a simple dessert
As the festive season rolls around, everyone is looking for quick desserts for potlucks and family gatherings, easy on the kitchen yet delicious. I make this dessert rice often and it may become your quick fix too.
In my home, this dish has always been called called biranj; it was one of my paternal grandfather’s favorite desserts. Versions of modur polav are popular in parts of Pakistan, Kashmir and Gujarat, regions that were occupied by the Mughals in the past. The addition of flavor packed and aromatics such as chirongi nuts, saffron and cardamom make it a unique dish.
Simple to make yet elegant to serve, this fragrant bowl of flavors that will make you wish that your dinner started with this, because you could eat the entire platter! You can make it ahead of time for ease of entertaining, but it is best served off the stove or oven.
I have seen many variations of this rice dish too, many are sweeter or have more saffron or nuts - it is a matter of personal preference. I prefer light desserts that simply linger on the taste buds but do not overwhelm me or my guests, and it serves everyones' sweet-tooth just fine.
Makes: Twelve servings; 220 calories ea.
Diet: Vegan adaptable, Jain, Ritual friendly, Vegetarian, Gluten-free
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time, Ease: 30 minutes, Easy
1 cup water
⅔ cup sugar
1 large pinch saffron
2-3 green cardamom pods
2 tbsp ghee
½ cup unsalted slivered almonds and cashew halves, mixed
2 cups raw basmati rice, see pre-prep note
4 cups water, boiling hot
Salt, to taste
¼ cup golden raisins
OR ¼ cup slivered dried apricots
¼ cup raw chirongi nuts (optional)
Make the simple syrup in a small saucepan. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar; stir in to dissolve. Add the saffron threads and cardamom pods and simmer for 5-7 minutes on low heat. Allow to cool and set aside. This simple syrup can be prepared ahead of time.
When ready to make modur polav, wash and soak the rice for 20 minutes. Drain just before cooking.
Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottom saucepan or cast iron pot. Lightly fry the nuts in the ghee until golden. Remove and set aside for addition to the finished dish.
Keeping the heat on low, add the drained rice into this pot and stir gently with a spatula to ensure each grain is coated with the ghee. Let the rice sear and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Slowly but carefully add the boiling water and salt, and stir in gently. Let this cook for about 10 minutes or until the water has reduced to the top of the rice surface.
Add in the golden raisins, chirongi nuts, if using, and reserved fried nuts. Stir lightly, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and cook on low heat for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked. If the rice is undercooked, add a few tablespoons of water and let it finish cooking. The rice should be fluffy, not soft and lumpy.
Lightly pour the simple syrup into the rice and mix it in gently with a large serving fork to keep the grain intact. Cover the rice again with a tight-fitting lid and let it cook for another 10 minutes on very low heat on the stove, or place it in a warming oven until ready to serve. Enjoy warm.
Find these and other decadent dishes for easy entertaining in 'A Dozen Ways to Celebrate: Twelve Decadent Feasts for the Culinary Indulgent, 2014', available here)