This is quick, simple and fabulous.
I wanted our dinner Saturday night to be special so I'd dug out my copy of Gordon Ramsay's Secrets for inspiration. It's a great book, with some easy to follow recipes that usually end in a delightful meal. I decided we'd have fish, and was tempted by steamed aromatic cod. He suggested pilaff rice as an accompaniment - and I could see how good that would be.
We had a roasted chicken last week, hot Sunday and then cold in lunches for the week. By Saturday morning all I had left was the carcass. So, with two minutes effort and an hour on the hob while we breakfasted, this was the source of stock to make this rice dish. Gold star to me for frugality resulting from integrated cooking.
And that was as difficult as it got. By cooking this in the oven there is as close to no work involved and almost no chance of anything going wrong. You end up with delicately scented perfectly cooked individual grains of rice.
250g basmati rice
50g ghee or clarified butter
1 small Spanish onion, chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods, seeds only
Pared zest of ½ an unwaxed lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 4. Tip the rice into a sieve and rinse well under cold running water until it runs clear.
Cut a circle of greaseproof paper slightly larger than the dish you are planning to cook the rice in, and make a small cut in the centre of it to act as a vent. This is called a cartouche - knowing that may one day win you £1million on millionaire.
Melt two thirds of the ghee or clarified butter in a heatproof casserole dish and sauté the onion until soft.
Add the rice, then stir in the bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom seeds and cook for 1 minute. Throw in the lemon zest with some seasoning and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover with the greaseproof. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes before removing the cartouche. Dot the remaining ghee or clarified butter on top. Fork through to separate and fluff up the rice, removing the whole spices before serving.
It was lovely with the steamed fish and would be equally good with just some dahl or vegetable curries, or alongside tandoori chicken - in fact it is so easy and tastes so good it is a really useful dish to have up your sleeve.