This Persian-style rice pilaf is made with ground lamb, dried figs, almonds and a beautiful blend of warm spices. If you’re not familiar with pilaf, it’s a dish in which rice is cooked in a seasoned broth, and depending on cuisine, you can often find a variety of vegetables, meat or seafood mixed in. It’s a great one-pot dish.
Unlike risotto or fried rice, pilaf requires little attention as once all ingredients and liquids are mixd through, the rice is left to do its own thing without stirring, absorbing the broth while cooking. This dish lands itself perfectly to Instant Pot, which is amazing for cooking most rice dishes. It makes the best risotto and the fluffiest, tastiest yellow rice.
Before you start cooking
Rice: We love using Basmati rice for this dish but any long-grain white rice will do. The key to fluffy, perfectly textured pilaf is to soak and rinse the rice before cooking. This removes surface starch from the rice, which prevents it from becoming sticky, stodgy, and clumpy once cooked. Simply soak the rice in cold water for 10 minutes, then rinse 4-5 times with cold water and a sieve.
Lamb: Lamb is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine, so we opted for budget-friendly ground lamb. Beef, turkey, pork or chicken can be used instead and you can either dice the meat into small cubes or use mince.
Spices: The spices we use in this recipe are easy to find in most supermarkets and online. They are commonly used in many dishes, so if you don’t have them, they are worth investing in. Alternatively, you can get a pre-mixed Moroccan or Ras El Hanout blend. You can find the spices we used on Amazon from here: ground cumin, ground cinnamon, allspice , ground coriander seed, turmeric powder. Allspice can be omitted, as we only use a little bit.
Dried fruit and nuts: Pilaf is versatile and forging, so you can use whatever dried fruit and nuts you have on hand. Dried apricots, cranberries, sultanas or dates can be chopped up and thrown in. Pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts or cashews can all be used instead of almonds. And of course, for a nut-free version, simply omit them altogether. You can get flaked almonds and dried figs online here.
We served this rice pilaf with a side of cucumber and yoghurt salad, lemon wedges (make sure to drizzle some juice over the top) and some hot sauce for extra kick. Enjoy!Print
- 1 medium brown onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt
- About 1 lb or 400-450 g of ground lamb (lamb mince)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Allspice
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed powder
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional but adds a lovely yellow hue to the rice)
- 3 large cloves of garlic, finely diced
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 stick celery, diced
- 1 medium to large carrot, diced
- 5 dried figs, diced
- 2 tablespoons almond flakes (can be omitted for a nut-free version)
- 1 1/2 cups rice (well rinsed, see notes above)
- 1 + 1/3 cup vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock cube dissolved in water)
- 1/2 cup tinned tomatoes
- Zest of the remaining 1/2 lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon almond flakes
- 7–8 mint leaves, finely sliced
- Greek yoghurt or sour cream, to serve
- Soak the rice in a bowl or pot with cold water for 5-10 minutes, then rinse 4-5 times.
- Turn the Instant Pot on and press the Sauté function key. It should initially say 30 minutes on the display screen, you don’t need to do anything to the timer. Let the pot heat up while you dice up the onion.
- Add onion, olive oil, and a teaspoon of salt to the pot and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until softened.
- Add the ground lamb and stir through, breaking the meat apart with a spatula. Cook the lamb with onions for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. At first, the lamb meat will release a lot of juices but as you keep stirring and cooking it, the liquid will evaporate and the meat will star to brown. Once that happens, that’s when we add other ingredients.
- Once the lamb has browned off slightly, add another half a teaspoon of salt, spices, garlic and lemon zest and stir for 10-15 minutes, allowing the aromas to be released over heat. Press Keep Warm/Cancel to stop the Sauté process.
- Add the celery, carrots, figs, almonds and rice and mix through. Add the stock and tinned tomatoes and stir really well to make sure all ingredients are well combined. Scrape down any rice kernels or vegetables stuck to the sides of the pot.
- Place and lock the lid, making sure the steam releasing handle is pointing to Sealing. Press Manual, High pressure and set to 4 minutes. After 3 beeps the pressure cooker will start going. It will take a few minutes for the pressure to build up and then the actual cooking will begin. Once the timer goes off, allow 2 minutes for the pressure to release naturally and then use the quick release method to let off the steam. Open the lid when it is safe to do so.
- Finish the pilaf with extra lemon zest, almond flakes and mint sprinkled over the top. Serve with lemon wedges.