For most Parsis, Pulao is a staple dish made in kitchens for new years, birthdays or when one has guests over. And after all, why not – Pulao was originally invested in Persia and now exists in various forms – be it pilaf, paella, pulao or biryani – all over the world. In its most basic form, Pulao is rice cooked in stock which is then combined with meat, spices and vegetables and slow-cooked to perfection.
Fast-forwarding back to the future, the standard Parsi pulao is quite different from its cousins – the Hyderabadi Biryani or the Qabuli Pulao which uses grated carrots, raisins and almonds in addition to the standard ingredients. Instead of layering the pulao, us Parsis simply mix the components together and ofcourse also add our favourite potato and boiled egg to up the level of carbs! Honestly speaking though, I am not much of a fan of the standard Pulao and don’t subscribe to all its hype.
My curiosity was piqued, however when I came across the recipe for the Shehenshahi Pulao by Katy Dalal. Rather than using traditional chunks of meat and potato, this Pulao uses kheema, dry fruits and generous amounts of cream and is a surefire way of impressing guests that you have over. This is also a great dish for the experimental Parsi cook who want’s to take their Pulao making skills up a notch. I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly and used mutton kheema rather than chicken and changed the way the Pulao is layered to make it more suitable for modern home kitchens.
Do note, this pulao has a lot of steps involved so it is important to make all the components separately before you start making the actual dish. Ingredients at the bottom of the post as always.
First, take the dry ingredients for the masala and grind it into a fine paste using about 1/2 cup of water. Marinate your Kheema in salt and ginger-garlic paste while you are doing this.
In a pan, cook the Kheema by heating up some ghee and adding the onions. Once the onions are brown, add in the mince and let it seal.
Next, add in the tomatoes as well as the ground paste. Add about 2 cups of water, cover and let it cook on medium heat for about 20 – 25 minutes. If necessary, take the lid off at about 15 minutes – the kheema should not have too much water but you will want some of the moisture in it that can be absorbed with the rice.
While the mince is cooking, blanch the almonds and fry all the dry fruits in some ghee. Also, boil the eggs and halve them so that they are ready for decorating the pulao. Once the nuts are fried, use the same ghee/oil to fry the onions – you want them to have a nice golden brown colour.
Once all the side components for the Pulao are ready, cook the rice in a large vessel by adding the ghee, rice and other dry spices. I like to cook my rice in excess water and then strain it out as I believe this makes the grains separate. You can however just cook it in just enough water and let the water evaporate if you prefer the more traditional method.
To stain your rice light yellow, add the saffron and lemon juice in a cup. Mix in about 30 – 40 mls of hot water and let the mixture stand until you get a deep yellow-orange colour.
Carefully spoon the saffron mixture over the rice and mix it in – you want to ensure that some grains remain white while some are stained yellow.
Finally, in a separate bowl, lightly whisk the cream.
Now that all your components are ready, you are ready to layer the Pulao. In a deep oven-proof dish, layer the Kheema at the bottom. Spread 1/3 of the cream and top it with rice and the dried nuts. Make another similar layer ensuring the final layer is topped with the boiled eggs, fried onion, nuts and cream. Cover this with foil. When you are ready to serve, simply heat up the Pulao in the oven for 15 – 20 mins on 200 degrees Celcius.
Serve it hot alongside some Mango Murabo (sweet Mango Chutney) or a salad of Chicken Liver and Paneer.
To make enough for 8 you will need:
2 gms saffron for cooking rice
600 gms basmati rice
8 green cardamoms crushed
4 star anise
4 bay leaves
1 tsp shahjeera
Salt and Pure Ghee
1.2 kgs lamb or goat mince washed and drained
3 medium onions chopped
500 gms chopped tomatoes
2 tbsps ginger pasts
2 tbps garlic paste
200 gms cream
Salt and Pure Ghee
Ground Masala (to be ground with 1/2 cup water)
8 green chillies
6 dried Kashmiri chillies
1 tsp Elaichi – Jaifal powder
1 inch stick of cinnamon
2 tbsp Dhana (Dry-Roasted Coriander Seeds)
2 gms saffron for decorating rice
Juice of 1 Lemon
6 Boiled Eggs halved
1 cup sliced onions deep fried
100 gms fried cashewnuts
100 gms skinned almonds fried
100 gms fried raisins