You might be wondering, what the hell is pilaf and how different is it from risotto and even paella? Well, risotto uses arborio rice, so it’s more temperamental. Proud paella uses malagkit/sticky rice and saffron (or if you’re cheap like me, annatto seeds). Pilaf is the simpler relative, it isn’t high maintenance, and if you’re a hardcore rice eater (hello, my fellow Filipinos), it hits close to home.
The way I see it: replace the water used to cook rice, with broth, add at least two vegetables, season with a herb of your choice, cook it the way you would cook regular rice, and ladies and gents, you have pilaf.
My take on the pilaf is, dare I say it, really accessible (read: anyone can cook this; which is part of my goal as a food blogger after all). The tricky part is the water-to-rice ratio. General consensus is, 1 cup of rice:2 cups of water.
Remember that there are a lot of varieties of white rice out there, but the ratio is almost always consistent. But I would usually reduce the water by 1/8th to 1/4th of a cup because I always have this perpetual fear that my rice would turn out mushy, but that’s just me.
Recipes online would make use of wild rice, even brown rice for their pilaf. Since we don’t have it here, white rice is here to stay. Instead of the canned chicken broth, I just replaced the cooking liquid with bouillon cubes dissolved in water. I didn’t go crazy with the vegetables because I just used carrots and Baguio beans. Plus, this dish has no meat.
The pilaf doesn’t overpower whatever main course you have, but it’s still pleasantly flavorful. In my case I had it with estofado, a thick tomato-based pork stew, and I ate mine with gusto. Filipinos have the propensity to look at rice not just as a side dish but really, part of the meal itself. If that’s the case, then the humble pilaf seamlessly and effortlessly joins the party.
Simple White Rice Pilaf (serves 6 – 8)
- 3 1/2 – 4 cups water
- 1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
- 2 (around 20 grams) chicken bouillon cubes
- a dash of pepper
- a slice of ginger
- 2 cups white rice
- 2 tbsp olive/canola oil
- half a bulb of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 medium sized shallots/red onions, sliced thinly
- 1 medium carrot, cut into minute/small cubes
- 5 – 8 pieces green/Baguio beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 2 lemongrass leaves (around 10 – 12 inches)
- Make the broth: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, broth cubes, rosemary, ginger and pepper. Stir until broth cubes dissolve and liquid is warm but not boiling. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a saucepan large enough to hold the rice with the broth, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onions and saute until onions are translucent.
- Add the carrots and green beans, and stir to coat with the oil.
- Add the rice and stir to coat with oil. Continue cooking for 1 minute.
- Add the broth, stir well. Add the lemongrass. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes, covered, over medium heat. Resist the urge to frequently open the lid of the pot, this won’t help cook the rice thoroughly. It helps if the lid is transparent. You may check on it once in a while.
- When rice is cooked through, remove heat and remove the lemongrass. “Fluff” the rice using a fork (run a fork through the rice itself as if you’re lightly scraping it; don’t scrape the bottom though!!!) and serve hot with your main course of choice. Enjoy!