Fragrant Spiced Rice Pilaf
Rice is one of the most delicious side dishes to make, especially when it is done well. Plain rice on its own is still tasty and filling, but the right combination of spices can turn a basic side dish into the main attraction much like this Fragrant Spiced Rice Pilaf.
Enter the rice aisle at the grocery store and there are about 100 options to chose from. From long grain to short grain, minute rice to microwavable, and white to brown, the options are endless making decisions quite confusing when it comes to picking the healthiest choice. As with all food, the best option is always to pick the least processed and least refined format, so minute and microwavable options are less than ideal choices. When it comes to rice, here are some simple things to look for:
Short Grain, Medium Grain vs. Long Grain: From a nutrition perspective short grain or long grain rice makes absolutely no difference. From a cooking perspective, the length of the grain makes it more or less suitable for certain types of dishes. Short-grain rice is starchier and sticks together when cooked so it is best suited for dishes like sushi or rice puddings. Medium grain rice produces a moist, chewy and tender grain, so it is best used for dishes like risotto and paella. Long grain rice contains less starch, so the grains remain separate when cooked and are therefore often used in side dishes, pilafs and salads.
Brown vs. White: Contrary to popular belief, white rice is not necessarily less nutritious for you and can still be a very healthy choice when the best types are selected. The difference between brown and white rice is that brown rice is a whole grain, as it contains the bran and germ, while white rice has had the bran and germ removed from the grain. The bran and the germ contain most of the essential nutrients in the grain, so technically brown rice contains more fibre and nutrition than its counterpart white rice. However, because the bran and germ have not been removed, brown rice also contains many anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid, which make it harder for your body to break down and absorb the nutrients. These anti-nutrients are a natural part of the grain, as they protect the vital reproductive tools of the grain, however they can cause digestive distress for many people who have trouble breaking down the bran and germ, so white rice is still a great option.
Jasmine vs. Basmati: When it comes to white rice, basmati and jasmine rice are the most well-known varieties. Both are aromatic versions of long grain rice, and they are commonly used in a variety of Asian and Middle-Eastern dishes. Jasmine rice is from Thailand, and has a slightly soft and clingy texture when cooked, while Basmati rice is from India and Pakistan and easily separate with its slightly nutty flavour. It is best to rinse and soak both versions before cooking as this helps to remove any dust or excess starch, and helps it to absorb water and cook more evenly.
The fun of cooking rice is that it has such a neutral flavour the cooking options are endless. Cinnamon or saffron? Cardamom or paprika? There are so many different ways to spice rice and this Fragrant Spiced Rice Pilaf is one really tasty way to do so!
Fragrant Spiced Rice Pilaf
The stock and spice options in this recipe are interchangeable however the preparation method remains the same. Jasmine rice would also work but I find basmati provides a better texture.
- 1 cup basmati rice, soaked and rinsed
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 1 orange, zested
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 coriander, roughly chopped
- In a small pot on medium heat, add the olive oil and minced shallot, cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add cinnamon, allspice and cardamom and heat for another 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add rice and stir with onion mixture until each grain is coated with oil. Season with salt, cover with chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the orange zest and cinnamon stick to the pot. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot with lid and cook for 20 minutes until rice is cooked through.
- Once cooked, fluff rice with a fork and transfer it to a serving dish. Top with chopped coriander, sliced almonds, and any remaining orange zest.