Cashew and Mushroom Pilaf

cashew and mushroom pilaf, almost ready to serve
Cashew and mushroom pilaf

Serves 2

60-100g brown or basmati rice
1 onion, chopped
1 tblsp oil
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1 chopped bell pepper (any colour)
50g cashew nuts (raw)
100g mushrooms, sliced

Rinse the rice well, then cook in plenty of water, on the stove top or in a rice cooker or steamer until just cooked, slightly al dente if preferred.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then add the onions and cook until softened and transparent, and just starting to caramelise, stirring occasionally. Add the crushed garlic and stir in for a minute, then add the spices and salt, and stir quickly to combine.

Lower the heat, then add the cashews, chopped bell pepper and mushrooms, and keep stirring to prevent burning and to ensure all ingredients are well mixed.

Lastly, drain the rice and add to the mixture, stirring well to ensure it's all coated with the spicy mixture. Add a little water if it seems too dry or starts to burn, and stir fry for a few minutes until it is all piping hot.

Serve with other vegetables to suit your family.

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I discovered the recipe on which I based this in my elderly edition of Carolyn Humphries' '1000 quick and easy recipes', which offers a wide range of quick ideas for meals. I had wanted something rice-based but without meat, and had a memory of something called 'pilaf'.

The recipe I found was intended for four people and included soy sauce, one of my migraine triggers, so I tweaked it somewhat, adding a few spices - particularly my favourite healthy one, turmeric - and missing out the celery, which we don't particularly like. I also halved it as there are only two of us and I didn't suppose it would freeze too well.

We don't have huge appetites so I only use 60g dry rice, which is plenty for the two of us; others may prefer to use more. I buy brown basmati rice, which takes about half an hour to cook in water, and doesn't clump together as white or non-basmati rice is inclined to do. I don't suppose basmati rice is intended for pilaf, but I find it works very well.

cooking the pilaf - adding mushrooms after the initial frying of onions etc
It's important to use a large enough frying pan to take everything. A large saucepan might work but it's not so easy to fry onions to the right consistency, nor to stir fry so that the resultant pilaf is dry but not burned, the flavours blending together well. I haven't tried it in a wok, but would use one if I needed to make double quantity.

I wasn't sure what my decidedly non-vegetarian husband would make of this, but he was highly complimentary, and said he would be happy to eat it regularly, by which he usually means about once a month. So it has become part of my regular repertoire.

While it already contains mushrooms and peppers, it's all rather brown (unless you use green or red peppers) and we like our meals to be more colourful, so I do at least one separate vegetable, ideally a green one. I have sometimes cooked collard greens in a different frying pan at the same time to serve this this; other times I have been less ambitious, and have merely served microwaved frozen peas as an accompaniment.