I wanted a rice dish to go with my Mughal gosht dopiaza and saag paneer. Looking for Mughal rice dishes, the ones I found all seemed to be modern recipes that included tomatoes. Tomatoes would have been an uncommon ingredient in India in the 1500’s. Picking ingredients from several recipes, I created my own pulao, using spices that would have been common in the 16th Century Mughal Empire.
Red lentils cook much more quickly than Basmati rice. If you simply mix the rice and lentils together, at the start of cooking, the lentils will turn to mush before the rice is even close to being done. I saw a recent America’s Test Kitchen episode where they ran into a similar problem making rice pilaf. Their solution was to jump start the rice by pre-soaking it, so the the cooking times for the starches was closer to being the same.
Karl’s Masoor dal Pulao – Red Lentil Rice
1 cup basmati rice
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
½ tsp. fennel seeds
3 Tbs. ghee
1 medium onion, diced finely
½ tsp. Kosher salt
3 cloves of garlic, mashed
1 inch ginger, grated
½ cup red lentils
4 cardamom pods, cracked open
3 cloves, whole
2 star anise
1 black cardamom pod, cracked open
1 Indian bay leaf
½ tsp. turmeric
3 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth for Vegan)
1 tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. black pepper, ground
1 Tbs. whole cilantro leaves for garnish
1-2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1. Put the rice in a small bowl and soak them in hot water for 30 minutes.
2. Drain the rice well and set it aside to dry a bit.
3. In a small dry pan, toast the cumin, mustard, and fennel seeds for one minute, until fragrant.
4. Use a spice grinder to break them up into a coarse powder or use a mortar and pestle to crush the seeds.
5. Add the 2 tablespoons of clarified butter to a medium pot and sauté the onions with the salt until they are starting to pick up some color, about five minutes.
Tip: The salt helps to release the liquids in the onions, so that they soften and brown more quickly.
6. Pull the onions to the sides of the pot and add the garlic and ginger to the hole in the center.
Tip: You may need to add a bit more ghee.
7. Mix in the rice and continue sautéing and stirring until the rice has turned translucent, about another two minutes.
8. Stir in the lentils, cardamom pods, cloves, star anise, bay leaf, turmeric, and broth to the pot.
9. Bring the pot to a boil, cover and reduce the heat.
10. Simmer the pulao for six minutes.
11. Gently stir in the garam masala, and black pepper.
Tip: The lentils will be fairly soft at this point. You do not want to mash them into a paste.
Note: Test one of the grains of rice and decide if there is enough liquid left in the pot to finish cooking the rice, Add more water if necessary.
12. Pull the rice mixture away from the sides of the pot and recover the pot.
Tip: You want rice to form a cone in the middles of the pot.
Note: Place a clean dish towel over the pot before putting on the lid. This prevents the condensation from dripping back onto your rice and making it soggy in places.
13. Continue cooking the pulao for another 4-6 minutes.
Tip: When you tested the grain of rice you should be able to tell how close to being cooked through it is.
14. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
Tip: Do not remove the lid.
15. Garnish the pulao with the cilantro leaves.
Tip: I used my smaller Dutch oven and served my pulao directly from the pot.
Note: You may fluff the pulao gently and transfer it to a serving dish.
16. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the pulao and serve.