Friday, 10 July 2015

Turmeric Chicken and Basmati Pilaf

Moving to the US has meant that I cook every day.  Eating out is a lot more expensive than back home, as the option of hawker food is not available.  Being here also means that I can no longer rely on Yati to cook for us.  Neither can we run to my Mum's or my Mum-in-law's place for a meal.  So I cook.

Strangely, I hardly cook Western dishes now that I'm here.  Back in Singapore, I used to do both Eastern and Western.  I think subconsciously I must be wanting to hang on to my roots. I guess it is similar to how I used to speak more dialect when travelling.  I remember on a trip to the Middle East with my Dad way back when, we conversed mainly in Teochew, even though my command of the language was rather sucky.  I can't do that here because Mr Cuppa is not Teochew and does not understand it. :(

One day, we ran out of Jasmine rice.  Fortunately, I had a packet of Basmati rice on hand, and so I decided to make a pilaf.  A pilaf is basically a savory rice dish where the rice is browned in oil or butter before it is cooked in liquid. This makes the grains distinct and separate. It originates in India, but is found all over Asia and the Middle East.  Depending on where it is from, you can find pilafs with vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, fish and meat.

My version is with chicken, because I am lazy and like to cook one dish meals. Actually, if you add in the dried fruit, nuts and chopped capsicum, it would be a one dish meal.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't have any of these ingredients on hand when I cooked it for the first time.  Good thing is, the kids loved it!  The rice is fluffy and fragrant, and I did not have to remind anyone to eat when I cooked it.  The second time I cooked it, I had dried fruit and nuts, but I still didn't add them in as I didn't want to run the risk of the kids not eating it with all the additions.  I still provided them, but as optional extras to add at the table.  Little Man tried some, but Little Lady wanted nothing to do with the extras. :)

Ok, long story later, here is the recipe (at last).

Turmeric Chicken with Basmati Pilaf
(serves 6-8)

Tumeric Chicken

8 pieces of chicken (drumsticks / thighs)
1 tbsp ground tumeric (or more – make sure the chicken has a nice colour)
1 tsp salt
  1. Season chicken pieces with salt and tumeric.
  2. Mix well and leave to marinate while preparing the rice.

Basmati Pilaf

4 cups basmati rice
1½ medium yellow onions, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground black pepper
salt for seasoning
½ cup dried fruit (chopped dried apricot / cranberries / raisins) *Optional
½ cup toasted almond slivers. *Optional
3 tbsp unsalted butter (more or less)
water or chicken stock to cook the rice (sorry, can't give a quantity as I eyeballed it – basically I used the same amount of water to cook normal Jasmine rice)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Wash basmati rice until water runs clear. Drain well and set aside. (I put into a strainer and left it to drain while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.)
  3. Heat oil into a pot/pan and brown the chicken, skin side down first.
  4. When skin is golden brown, brown the other side. Chicken does not have to be fully cooked, since it will continue cooking in the oven.
  5. Take out chicken pieces and set aside.
  6. Lower heat and add butter to oil.
  7. Add onion and fry till fragrant and translucent.
  8. Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon and fry till fragrant. (maybe half a minute)
  9. Add rice, salt and pepper and mix well. (To be honest, I didn't add any salt at all.)
  10. Add water or stock. (I used up some leftover stock, but didn't have enough, so topped up with water.)
  11. Arrange chicken pieces on top of rice.
  12. Cover pot and place in oven for about 30 minutes.
  13. Remove lid and bake for about 10 more minutes if you wish to for more colour.
  14. Remove from oven and serve.
  15. Enjoy!

Note: The dried fruit and nuts can be added to the rice at the table, after removing the chicken, then mixed in. I didn't as my children don't like it, but they were available for others at the table.

Many apologies for the lack of photos. I know it makes for a boring blog post, but I'm still not used to taking photos of everything.  I just do, you know?  Got hungry tummies waiting.  Cannot waste time taking the perfect shot. First time I cooked this, I didn't even get pictures of the finished product!  Luckily I remembered this time. :P

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