Challaw (Cardamom and Cumin Basmati Rice)
The Afghan Australian cookbook author Durkhanai Ayubi emphasizes that a distinctive quality of challaw — a simple Afghan dish — is the elongated and separate grains of white basmati rice. She shared this recipe from her mother, Farida Ayubi, for this fragrant and comforting pot of rice in their cookbook “Parwana: Recipes and Stories From an Afghan Kitchen.” In this preparation, the rice is first parboiled and then steamed and scented with cardamom pods and cumin seeds. It is worthy of a celebratory feast, alongside saucy dishes like sabzi, but easy enough for weeknight meals.
- Serves: 6 persons
- 2cups white basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
- 1teaspoon green cardamom pods
- 1teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½cup sunflower or grapeseed oil
Step 1In a large pot with a lid, bring 8 1/2 cups water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, drain the rice in a large fine-mesh sieve or colander and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Add the rice and 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt or fine salt) to the boiling water. Boil uncovered, until the grains seem to have doubled in length, 5 to 6 minutes.
Step 2Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or kettle, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and keep at a simmer. Place the cardamom pods on a cutting board and lightly crack them with the side of a large knife.
Step 3Drain the parboiled rice in the sieve or colander and return the rice to the pot. Add the cracked cardamom pods and any seeds that may have popped out, the cumin seeds and 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt or fine salt). Mix gently to combine, taking care to not break the rice grains. Drizzle with the oil and the just-boiled water from the saucepan, and stir gently to coat the rice.
Step 4Cover the pot and cook over high heat until steam escapes from beneath the lid, 3 to 6 minutes. This is a critical step in preparing the rice to avoid overcooking it. Once you see the steam, reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is tender and all the water is gone, another 20 minutes. Serve immediately.