1 C brown rice
1/2 C quinoa, well rinsed
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed or diced
spices of your choosing
2 1/2 C stock or water
S + P
extra herbs / nuts / fruit
Sometimes I find jazzing up a little rice is just the thing. That extra flavour and fragrant fluffiness can go a long way. Plus making a rice dish like this rates pretty highly for adaptability, going from handsome but still fairly plain rice under a piece of fish to an ‘all out, pretty-much-a-main, loaded with herbs and tasty morsels’ kind of show stopper. My ideal salad, really. In all honesty I’m not too sure what something like this has to be, to be defined as a pilaf, but here’s a basic brown rice and quinoa version that should be helpful for many an occasion. Tweak as you so desire, the principles will apply to most grains in the pantry.
Sauté the onion and garlic in a good dash of olive oil, until soft and smelling delicious. (You could also include extra ‘going-all-out’ things here like chopped fennel, or celery or carrot).
Add a little spice. A sprinkle of cumin seeds or a favourite spice mix. Turmeric or saffron for a warm colour and subtle flavour. Chilli flakes for heat, maybe a cinnamon stick. Just imagine what you’ll be eating this with, and spice accordingly with a couple of things. Fry briefly until you can smell those.
Next fry the rice in all that. The grains will be coated in the fragrant oil and start to turn translucent after a few minutes. They’ll get a nutty, roasted kind of flavour too, making fancy rice so fancy and delicious.
Now the liquid – ideally a stock or broth for extra flavour but water is fine too. Season with salt and pepper and pop the lid on. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer on low for 20 minutes, still covered. Stir in the rinsed quinoa at this point, if you’re using it. Cover again and gently cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, check the water is gone from the bottom of the pot and gently fluff with a fork. Leave to steam for another 5-10. (If everything is cooked but it seems a bit too wet, placing a clean tea towel under the lid will absorb some of that and keep it nice and fluffy).
Mix in even more extras for the full pilaf treatment. Chopped herbs of course, some roasted nuts, a sweet handful of raisins or tart berries. (In this one I’ve got parsley and mint, almonds and some barberries from the middle eastern grocer). Finely chopped preserved lemon is always good for its salty lemon kick, and is possibly the ultimate accessory in this situation.