Comfort Fish and Chickpea Pilaf

By • February 29, 2012 1 Comments

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Author Notes: This recipe is inspired by something my Pakistani graduate school friend used to make.. A hearty rice dish that was a one dish meal, enriched with her black cardamoms and complete with a generous dose of butter. It might be argued that you might add clarified butter to this, but back then in a graduate school setting that might be a novelty. She added chunks of fish (canned sardines) to this recipe, it is still my go to comfort food.

Over time, I have made my own modifications, I have added Vidalia onions and through in the diced potatoes that my mother adds to her fish pilaf to seal the flavors of this dish. I also like to squeeze in fresh lime juice over the rice before serving.
Rinku Bhattacharya /Spice Chronicles

Food52 Review: This is indeed a comforting recipe -- the spices are pleasantly fragrant, but mellow; the texture of the rice is soft, almost creamy. And it looks lovely, too. The fish is an unusual, but welcome component, melding in nicely with the other ingredients. Any fishiness is mellowed out by the spices so this might be a good recipe to try if you're trying to eat more sardines, but are turned off by the strong flavors. The dish also has a really nice variety of textures -- crunchy fried potatoes, tender eggplant, flaky fish and soft rice. A friendly, tasty dish all around. vrunka


Serves 8

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
  • salt to taste
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 and 1/2 cups basmati rice, washed and dried
  • 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas
  • 1 medium eggplant cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 3 and 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 sweet vidalia onions, sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cans, oil packed sardines (about 1 cup pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  1. Heat half the oil on medium heat, in a large cooking pot.
  2. Rub the potatoes with ½ teaspoon of turmeric.
  3. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and set aside
  4. Add in the remaining oil and add the onions and sauté for about 6 to 7 minutes, until the onions soften and begin to turn golden on the edges.
  5. Add in the ginger and the basmati rice and fry the rice for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add in the chickpeas and eggplant and mix well.
  7. Add in the cumin powder, coriander powder, bay leaves, cardamom and black peppercorns.
  8. Add in the broth, additional salt if desired with the remaining turmeric and bring it to a simmer.
  9. Cover and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, heat the butter and sauté the Vidalia onion, until soft and beginning to turn golden. This is done on low heat, in a separate skillet for about 5 minutes.
  11. Remove the cover of the pot an add in the fried potatoes, onions and the tomatoes and stir well but gently so as to not break the rice grains.
  12. Remove the cover of the pot and add in the fried potatoes, onions and the tomatoes and stir well but gently so as to not break the rice grains.
  13. Lower the temperature and cook for 3 more minutes and turn off the heat.
  14. Break the sardines into chunks and mix them into the pilaf lightly to make sure that they are still in large pieces.
  15. Keep the dish covered for 10 minutes before serving.
  16. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

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