables.

Sauté rice and whole spices

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