Fragrant spiced Yakhni Pulao, a tantalizing Indian one-pot meal!
Often when a friend wants to show you that you are important to them, they give you a signal. In the states that might include a card, a small personal gift, or helping you in some way. In different countries the signs of true friendship often takes a different form.
It’s been 19 years since my last trip to India, but certain friends are still very close to my heart. Friends, that despite differences in culture, language, beliefs and age, were generous with their time and thoughts.
I’m always amazed at how simple it is to find common connections when you are looking for them. These individuals extended a hand of friendship in many ways, but most effectively by offering sustenance.
Yakhni Pulao is an Indian dish friends serve to let you know you are an honored guest. Depending on the region of India you’re in, this recipe is called Biryani or Pulao. Both are “rice and meat” dishes, but Biryani is rice layered in a large pot with meat, potatoes, yogurt, milk and spices. Pulao is more of a pilaf-style dish, so the meat and rice are stirred in before cooking. Yakhni Pulao tends to include meat stock, dried fruit and nuts, while biryani is silky and dense due to the inclusion of yogurt and potatoes.
Years ago, one friend explained that these dishes were always reserved for special occasions or special guests. No different than a Thanksgiving turkey or standing rib roast. They are meals you wouldn’t whip up on just any given night!
However after preparing both rice dishes, I can tell you this tradition is not due to great difficulty in the kitchen. Most likely, it has to do with cost.
Yakhni Pulao is a relatively quick dish and boasts vibrant flavors and textures. The aroma itself, is worth more than a bucket of saffron. I love Yakhni Pulao best with lamb, but find it more accessible (and affordable) made with chicken… Your call!
The language of friendship is not words but meanings. ~Henry David Thoreau
- 1 1/4 pounds chicken breast or lamb, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 pods green cardamom
- 10 whole peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise
- 1 pinch saffron (small)
- 1 cup diced onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 1/4 cup stock, chicken or beef
- 1/3 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
- 1/3 cup chopped dried apricot
- 1/2 cup almonds or cashews
- Chopped cilantro for garnish
- In a large stockpot heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaf, anise and saffron. Stir for 2-3 minutes, to allow the spices to release their flavor. Then add the onions.
- Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the chicken to the pot. Salt liberally and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Next add the rice and stir to coat it in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling pour the sultanas on top, cover, and reduce the heat to low.
- Cover and steam the rice for 15 minutes. Then remove from heat. Stir in the chopped apricots and nuts, then cover again.
- Allow the Yakhni Pulao to sit another 5 minutes, covered. Serve with cilantro sprinkled on top!