While a lot of us share a legacy of our grandmothers' cooking, it was my grandfather who left behind trails of delicious saffron-flavored rice, honey-scented puddings, and orange blossom sherbets. Ironically, I have never met him: he passed away just few years before I was born. Nevertheless, I felt as if I knew him all my life, through the recipes that my mom and my aunt inherited, passed down to me via stories of the journeys he made before he settled down in Southeast Asia. He was apparently a man of few words. And his strong Persian blood was evident in my mother’s wonderful cooking. She makes pilaf better than any Middle Eastern restaurant I've tried, but it is Bukhara rice which we always look forward to at our big family gatherings.
What I like most about the Bukhara is that there's minimal use of spices, yet each and every spice amalgamates together to form such a flavorful one-pot meal that you really do not need any more gravy or stew to enjoy it with. Note that the whole spices are dry-roasted, then ground: This extra step makes a great deal of difference. And shallots are used along with red onions, which are caramelized to bring out the wonderful aroma to the rice.
To get the rice fluffy, use the best quality basmati rice that you can find -- the longer the grain, the fluffier the rice will be. The rice should also be soaked in water for around an hour, then drained, prior to cooking. Adding some lemon juice also helps in ensuring the rice grains are separate instead of clumping together. Traditionally, Bukhara is cooked with lamb but I have also used chicken for variation.
3 cups basmati rice 2.2 pounds lean lamb pieces 8 shallots, sliced finely 2 large red onions, sliced finely 1 inch ginger 4 cloves garlic One 16-ounce can of chopped tomatoes Juice of 1 lemon Salt to taste 1 tablespoon ghee 2 tablespoons olive oil