Pilaf (the spelling prevalent in North America) or pilau (the spelling preferred in the United Kingdom) is a dish that requires rice to be cooked in broth. Spices, vegetables, meat, nuts and fruits are commonly added.
To differentiate it from risotto and congee, when cooking pilaf, the rice grains should not stick to each other by the time the dish is done. There should be no clumping. That is why Basmati and other long-grain rice varieties are preferred for cooking pilaf. The longer the grain, the less sticky the rice is.
There are countless variants of pilaf. How the rice is prepared prior to cooking differs from region to region. Some recipes call for soaking the rice before cooking. Soaked or not, the rice is tossed in hot fat during the early stage of cooking. The fat can be oil, lard or butter.
Where it was first cooked is anyone’s guess. Pilaf (although the name and / or spelling varies) is found in South Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Caribbean, Greek, Eastern European and Russian cuisines. Its modern English name — pilaf — appears to be derived from the Turkish pilav which, in turn, came from the Persian pilāv.
Biryani and paella evolved from pilaf. How the method cooking of rice and other ingredients in broth spread to various countries and continents can be traced to endless colonizations that mark human history.
As the title so obviously says, there’s bacon and sausage. To be more specific, it’s unsweetened bacon and Spanish-style chorizo.
Then, we have roasted pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts, and dried wolfberries (goji) and apricots. Why the combination? The truth is, these are ingredients for our trail mix. We do make our own. Just a few nights ago, my daughter, Alex, and I were talking about how perfect trail mix ingredients are for cooking pilaf. So, aside from the bacon, sausage, onion and rice, the rest of the ingredients are components of our homemade trail mix.
It starts with the fat in which the rice must be tossed in before the broth is added. Bacon fat. Chopped bacon was cooked until fat was rendered then a sliced onion was added. The two were cooked for a short time until the onion slices were just starting to turn translucent.
The sliced chorizo went in next. After the sausage had rendered some of its fat, the cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, wolfberries and apricot were added.
The unsoaked Basmati rice was stirred in. When every grain was glistening with the combined fats from the bacon and chorizo, broth was poured in.
Because the bacon and chorizo are already salty, and the broth had been properly seasoned, I didn’t bother seasoning the pilaf with salt. No black pepper either since the chorizo contains a sufficient amount of spices.
How much broth did I use? For a cup of Basmati rice, I used three cups of broth. We use aged Basmati rice at home which means the grains are extremely dry. They need plenty of liquid in which to cook.
How long did the pilaf cook? Half an hour. At the end of cooking time, I fluffed up the rice, drizzled in calamansi juice and gave everything a gentle but thorough tossing.
Bacon and sausage pilaf
- ¾ cup chopped belly bacon
- 1 onion peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 Spanish-style chorizo (about 200 grams), thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
- ⅓ cup roasted cashew nuts
- ⅓ cup dried wolfberries (goji)
- 4 to 6 dried apricots cut into half-inch cubes
- 1 cup Basmati rice
- 3 cups bone broth (beef or chicken broth is recommended) must be well seasoned
- 3 to 4 tablespoons calamansi juice or lemon or lime juice
- cilantro to garnish
- Set the stove on medium-high.
- Spread the chopped bacon in a hot pan and leave without disturbing to render fat.
- Stir the bacon and cook until the edges are just starting to brown.
- Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion slices are beginning to turn translucent.
- Stir in the chorizo and cook just until the sausage has rendered fat and color.
- Add the pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, wolfberries, apricots and rice. Toss to coat every solid ingredient with rendered fat.
- Pour in the broth and bring to a gentle boil.
- Cover the pan, lower the heat and cook the pilaf for half an hour.
- Toss the pilaf to fluff it up, drizzle in the calamansi juice, and toss a few times.
- Ladle the bacon and sausage pilaf into shallow bowls, garnish with cilantro and serve.