This is a very easy but flavorful basmati rice pilaf that I created last week. Or lemma brag that it is my own recipe. no reference or cookbooks. Long grain, aromatic basmati rice is cooked in a lemon & ginger flavored broth with hints of aromatic indian spices. I wanted the pilaf to look “summery”, so I chose to avoid reddish look from red chilies powder or yellowish look from haldi (turmeric). The chicken balls are green & succulent with lots of cilantro, mint, and garlic and loaded with the magical garam masala. The flavors are subtle but classic – citrusy, soul warming & comforting. All in all best served as a side along with tempered raita (yogurt) or any curry /dalor eat on its own as a light summer meal.
Ingredients: – Serves 4
For the Chicken balls: [Makes 20-25 balls of the size shown]
- 1lb ground chicken (don’t use ground chicken breast, use a mince which has good ratio of dark meat & fat, also take care that the mince is not too fine if you are getting it from the butcher]
- 4 garlic cloves, grated
- 1.5 cups finely chopped, fresh cilantro, stems & leaves (substitute with parsley)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint, leaves only
- 4-5 Thai green chilies, finely chopped (Adjust to taste, with this quantity, balls will be on the spicy side)
- 1.5 tsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 tsp salt
- Oil for rubbing on palms
- You can use the same recipe to make curry with the chicken balls. Just mix in some minced ginger with the chicken in that case.
- For a vegetarian version, you can add dal wadi (lentil drops), soya chunks, paneer cubes, any kind of beans or an assorted vegetables (slightly steamed) of choice. Drop the step where we cook the chicken balls in the method below and proceed.
For the Pilaf: –
- 1.5 cups Basmati rice
- 1/4 cup mustard/canola/olive/vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup sliced onions (use any variety you like, don’t use sweet onions)
- 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, grated (can be avoided)
- 4 Thai green chilies, slit lengthwise
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- One 2″ cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 7-8 cloves
- 6 green cardamom pods (hari elaichi)
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 6 tbsp fresh lemon juice (adjust to taste)
- 2.5 cups water /stock (Depends on rice variety, adjust as per package instructions)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- Cilantro, Lemon wedges etc for garnish
Pick the rice and wash under 2-3 streams of water.Let soak for 30 minutes. In a cheesecloth/muslin, wrap tightly the black peppercorns, cloves, coriander seeds, and cardamom pods. In a bowl, add all the ingredients under the heading “For the Chicken Balls”. Mix gently with hands to combine well. Do not apply too much pressure while mixing else the mix will become sticky. Once mixed, apply some oil on your hands and make balls of the size you wish. Dont make too big balls, coz after cooking, these swell up. Line the balls on a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
While the chicken balls are refrigerating, to a heavy bottomed pot with lid, add the oil and heat on high high. If using mustard oil, heat the oil to smoking point to do away the raw smell. Reduce heat to medium and add the sliced onions to the pot and sauté them till they turn light brown. At this point add the slit green chilies, grated garlic (if using) & ginger, bay leaf, cumin and cinnamon stick to the pot and sauté for 30 secs. Next add 2.5 cups of water/stock to the pot. Tip in the cheesecloth wrapped spices into the water, add 1 tsp salt and let the water come to a boil.About 8 minutes.
Once boiling, add the refrigerated chicken balls to the pot. Start by adding a single ball, if it does not spread, add all of them one by one in a single layer. If balls are spreading, mash them down & add a binding agent like cornstarch or egg. Let the balls cook for 5-8 minutes in boiling water till they are 95% (almost) cooked. Do not overcook else they will become rock hard. Strain the balls out of the pot in a plate and set aside.(This cooking time will depend on size of your balls)
Measure out the stock in the pot to whatever quantity is required to cook your variety of rice.The basmati variety I use takes 2 cups stock to 1 cup of rice to cook. Return the measured stock to the pot. Add the soaked, drained rice to the pot along with ground nutmeg & lemon juice. Check the seasoning again and adjust if required.
Cover the pot & bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, and let cook for 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat, open the lid, and add the chicken balls & melted butter gently mix with a wooden spoon & leave to steam on the stove for another 5-8 minutes.Pick out the spices wrapped in cheesecloth & discard. Garnish the rice with chopped cilantro & lime wedges. Serve with tempered raita.
To make Tempered Raita: – Beat 1 cup of cold, plain Greek yogurt in a bowl. To this add any thing you like from tomatoes, boiled potatoes, grated cucumbers chopped onion, boondi etc as long it pairs with yogurt.I am not giving any quantity here coz there are no measurements as such. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.To temper, just before serving to a small saucepan, add 1 tbsp of oil and let it heat on high. Once heated, add 1 tsp each of cumin seeds & black mustard and let crackle. You can add some chopped green chilies too. Once crackling, remove from heat and let cool off for 2-3 minutes. Add salt to yogurt along with tempering and mix well. Serve.