Middle Eastern pilav


  • 1 coffee-mug round-grain rice (about 150g)
  • 1 large onion or a few small ones
  • oil to fry in
  • 1 litre vegetable broth (or more as needed)
  • 150g shelled walnuts
  • 50g almond slivers
  • 250g dates without stones
  • 1-2 sticks cinnamon
  • about 5 cloves
  • about 10 green cardamoms
  • pinch of saffron
  • a little rose water (optional)
  • pinch of salt

I call this pilav because there's cinnamon and cardamom in it, and because I add all the liquid at once: if I did it little by little I'd call it risotto. Like risotto, pilav isn't supposed to dry out, so you can and should add more liquid if it inadvertently does.

It's very filling, so it's best to have a light salad with it.


Put the rice in a large enough sieve to have about an inch of space above the rice surface and rinse it. Hang the sieve with rice in a bowl that fits it snugly. Pour on boiling water to cover the rice generously and let it soak up water for half an hour or so.

In the meantime, cut the dates into chunks (remove stones if necessary), soak the saffron in a little hot water, and finely chop the onion.

Drain the rice and shake or stir it to separate the grains.

In a wide thick-bottomed pan, fry the onions in the oil. When they begin to colour, add the rice and stir it around until all grains are opaque and coated with oil. Pour in broth to about an inch above the rice and stir in all the other ingredients, except the rose water (heating that too long makes its scent disappear) and some of the almonds to use for decoration. Bring it to the boil, give it another good stir and reduce the heat to the bare minimum. Stir the pilav often, working it loose from the bottom, because it will tend to stick.

Cook until the rice is tender, about half an hour depending on your rice. Stir in a teaspoonful of rose water. Put the pilav in a serving dish and sprinkle with the reserved almonds.