Bengali Pulao with Cashews and Cauliflower
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes
Bengal, a region located in northeastern India and crossing into modern-day Bangladesh, has a rich and long culinary history. The main city, Kolkata, in Western Bengal, India, was home to an influential Baghdadi Jewish community. A pulao, or pilaf—a rice dish—is always on the table, in virtually every Bengali community, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. This version is mildly spiced, vegan and kid-friendly.
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups coconut water
4 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
4 large bay leaves
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets (6 to 7 cups)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin, roasted preferred
2 teaspoons ground garam masala
1 teaspoon ground dried turmeric or 2-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into thin slices
1½ cups roasted, salted cashews
Leaves of ½ bunch (about 1½ ounces) cilantro
- Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Pour the coconut water and water into a large saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and salt, cover, and set over high heat until the water comes to a boil. Add the rice and stir well. Cook for about 7 minutes, until the rice is al dente. Drain it through the fine-mesh sieve, cover, and set aside. (This can be done up to 1 day in advance, and stored in a covered container in a refrigerator.)
- Place the cauliflower florets in a microwave-safe container with a little water and microwave at high power for about 6 minutes, until just tender. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the coconut oil in large (6- to 8-quart) saucepan over high heat until it melts. Add the cumin and garam masala, stir, and cook for about 15 to 20 seconds, until toasted. Add the turmeric, ginger, and garlic and stir well. Add the tomato paste and sugar, stir well, and cook for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onion, lemon juice, and zest and stir to combine. Add the onions, stir to coat, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the cauliflower and stir to coat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, until heated through completely.
- Just before serving, add the cashews and cilantro and stir to blend.
The rice will keep for about 3 days in a covered container in the refrigerator, but it will dry out a bit, so add a few tablespoons of coconut water before reheating. Taste and season with salt if necessary.