Aromatic basmati rice infused with a rich prawn stock and a vivacious scent of ceylon cinnamon, cloves and green cardamom all swaddle this luxurious take on a simple, mildly spiced pilaf. A pilaf is completely different from a biryani. The pilaf is a lightly spiced rice dish that is usually accompanied by gravy and other side dishes whereas a biryani is one where the meat is layered with par cooked basmati rice and cooked together. Most biryanis are also more heavily spiced and are the star dish in a wedding banquet. Despite this dish being a simple pilaf, I used lobster, mussels, tiger prawns to create a spectacular one pot dinner party. Just imagine the reactions of your guests when you remove the lid of your beautiful Le Creuset pot to reveal the succulent seafood and the fragrant embrace of the spiced rice. It is sure to excite any seafood lover. By using just prawns, this could can also easily be scaled down to become an everyday dish. Either ways, it is such an aromatic and welcoming pot of comfort. The perfumed, seafood flavoured rice alone is enough reason for you to make this dish. Simply sensational, if I may say so myself!
One of my pet peeves is overcooked, chewy lobster and prawns- such a ridiculous waste of beautiful seafood that should instead have been bursting with the natural sweetness and flavours of the sea. And when the main ingredients are already flavourful, it almost seems blasphemous to overwhelm them with too many spices and what nots. So in a moment of greed and an epiphany over my kitchen sink after a night of straining a batch of my rich prawn stock ,I thought why not create a light pilaf that highlights the gorgeousness of good seafood using this stock, which I then was desperately squeezing every ounce out from.
It is not often that I have such well formed sentences as thoughts, especially in the dead of the night, and so I took it as a sign from the Gods of Gastronomy. First, the choice of spices that form the foundations of this dish. As with any indian-inspired pilaf, ghee fried red onions are a must and to add a subtle sweet, woody note – ceylon cinnamon (true cinnamon), sweet, bitter and peppery notes from cloves and floral, sweet and pungent taste of green cardamom. The combination of these sweet and strong flavours complement and contrast nicely with the seafood, especially the prawns and lobster. If you’re unable to the different seafood varieties I’ve used here, fleshy tiger prawns are equally as sumptuous. I chose seafood according to their sizes so that they’ll cook evenly together. For this reason, I cut the lobster tail in half.
Pilaf and Le Creuset French Oven Cooking tips
I soak the basmati rice in water for about 45-60 minutes to allow the grains to fluff up perfectly when cooked and this also reduces their cooking time. The seafood is added right almost at the end so that they cook in the residual steam of the pilaf. The tight, heavy lid of my Le Creuset Oval French Oven ensures that most of the moisture from the rice remains sealed so that even after you lift the lid to quickly arrange the seafood, there’s enough moisture from the rice and the seafood to perfectly cook all the seafood. A final drizzle of prawn stock around the edges ensures there is sufficient moisture all round. You could use any Le Creuset French Oven to achieve perfectly cooked, fluffy rice grains and prawns.If you’ve followed my Instagram stories, you’ll know that I use my Le Creuset French Ovens to cooked all my pilafs and biriyanis as I’ve noticed that the bottom never gets burnt even though the dishes are slow cooked on the stove top over low flame for a long time. Their lovely colours and excellent heat retention makes them perfect for serving during a dinner party. I simply adore how festive my Ultimate Seafood Pilaf looks in my Cherry Red Oval French Pot!
Ultimate Seafood Pilaf
Recipe by: Vasun, http://www.cupcakesncurries.com
- 2 cups long grain, basmati rice
- Seafood- Prawns / lobster tails/ crayfish/ mussels/ clams etc.
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons ghee / clarified butter
- 200-250 grams red onions, thinly sliced, half-moons
- 2 inch ceylon cinnamon/ true cinnamon
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 4 cloves
- 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
- 2 cups rich prawn stock from here
- 1 cup warm water
- pinch of garam masala
- fine sea salt, to taste
- coriander or dill leaves, for garnish
- fresh lime
- To begin, rinse basmati rice at least thrice or until the water runs almost clear. In a large bowl, submerge the rice grains in completely in water and set aside for 30-45 minutes. Once soaked, drain completely and set aside.
- For the prawns, rinse, remove shells keeping tails intact and devein. For lobster tails, using kitchen shears, cut lobster tails into halves by cutting down the middle of the abdomen and hard shell. If using clams, discard clams with broken shells and any that are not tightly closed. Soak in salt water for at least 30 minutes to get rid of any sand, scrub and thoroughly rinse them. For mussels, scrub and rinse thoroughly and remove their beards.
- Sprinkle each type of seafood with a pinch of turmeric, red chilli powder and fine sea salt. Keep all seafood aside.
- In a medium to large Le Creuset French Oven, over medium-low flame, heat 1/4 of ghee and once hot, add all sliced onions and a pinch of sea salt. Using a wooden spoon/ silicon spatula, sauté onions in ghee until light brown. Remove onto a plate and set aside.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of ghee into pot (if needed) and add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Sauté for 10 seconds to until aromatic.
- Reduce flame to low. Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté till garlic is aromatic. Add drained basmatic rice and gently sauté in oil until all the rice grains are coated in ghee mixture.
- Add warm water and prawn stock. Add 3/4 of browned onions. Season with about 1/2-1 tsp salt. Cover with lid.
- Cook pilaf for about 8-10 minutes. Lift lid to check if rice grains are almost cooked – most of the water would have been absorbed and rice grains would be al dente. If still watery, cover a cook for 2 more minutes.
- Once rice is about 80% cooked , check for seasoning and quickly arrange marinated seafood on the surface of the pilaf. Drizzle a few tablespoons of stock, if the rice needs more moisture. Cover and cook pilaf completely.
- Turn off flame. Remove lid and let the rice grains stand for about 5 minutes. The grains will start curling upwards.
- Brush a little ghee on the seafood and sprinkle with a little garam masala. Cover the lid.
- Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the pilaf and garnish with fresh coriander or dill leaves just before serving. Serve the pilaf when it is still warm. A side of a cucumber salad is a lovely accompaniment.