The beauty of this easy, warming Indian rice dish is not only that it’s all made in one pot, but also that it can easily be adapted — swap in different vegetables (this is a great dish for frozen vegetables!), substitute half the water for coconut milk or tinker with the spice ratios. Traditionally, pulao is eaten with papad (crisps traditionally made of lentils, rice or chickpeas), achaar (pickle) and yogurt — but it’s just as great by itself, drizzled with a little extra ghee.
Thoroughly rinse the rice in a fine-mesh sieve until the water running under the sieve looks clear. Soak the rice in water in a medium bowl for 15 to 20 minutes — close to the time it’ll take for you to assemble the other ingredients and cut the vegetables. Drain the rice, ensuring there isn’t any excess water dripping off the grains (this will result in mushy pulao).
In a medium Dutch oven, melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and once they start to brown and dance around in the oil, about a minute, turn the heat down to low and add the remainder of the spices (black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves, cardamom, turmeric). Cook, stirring, for another minute, until fragrant, turn the heat back up to medium and add the vegetables and rice. Toss to coat everything in the oil and spices, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the salt and 2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes (if your burner is small, this could be more like 20 minutes). Then, remove from the heat and let the pulao sit, undisturbed and still covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and gently mix. Serve with papad, yogurt and achaar or simply drizzle with ghee.
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