Pilaffs are dishes that were prepared and served when Alexander the Great was out conquering the world.
Most scholars agree the earliest pilaffs were called “plovs” created in Persia, now modern day Iran.
Plov may be one of the oldest of rice dishes. It’s known that Alexander favored the dish and brought the recipe back with him to Macedonia where it later spread throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Researchers believe that the 10th Century Middle Eastern scholar, Abu Ali Ibn Sina first documented the proper preparation of “pilau” (pilaff). He dedicated an entire section of his book on medical sciences to preparing various meals, including several pilaff recipes. Some in the Middle East consider Sina to be the “father” of the modern day pilaff.
Pilaff spread across the Middle East. The Arabs, Turks and Armenians added innovations and variations. A version of pilaff is thought to have been brought into India through what is now Pakistan. In a relatively short period of time hundreds of pilaff recipes fanned across India-the southern versions being hotter and spicier.
So from the ancient land of India comes this wonderfully textured, rice pilaff bursting with exotic flavors:
3/8 cup of butter
1 small fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
3 Tbsp. raisins
12 scallions (green onions) chopped
1/2 cup cashews
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups long grain rice, washed, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 Tbsp. coriander leaves, chopped
In a skillet, melt half the butter over moderate heat. Add pineapple and raisins; fry. Turn frequently 2 to 3 minutes until pineapple ia a very light brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large saucepan melt the remaining butter over moderate heat. Fry the scallions, and turn occasionally for about 4 to 6 minutes until they have turned golden brown. Then add the cashews, coriander seed and cayenne continuing to fry while stirring periodically for 4 more minutes.
Next add the rice and salt; fry, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Stir in the pineapple mixture and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
Cover the pan, turn heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Now taste the pilaff and add more salt and pepper at your discretion.
Remove the pan from the heat and spoon portions onto a pre-warmed serving platter. Garnish with the hard-boiled egg quarters and chopped coriander leaves. Serve immediately.
This delicate rice dish may be served as a meal in itself or as a side dish accompanying a meat entree; roast lamb is excellent with this pilaff as is baked chicken.