Carrot, Almond, and Raisin Palaw
This is probably the most widely known and popular of many rice dishes. It is a dazzling dish, especially popular for wedding feasts and other important events.
2 cups cold water
Put raisins in 2 cups cold water. Set aside for 30 minutes, then drain off water.
Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a kettle. Add diced onion and saute until quite brown (but not burned).
Add and brown lightly 1 lb. halal or kosher chicken (in parts), or lamb or beef, cut into half-inch squares.
Add 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt, and garam masala. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender (chicken about 45 minutes, beef or lamb about 2 hours). Remove the meat from the juice and set aside. This juice will be used for cooking the rice.
Wash and scrape or peel carrots. Cut into toothpick-sized pieces. This is best done by making longitudinal slices, then cutting again along the length to produce right shape. A food processor will slice them quickly, but usually they are a bit too thin and turn to mush as they are cooked.
Heat olive oil in a small saucepan. Add honey and sliced carrots. Cook until the carrots are slightly browned and totally tender. You may add 1/4 cup water to help soften the carrots.
This is a tricky part of the cooking, to get the carrots to turn out right. Watch the dish closely while cooking, and stir gently but frequently. Do not be afraid to turn the heat up; you'll need rather high heat, or they'll take a very long time to be done. Cooking time is about 45 minutes, so start this early in the preparation process.
Remove carrots from oil and put in a glass dish. Put another 1/8 cup olive oil in the cooking pot and add the drained raisins. Cook, stirring constantly, until the raisins begin to balloon up and swell. Remove from heat and put in bowl with carrots.
Add almonds (or peeled pistachio nuts) to remaining oil. Cook until the nuts just begin to turn brown, but do not overcook, or the oil will turn rancid.
To cook rice, begin by boiling the meat juices, and add 2 cups basmati rice and 11/2 teaspoons salt. Add boiling water to bring the level to two inches above the rice (about 41/2 cups total liquid). Add a pinch of saffron.
Cook until all water is absorbed and rice is tender. Test for doneness by removing one grain and squeezing between thumb and forefinger. Then, when rice is done, pour any remaining oil in which carrots were cooked over the rice.
Mix gently in with the rice. (Don't add the carrot-raisin mixture yet!) Put the rice into a casserole dish and put meat on top, saving some rice to cover over the meat. Set in a 300° oven for 20 minutes. To serve, put a layer of rice on platter, a layer of meat, then the rest of the rice in a mound over the meat. Finally, use your hand to spread the carrot-raisin mixture over the entire surface of mounded rice.
Plain White Rice (Chalow)
1/4 cup diced onions
Heat oil and saute diced onions until quite brown. Combine in the same pot the rice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 7 cups boiling water. Cook until rice is tender. Strain and place rice in an ovenproof dish.
Mix separately the olive oil, 1/2 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour this mixture over drained rice and toss gently with pancake turner or large rice server until the oil coats all the rice. Cover and place in 300° oven for 20 minutes to complete cooking.
To serve, mound rice on a large platter. If desired, pour over the rice an additional 1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter. Accompany with a vegetable sauce or meat sauce.