This Basmati and Wild Rice with chickpeas, currants and herbs is a naturally vegan and gluten free rice pilaf, and makes a stunning side dish or hearty vegetarian main course.
I’ve been going crazy for Indian and Middle Eastern rice dishes lately. This one, from my new cookbook Jerusalem, had me right from the title. Each nutty grain of basmati rice is separate, but not dry, the chick peas are spiced and creamy, the wild rice, chewy, and the tiny little currants pack a sweet zing. And the title doesn’t even make mention of those insane crispy fried onions on top. Have mercy.
This certainly looks festive enough for celebrations or entertaining, but I see it as an everyday vegetarian main course. Or, make it on Sunday and brown bag it for lunch all week. Heck, I ate it for breakfast.
My appreciation for basmati rice is growing by leaps and bounds. I love its firm texture, I love the nutty aroma. It all started with my Indian Style Basmati Rice, and then there was my Persian Jeweled Rice, and finally this Saffron Rice. This dish has a completely different vibe going on, though. Fried onions, chick peas, currants and fresh herbs replace the saffron, pomegranates, dried fruits and nuts in the other recipes.
The funny thing is, I’ve never been much of a rice eater. I grew up on Minute Rice. I imagine that’s why I never order rice as a side dish and still to this day I think of it as flavorless, boring, ‘filler’ calories. My foray into these Middle Eastern and Indian recipes has changed all that and I’m starting to appreciate that rice can be the exciting centerpiece for a meal.
I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe which I was happy with, so I noted those in red. I used a little more wild rice (which isn’t really a rice at all, it’s a grass) and reduced the amount of basmati rice because I wanted a chunky, satisfying main dish with a high ratio of other ingredients to white basmati rice.
This is the second vegetarian/vegan and gluten free recipe I’ve posted this week—I don’t seek them out or formulate them on purpose to be vegan or gluten free, but I’m trying to notice when they happen that way. I’m also trying to be more conscious about throwing gratuitous bits of animal protein, especially cheese, into recipes when it’s not really necessary.
Basmati and Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currents and Herbs (vegan and gluten free)
- 1/3 cup wild rice I used 1/2 cup
- 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 1/4 cups basmati rice I made the full amount, but only used about half of the cooked rice
- scant 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp curry powder I used garam masala spice mix, mainly because I was out of curry
- 1 1/2 cups drained chickpeas I used one 14 oz can
- 3/4 cup sunflower oil
- 1 medium onion very thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour I used a few tablespoons to make the dredging easier
- 2/3 cup dried currents
- 2 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley I doubled or tripled the amount of chopped herbs
- 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 Tbsp chopped dill
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cover the wild rice with plenty of water and bring to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer for about 40 minutes, then drain and set aside.
- To cook the basmati rice, pour a tablespoon of the olive oil into a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid and heat on high. Add the rice and 1/4 tsp of salt and stir to combine the rice and oil. Carefully add in the boiling water, lower heat to very low, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, remove the cover, lay a clean towel over the pan, re-cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Heat the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the cumin seeds and the curry, then the chickpeas and 1/4 tsp of salt. Stir fry the chickpeas for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a large bowl.
- Wipe out the pan and pour in the safflower oil. Heat until very hot. Toss the onions with the flour, separating the onion rings as you do. Check to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping an onion in. It should sizzle vigorously. Dust any excess flour off the onions and fry them, in batches, until deep golden brown. This should only take a couple of minutes. Set the onions on paper towels to drain.
- Mix the two rices, the chickpeas, currents and herbs together in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, and top with the fried onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.