Mildly sweetened basmati rice with nutty aroma acquired from simmering in fresh coconut milk spiced with fragrant mint leaves is the perfect dish for any spicy curry or stew. The whole spices jazz up the coconut milk and the golden yellow of the turmeric takes you to a tropical paradise. This makes a great accompaniment for barbeque parties and potlucks. Freshly made coconut milk and coconut oil is essential for this recipe. Use fresh or frozen grated coconut to make coconut milk. Try not to use canned coconut or dehydrated coconut powder that will compromise the taste. It’s better not to substitute any other oil in place of coconut oil.
I grew up eating this coconut pilau for birthdays, anniversaries and new year’s eve. While others cooked briyani for Christmas and New year, my mom prepared this coconut pilau as an alternative for briyani. This rice dish demands less work and is easy to make. My sister and I extracted the coconut milk while mom made the chicken curry. She prepared this rice dish in a jiffy without any fuss. Her coconut pilau was subtly sweet and fragrant, a comfy dish indeed. I make this now and then, when I miss home and mom.
1 1/2 cups uncooked Basmati or long grain rice
1 cup freshly grated coconut meat or dried unsweetened coconut
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon Extra virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup onions, thinly sliced
1/4 packed mint leaves (Pudina), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon Ginger-garlic paste
2 Green chillies, slit
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds (Jeera)
1/2 teaspoon Fennel seeds (Saunf)
1 2 inches Cinnamon stick (Dalchini), broken
4 Green cardamom (choti elaichi), crushed
3 Clove buds (laung)
1 Star anise (Chakra phool/ Anasphal)
1 Black rock lichen (Dagad phool)
1 Bayleaf (Tej patta)
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Roasted cashewnut for garnish *optional
1 tablespoon Golden raisins *optional
Fried shallots for garnish *optional
To make coconut milk – Blend warm water and coconut meat in a blender. Extract the milk in a bowl using a strainer or a cheesecloth. Add more water if needed and squeeze to make 3 cups of coconut milk. This milk can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for 3 days. Since there is no preservative or stabilizers added to the milk, the fat may separate on top of the liquid if left to sit. This is normal. Shake well and mix it back.
Stove top method
1. Wash uncooked rice under running water and keep aside.
2. In a deep sided pot, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add whole spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, star anise, black rock lichen, bayleaf, cumin seeds, fennel seeds). Sauté for a minute or till your kitchen wafts with the sweet aroma of the spice infused coconut oil.
3. Add sliced onions and slit green chillies. When the onions turn golden brown and translucent, add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté till the raw smell disappears. Add turmeric powder and salt as per preference.
4. Add uncooked basmati rice and mix gently. The oil should coat the rice grains. Take care not to break the rice grains while mixing the oil and the rice. Stir occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
5. Pour the freshly prepared coconut milk into the pot. Add mint leaves and bring the coconut milk to a gentle boil.
6. Stir once and cover pot tightly with a lid. Do not lift the lid to retain the steam inside the pot. Let simmer on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or till the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Cooking time depends on the variety of rice. Check the rice container for instructions.
7. To check doneness, fluff rice with a fork. Each grain should be soft and should not be clumped. Coconut milk has oil in itself which acts as an emulsifier to prevent clumping of the rice.
8. Remove pot from heat, but keep the lid on till you serve. Remove whole spices before serving. Garnish with roasted cashewnuts and golden raisins and serve hot with your favorite curry.
Rice cooker method
1. Follow the above mentioned steps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Place all in the rice cooker. Cover and set to cook.
2. Once the rice cooker switches to ‘warm’ mode, let it stand for another 8 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and keep it unclumped. Garnish and serve hot.
Fresh coconut milk gives a mild sweetness and fragrant aroma. Use of extra virgin coconut oil adds natural flavor with health benefits.