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The perfect Vagharaela Chaawal or rice by Cyrus Todiwala

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

A good dish of rice can lift up any dish being served alongside it. Try out this recipe to make your meals more flavoursome!

This is a simple Parsee style simple cumin flavoured Pulao.

The word Pulao is derived from the Persian word POLO which means infused rice or rice cooked gently covered flavoured with herbs and spices.

There are several or shall we say hundreds of variants to cooking rice and this is just one style.

Serves 4


250-300 g of Basmati Rice

1 Medium Onion — Peeled, halved, and sliced thinly

1 two-inch piece cinnamon stick

2 to 3 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 tablespoons of oil or 2 tablespoons of ghee


1) Wash your rice soak for ten to fifteen minutes and then drain,

1) Preheat your oven to between 130 and 140 Celsius and keep the middle shelf clear with no top shelf so that the pot can fit inside the oven (Heat to gas mark 5 or equivalent, the best is 130 Celsius)

2) I have realised that in England you do not need to soak rice for long. The rice is so well polished that there is less fibre on the surface and as a result with aggressive cleaning and soaking, the grain breaks up. Unlike in India where we do have to wash well and soak rice well for it to expand. Therefore, I recommend a simple washing and light soaking then draining.

3) Heat the oil or ghee in a casserole with a tight fitting lid approximately 10’’ in diameter, and fry the spices for a minute or two until they change colour.

4) Remember to first crack the cardamom before adding it to the oil. This is for two reasons, one to give a better flavour and secondly so that the cardamom does not explode because the air gets trapped inside when frying.

5) Add the onions and sauté for a minute or two until they go pale brown but do not colour too much unless you wish to colour the rice and then let them caramelise a bit more to give the rice a nice light brown colour.

6) You must also at this stage keep the water ready in a kettle or another pan and you will need double the quantity of water.

7) Your rice should normally take two times the quantity of water in weight. Therefore, for 300 grams of rice you may need 600ml of water approximately. However, rice does differ in qualities and levels of absorption and at times this calculus may go awry, but this cooking process seems to work always.

8) I therefore recommend that you add the required amount of water, stir well, clean the sides of any loose grains with. Spatula, lower the heat slightly once it reaches boiling point, add salt, cover and cook.

9) Stir firstly after every minute or so gently by taking in from each side and clearing the sides before covering the pan again.

10) When you see that the water is nearly absorbed, clean the edges off any loose grains, cover the pot and place in your oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. Also in the oven the rice will need less water and the grains will come out better separated. The oven works like a steamer for the rice and that way determines a better texture all around.

11) Once the rice is cooked, stir with a roasting form loosening all the grains and cover and set aside until you need it.

Ideally you can switch the oven off after ten to twelve minutes and leave the rice inside but not disturbing it for at least half an hour. Later remove and loosen with a fork.

Fancy giving this recipe a try? Make sure to tag us on Instagram: @bigcurrynightinuk #BigCurryNightIn

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