When time is of the essence and a pot of comfort is badly needed, this delicately fragrant vegetable pulao with hints of cinnamon and anise rises to the occasion. I always have a sack of freshly frozen mixed vegetables at home, and no matter what the sack comprises it packs one-pot-meal punch in this pulao, especially when served with a raita and some pickle. Pulao originated in Persia, making its way to India via Muslim invaders who formed the long lasting Mughal Empire, leaving a lasting and delectable impact on the cuisine of India. Pulao is not to be confused with biryani, which is a far more aromatic, lavish and painstaking preparation of layered meat and rice.
Place the rice in a sieve and wash it thoroughly until the water draining is clear not cloudy. Now leave this to sit, while you heat a medium-sized pan with the ghee on high.
When the oil is hot, drop the cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, bay leaf and cumin in. As they sizzle up, mix in the rice sautéing the whole lot for a minute until the rice turns opaque white.
Now, add frozen vegetables, one and three quarter cups of hot water and stir through the salt. Bring the whole lot back to boil. When it starts bubbling, lower the flame to a high simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
In 10 minutes, take the pan off the heat and leave it to sit for another five to 10 minutes for all the moisture in the pan to dissipate and the rice to cool enough to be handled without its long grains breaking. While it is sitting, warm the oil on medium in a small egg pan and sauté the cashewnuts in it until golden.
To serve, tip the pulao onto a platter and drop the cashewnuts on top. Enjoy hot, although this quick Vegetable Pulao reheats well too.