My earlier experiences with making pulao haven't been too pleasant. Not that they were a disaster each time. But several times, either the rice would turn out too soft and mushy and break when I'd stir it or, one thin layer of rice at the bottom would er, burn. I used to make the pulao in the pressure cooker (I did not have a rice cooker) and had no clue what was happening inside until the cooker would cool down, and I would remove the whistle and open the lid. There were times when I'd secretly hope that they would come up with see-through cookers and I'd know if I needed to add more water and could easily do it.
And then I saw my mother-in-law cook pulao in a regular deep bottomed pan on the stove stop. No pressure cooker, no rice cooker, just your regular pan you use to make curry in. The best part was, after a few minutes, you could open the lid and check if you need more water.
So I adapted this method of cooking. Luckily I have a deep bottomed pan with a sturdy glass lid. I make my pulao in that.
I also came across this wonderful tip on the internet of soaking the basmati rice in water for 20 to 30 minutes. This makes the grains longer and also reduces the breakage of rice when you mix it. I found that tip very useful and I make it a point to soak the rice each time I cook pulao or any flavoured rice.
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup tightly packed methi (fenugreek) leaves
2 tbsp oil
1 1" cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1 large onion
2 green chillies, slit
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp ghee (optional)
Wash and soak the basmati rice in water. What I do is, I first soak the rice and then start with chopping of the onions etc, so that by the time I reach the part where the rice has to be added, it will be about 20 to 30 minutes.
Pluck out the methi leaves from the bunch. I used 1 cup of packed methi leaves, which is about 1 1/4 cup of loosely packed leaves. Don't chop the leaves as this can increase the bitterness.
In a deep bottomed pan, heat oil. Add bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and roast for a couple of minutes. Add onion and sauté till it turns brownish. Add green chillies and ginger garlic paste and fry for some more time. Now add methi leaves and roast them well. To this add turmeric powder and garam masala and sauté for sometime. Add finely chopped tomato and roast till the tomatoes are compeltely cooked.
Drain the rice completely. Add it to the above and roast for a minute. Add ghee for more flavour [I skipped this].
[If you use a rice cooker, at this point, just tranfer the above into the rice cooker, add 1 3/4 cups water and allow to cook].
Back to the pan. Add 1 3/4 cups of water [ I add 2 cups as I like softer rice]. Add salt [ I used apprx 1 1/4 tsp]. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10 to 11 minutes. Check to see if the water has been absorbed. [You can mix it with a couple of gentle strokes]. The rice has to be atleast 90% cooked. If not, leave it to cook for another 2 minutes, sprinkle more water if necessary. Switch the gas off and leave untouched for 10 minutes or till the rice is completely cooked.
Enjoy this one-pot meal with yogurt or raita. I usually prefer it without any accompaniment as I love the flavours in the pulao.