This moroccan pilaf is the most fragrant side dish! Basmati rice gets cooked with dried fruit and spices for an unforgettable experience!!
I was about to call this a delicious Middle Eastern recipe but suddenly I realized Morocco isn’t part of the Middle East! Located in Northwestern Africa, Morocco is an African country with many European and Middle Eastern influences (probably the reason for my confusion). These influences, among other things, have formed the Moroccan cuisine, mostly known for the use of spices, couscous, lamb, fruits and nuts. Today’s pilaf recipe features all these fragrant and exotic ingredients, creating a flavorful side dish that can accompany perfectly every meat dish or any other main you have in mind. It is also vegan and gluten-free!
Is pilaf simply cooked rice?
In a word, no. Pilaf is believed to be of Persian origin, describing a dish where grains are boiled in broth. So, it is much more than just boiled rice, since it absorbs all the flavors and nutrients of the broth. A Greek example of pilaf is this chicken soup risotto which is usually served in Cretan weddings (the numerous rice grains symbolize abundance, fertility and good luck!).
By now, I’m sure you understand that making pilaf is not hard at all. The simplest way to do it is use any kind of broth/stock instead of water in your favorite rice recipe (check my fluffy rice every time post for tips on how to make fluffy rice every time, with no effort and no rice cooker needed!)
In today’s recipe, I briefly sauté an onion with some olive oil, add the spices and a fragrant rice like basmati (jasmine rice will also do), give it a swirl or two until it cooks a little, and then add the vegetable (or chicken) stock. At the end I add some dried fruit and roasted almonds and I’m done! This pilaf is perfect as a side dish, especially during holidays and celebrations, because all the spices, the almonds and the dried fruit give it a festive character and a rich taste!
Searching for recipes with festive character? This white chocolate, goji berry and saffron babka will enthuse you!
A pot with a glass lid works best for this recipe, since you can always check what’s going on inside.
Wait until almost all of the water is gone, turn off the heat, fluff up the rice, close the lid and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
Dried fruit really add to this dish, but try not to overdo it because it can become overly sweet.
Make your own spice combinations and tell me how it turned out!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves (or 2-3 whole cloves)
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom (or 5-6 cardamom pods)
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups basmati rice (or jasmine)
- 3 cups vegetable stock or water (you can also use chicken stock if you're not vegan)
- ¼ teaspoon saffron
- 3 dates, finely chopped
- 3 dried apricots, finely chopped
- ¼ cup raisins, chopped
- ¼ cup roasted almonds, crashed
- Place onion and olive oil in a large pot and sauté under medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add cumin, allspice, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, pepper and rice and stir until rice gets a white color, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add stock (or water), salt and saffron, cover the pot and wait until it starts to boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook covered until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, add the dried fruits and almonds and stir/fluff up gently with a fork.
- Cover the pot and let the pilaf rest for 15-20 minutes.
- Discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick (and cloves and cardamom pods if used whole).
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