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Basmati Rice Pilaf with Indian Spices and Raita

2 cups basmati rice
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
8 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
8 cloves
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
4 cups water or stock
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
2 cups fresh green peas
Ground pepper
2 cups yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons chopped mint, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon ground roasted cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash rice by rinsing in cold water. Then soak in cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain.
In a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion is tender. Add garlic, and saute for about a minute. Add cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Saute for another minute and add the rice. Saute until rice is translucent. Add water, bay leaf and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes. Most of the water will evaporate and steam holes will show through rice.
Add peas, but do not stir. Cover tightly and let simmer for 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, covered.
Prepare the raita: In a bowl whisk together the yogurt, cucumber, mint, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper. Uncover the pilaf, season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon stick. Turn pilaf out onto a serving dish and pour half of the raita over rice or serve separately.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes