I know how excited everyone gets about a good one-pan dish. This family-friendly, easy pilaf has minimal hands-on time and dish washing but maximum flavour. Purists will note that this isn’t an authentic recipe, but the results are delicious so that’s good enough for me. This is a great lesson in balancing flavour, texture and temperature so that every mouthful makes you smile.

Easy Vegan Pilaf

Easy Vegan Pilaf

If you want to get more veg into your diet, use half rice and half cauliflower rice. No one will notice. Scroll down to the bottom of the recipe to find out how I make cauli rice.

Prep ahead and leftovers

You can make the pilaf up until stage 5 of the recipe a few hours before you want to eat. Or do what I do and just cook it for longer at stage 11. Just drop the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 40 minutes instead of 20. If you get to the start of stage 11 before your guests arrive, it will be ready to eat an hour after they arrive.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for 3 days and reheated in the oven, pan or microwave until piping hot. Or they can be eaten at room temperature without being re-heated.

Why ready cooked brown rice is a life-saver

It is rare I recommend ready cooked ingredients as I’m always dubious about what has been added to keep them fresh. Frozen brown rice is an exception. I keep a zip top freezer bag in my freezer with cooked brown rice in. Then I can just grab a handful every time I need a fast dinner, which is most days!

How to cook and freeze brown rice

1 cup uncooked brown rice = 4 cups cooked rice

When cooking brown rice, remember the ratio 1 cup (240ml) of rice to 2 cups (280ml) of water (or fill 1 coffee mug with rice then use 2 of the same coffee mugs of water). And use a small pan with a lid. The bigger the pan, the quicker the water will evaporate and the rice won’t cook as evenly.

1    When the water starts to boil (listen rather than lifting the lid which slows it down) transfer the pan to your lowest heat ring, on the lowest flame (the smallest one on your hob).

2    With the heat on the lowest setting, leave the rice to barely simmer for between 20-40 minutes. The cooking time will depend on which type of rice you are using.

3    Don’t take the lid off for the first 20 minutes as you want the rice to steam – you lose steam each time the lid comes off. Don’t stir it as you’ll make it mushy.

4    After 20 minutes, take a quick look and taste one of the grains of rice from the top of the pot. You should see little holes in the rice where the steam has forced its way out. This will show that most of the water has been absorbed by the rice. If it’s cooked, turn the heat off, if not, pop the lid back on and continue cooking. The cooked rice will happily sit off the heat with the lid on for half an hour before serving. Or spread it on a plate and leave it to cool before freezing it – put it in a bag in a thin layer so that it is easy to snap off a chunk.

Easy pilaf ingredients:

Serves 4. Hands-on cooking time 20 minutes. Total cooking time 30-40 minutes.

2 small or 1 big red onion

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

4-8 hickly sliced Portabella mushrooms

1 large cinnamon stick

3 cardamom pods

1 jar of roasted red peppers (175g drained weight)

3 cups (350g) cooked brown rice – see note above

a pinch of saffron strands soaked in a cup with 2 tablespoons hot water (if you don’t have these you can leave them out)

around 300g green beans, stalks removed and cut in half

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

juice and zest of 1-2 lemons

around 100g watercress or flatleaf parsley

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

4 tablespoons flaked almonds or pistachios, toasted in a dry pan

To make easy pilaf

1    Dice the onion and put into a large frying pan and cook for 5 minutes in a little oil

2    Peel and slice the garlic and set aside.

4    Use the flat of your knife to squash the cardamom pods. Add them, whole to the pan along with the whole cinnamon stick and the sliced garlic. Stir and cook for a minute.

5    Use scissors to snip the drained peppers into the pan.

6    Add the cooked rice to the pan and stir well so that it gets coated in the flavoured oil. If it is frozen, stir and cook until it is almost defrosted.

7    Drizzle the 2 tablespoons of saffron water and stems into the pan. Stir and then make 4 holes in the rice with your spatula to allow the steam to escape.

8    Put a clean tea towel over the pan. Put a lid on the pan, on top of the towel, and tuck the ends of the towel on top of the lid to avoid them catching on the flame. Turn the heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes. I’ve left this cooking for 40 minutes before with no issue – in fact it gets a lovely crust on the bottom if you leave it longer, making it perfect for entertaining as you can get everything done before your guests arrive.

9    Scatter the chopped beans on top of the rice and put the lid back on, without the towel. Leave to cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

10                 Add the juice and zest of a lemon, stir and taste. Adjust the salt and pepper and lemon as needed. Stir in chopped watercress or parsley and serve. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with toasted nuts.

VEGAN OPTION: For a vegan variety simply serve with thick slices of fried Portabella mushrooms.

About Gemma Wade: 

Turning her love of cooking into a career, mother of two, Gemma Wade teaches the kitchen secrets to keeping all the parenting plates spinning. Gemma's one-to-one or group led classes, online tutorials and easy recipes demonstrate how to incorporate fuss free, quick and delicious meals into hectic family schedules. 

Unlike many chef-led cooking schools, Gemma’s classes and recipes come from the reality of cooking in a home kitchen with small children underfoot and the rest of life being juggled around it.

“Over the years I’ve picked up tons of tips and tricks to get delicious food on the table with a realistic level of effort. Because I spend all my time with real, hard working parents I’ve been able to truly refine what will and won’t work for them. My recipes are inspired by their day-to-day needs, they look and taste amazing but rarely take more than 30 minutes of hands-on work.” Says Gemma. “I’m a big believer in the power of menu planning and the importance of one family, one meal which reduces stress as well as saving money and avoiding waste. I teach based on the principle of cooking with whole, natural ingredients, organic where possible.”

Since launching in 2011 Gemma has had over 5,000 people through her classes, most of which have been busy working mums and dads from companies including, Google, Apple and Facebook.

For more of Gemma’s recipes, online tutorials, or to book a class, visit www.yousaytomatocooking.com or follow @gemcwade

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