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Colourful Pulao

I love making flavored rice because it goes well with Indian curries or you can just eat with one side dish and plain yoghurt. You do not need to cook elaborate curries.

I make flavored rice lots of times mostly to save time and also it keeps better. When I know that I cant be home for dinner, I cook lunch and dinner at one go. That means I save lots of time and preparation time for meals. I will make sure there are enough condiments, though.

This dish, which is literally colourful, is a rice dish that I make for guests too, because it looks festive and when you bring the dish to the table, guests get a surprise when they dig into the pot. All colours of vegetables will shine like jewels and it is a real feast for the eyes as well. You can eat it on its own or you can have a meat dish to accompany or even a sambal, which happens to marry very well together.  Most importantly there are no artificial colors, all the colors are represented through vegetables.

I remember making this recipe varying with different vegetables while my 2 girls were growing up, they will look in awe as I spoon the rice onto their plates. To them it is like treasure; sometimes it is green (zucchini or broccoli), yellow (corn or yellow pumpkin) and purple (purple sweet potatoes or yam or aubergine) and even orange (carrot or orange pumpkin).

I used to admire them because as young children, they are ready to eat whatever I cook for them and they don’t ever say I don’t like vegetables. My youngest daughter craves for bitter gourd too, which I usually oven bake and keep in a jar for her to snack on). The only vegetable that she doesn’t quite like is the ladies finger but now she has adapted to it as well. My elder daughter loves vegetables too. In my home, it is sometimes a case of not enough vegetables! All of us love fresh vegetables so much that we have been growing our own favorites with some success.

For this dish, you can use any rice, but basmati gives the extra aroma and the rice looks pretty with its long grains. Substitute with any of your favourite vegetables but do not use very mushy vegetables as it will release liquid and the rice will also become mushy. It is tastier to have a slightly grainy rice for this dish. And you can use any other lentils and the ratio of lentils to rice can be more  if you prefer.

Must try it and I am sure, mothers out there who want to feed vegetables to your children, will find it easy with this recipe.



I cup lentils – I used yellow gram – soak for 30 minutes

1 cup basmati rice – soak for 30 minutes

1 zucchini

1 carrot

2 cups murungai leaves or spinach that are chopped.

1 beetroot – grated coarsely

6 cloves

1 cinnamon stick- break it into pieces

3 black cardamom

2 tsp peppercorn

4 tsp ghee

2 onions

1-inch piece ginger

2 tbsp cashew nuts

Pinch saffron

Coriander leaves



Boil the lentils and the rice with the 6 cloves till almost cooked. Must be whole still. Drain and keep aside. Remove the cloves.

Cut the zucchini, carrots into tiny bite size. Steam for 3 minutes. Or microwave for 1 minute.

Wash and rinse the murungai leaves. Keep aside.

Dry roast the cardamom, black peppercorns and cinnamon pieces till a nice aroma emerges, Cool and pound to powder.

Slice the onions, fry to a golden brown with a little ghee and grind to paste with ginger and some water. Keep aside.

In an oven safe pan, if possible, add ghee, add the cashew nuts, let it brown a little and then add the fried onion paste, the murungai leaves or spinach and the steamed vegetables, 1 tsp of the ground powder, a sprinkling of salt. Sauté for a minute or two.

Remove from the stove. Divide the rice for 2 layers. Layer 1 part of rice on top of the vegetables; sprinkle grated beetroot and 1 tsp of the ground powder and salt to taste.

Layer the remaining rice, grated beetroot, remaining ground powder, coriander leaves, sprinkling of salt, saffron and a sprinkling of ghee. Cover and place in a 180C oven for 20 minutes.

Or if you want to do the Indian Dum method, follow this please:

Put an old flat pan on the stove. Put the rice pot on it. Cover tightly. Place a pot of water or anything heavy so that the steam does not escape to encourage Dum cooking. Leave to cook for 20 minutes on medium heat.

Remove from the stove or oven.  You can serve it as it is, give a stir and you will see the colourful pulao emerging!


You can use any of your favorite vegetables, but check out cooking times.

The beetroot need not be cooked. It is grated only.

You do not need to use cashews if you don’t like them, you can use pistachios or other nuts instead.

The rice should be grainy and not mushy. Par cook the rice and lentils and don’t overcook.

This dish can be eaten on its own without any side dish. Pappadoms are good though. For meat eaters, a piece of chicken masala will be fantastic!

You can replace the lentils with any of your choice, channa dhal and mixed lentils will be a good choice.

Replace ghee with butter or olive oil if preferred. But ghee gives a beautiful flavour that no other oil can give.

You can omit saffron if you can’t find it. This is also for the aroma and a beautiful orange hue.

If you can’t get black cardamoms, use the green ones.  Black cardamom gives a smokey flavor to the dish.

This dish is a rich dish if you add more nuts, ghee and saffron and so very festive.

The beautiful colour combination attracts children to eat their vegetables.

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