Comfort Fish and Chickpea Pilaf

February 29, 2012
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 8
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup oil, divided
  • 1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric, divided
  • sal, to taste
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 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 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. In a large cooking pot over medium heat, heat half the oil.
  2. Meanwhile, rub the potatoes with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.
  3. Lightly fry the potatoes in the old until soft and golden. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and set aside
  4. Heat the remaining oil, add the red 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 to 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, the remaining turmeric, additional salt (if desired), and bring it to a simmer.
  9. Cover and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, in a separate skillet over low heat, heat the butter and sauté the vidalia onions until soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes.
  11. Remove the cover of the pot of rice and add in the fried potatoes, the vidalia 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.
  14. Remove the rice from the heat, 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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1 Review

Rinku B. March 4, 2012
In step 2 for this recipe, the potatoes need to be fried until crisp and then removed from the oil, drained and sprinkled with salt and set aside.