Every single Bengali child has grown up eating Mishti Holud Pulao, because every single mother never tires of making them. We have them on every occasion. On our birthdays, on our weddings, on our child’s birthday, on our child’s (who is now grown up) wedding, on our grandchild’s birthday and if we live that long, on our grandchild’s wedding. So basically the holud pulao follows us from cradle to grave. It has followed me as well, for a substantial almost three decades of my life. My mother has chosen to feed me holud pulao on ALL my birthdays. So when it was time for my parents’ marriage anniversary last Friday, I thought of giving them back a piece of their own cake. Of course they deserved some holud pulao for tolerating each other for 34 years and for putting up with me for a lion’s share of that! 😛 And what fun that their big day fell within my Eat Like a Bong series, they got Kosha Mangsho, Amsatter Chutney and Gurer Payesh as well!
Well, this Holud Pulao is a fragrant rice dish that is radiant yellow in colour (no, not food colour. We know how to use turmeric well!), studded with dry fruits and nuts with a hint of sweetness. You can totally hog this on its own. But I’m usually a very ‘meaty’ person, so I prefer mine with a plate of fiery hot kosha mangsho. This pulao, like all pulaos, is made the traditional way by adding rice and water to a pan which already has been tempered with whole spices. But my mother is an outlaw, she is a cheat of the highest order when it comes to following recipes. Most of the times I get exasperated but there are some occasions when I do give in to her short-cut route because they are so fool proof and you really can’t spot a difference in taste, which is as fantastic. This holud pulao is one such thing.
Gobindabhog rice: 3 cups (You can use Basmati in the absence of Gobindabhog)
Turmeric powder: 1 tbsp (or as required)
Saffron strands, soaked in 2 tbsp warm milk: a fat pinch
Ghee: 3 tbsp
Bay leaves: 2
Black cardamom: 2-3
Green cardamom: 6-7
Nutmeg, freshly grated: a fat pinch
Cashewnuts, soaked in water for 30 minutes: 1/4 cup
Raisins, soaked in water for 30 minutes: 1/4 cup
Salt, to taste
Sugar: 3 tbsp or more depending on your taste
1. Wash the rice well with water, drain it and then smear it with turmeric powder. After you do so spread it out under the fan to allow it to dry up. Let it rest for an hour or so.
2. Now divide the rice into two halves and cook it in a wide cauldron (dekchi) with sufficient water in batches. Keep a watch while its cooking and remove it when al dente (almost cooked). This should take you around 8-10 minutes. Set the cooked rice aside and let it cool.
3. Once it cools down, mix the rice from the two cauldrons together. Add salt, sugar and saffron along with the milk.
4. In a non stick pan, heat 2 tbsp ghee till it starts to splutter. Add bay leaves and 30 seconds later the whole spices and the nutmeg. Cook on high heat for a minute or so till it starts releasing aroma. Now add the cashewnuts and raisins. Stir for another couple of minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the tempered spices into the rice and mix well. (This is deviating from the normal method. My mother chooses to do this to prevent the rice from getting mushy if you pour it into the kadhai on the heat and then mix it. I find this trick extremely handy.)
5. Now turn on the gas again and place the cauldron on the heat. Don’t stir much now because you’ve already mixed the rice well with the spices. Just cover it and let it simmer for 7-8 minutes on low heat.
Sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp ghee, mix well and turn off heat.
6. Serve hot with chholar dal, alu dum, chicken or mutton kosha or even cauliflower curry!
Eat Like a Bong: Day 21