Easy Pilau Rice

IMG_3171This is a simple, easy recipe for rice that is cooked with the absorption method which basically means cooking it gently while covered so that the precise amount of water you cook it in is entirely absorbed leaving the rice cooked but not wet or water-logged. It’s almost dry to the touch and is flavoured with a spice infused oil. The spices you use are entirely up to you so use whatever is handy though cinnamon, cloves and cardamom are like the three amigos in this fiesta! Whatever combination of whole spices you try, please keep away from whole black peppercorns. In the interest of discretion I’ll just say that an anonymous  friend/family member/acquaintance/pet made this under my, albeit vague, directions so when I told him/her/it/they to use “whatever whole spices are handy”, whole peppercorns featured and it did not work. It’s probably best to keep the flavours mellow as this is, at the end of the day, the rice that goes with the curry which should be the star of the show.

The boil-in-the-bag stuff is really handy if you have never learned the absorption method but once you learn the ratio of rice:cooking water (500g rice:550ml water or 10:11) you’ll never go back to the boil-in-the-bag, or my previous method, the chuck-a-load-of-rice-and-water-in-a-pot-and-boil-til-everything-else-is-ready approach.

One final word of  warning is to make absolutely sure that you rinse the rice well enough before letting it soak. I’ve made rice with this method loads of times but there were two times I forgot to rinse it before soaking it and it was a disaster. It was like the outer part of the rice grains went really soft leaving an uncooked core. Now I put the rice in a sieve and run cold water through it, mixing the rice and water with my fingers until the water running from the sieve runs clear.


Easy Pilau Rice


  • 500 g white rice (basmatti or jasmine)
  • 550 ml water (plus more for soaking)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 2 Indian bay leaves
  • 4 black cardamom pods
  • 10 cm cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves


  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly and leave to soak in cold water for 30 minutes.
  2. Fry the salt and whole spices in the oil until they start to sizzle.
  3. Add the soaked and drained rice to the spiced oil and turn briefly until the rice is slicked in oil.
  4. Add the water and bring to the boil.
  5. Once boiling, clamp the lid on the pot, turn the heat down the the lowest it will go and leave for 10 minutes or until fluffy and almost dry looking.
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