I first tasted the traditional version of this recipe in an event where my music teacher or Gaan Dida was present. It was a pot luck event and one of her students from Bangladesh had brought this offering. The recipe was a very sweet rice pilaf colored with deep orange, called jorda.
I like the concept and since then worked with it to give it several healthier makeovers, these have not really amended the taste significantly. I have eliminated the clarified butter and food color. I have instead replaced the color with grated sweet potatoes, which actually give the dish a lovely streaked appearance and the sweetness of the vegetable blends in beautifully with the light sweetness of the rice. Mostly, I like the fact that the this could be done fairly quickly with some pantry staples, what I did not like was its dependance on artificial color.
While I have eliminated the clarified butter, I make the recipe with maple syrup, which is actually similar in concept although not quite in flavor to the date palm molasses called notun gur. I am absolutely addicted to maple syrup and use it for anything that I can get away with. It also saves the trouble of making sugar syrup all in all rendering the recipe rather easy to put together for fairly good results.
Its lighter sweet taste makes it cross lines between the dessert and savory rice, so I often serve it along with the rest of the meal, alongside the white rice and depending up the palate of the eaters it is either eaten along with the savory dishes or relished on the side as a dessert.
Bengali Sweet Pilaf
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup of dark maple syrup
¾ cup of white rice (basmati or a short grained variety)
1 teaspoon saffron strands
A few pieces of cinnamon
3 to 4 cardamoms
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup cashew nuts
1/3 cup dark raisins
Method of Preparation
1. Peel and grate the sweet potato and set aside.
2. Place the maple syrup in a large pan and bring to a simmer.
3. Add in the rice and ½ cup of water and heat until the liquid is simmering.
4. Add in the sweet potato, saffron strands, cinnamon, cardamoms, pecans, cashew nuts and the raisins.
5. Cover the mixture and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes.
6. The maple syrup mixture should be completely absorbed and the rice should be a pale saffron color, with darker orange streaks from the sweet potatoes.
7. Arrange the rice on a serving platter and serve warm.
If desired the syrup can be added with the water into a rice cooker and the rest of the dish can be completed in the rice cooker.