I don’t know about you, but every now and then, I hanker after a bit of eastern exotica, for dinner, and it has to be dinner so I get to dim or snuff the lights and play with candles, the warm glowing points of which bounce friskily off my painfully pretty, gilded tea glasses.   Madly appealing as the thought of sashaying in swishy silk pants, like Scheherazade might have, around wisps of sweetly scented smoke, might be, there is nothing remotely alluring about the thought of sweating for any extended length of time, over a hot stove, stirring precious minutes of my life away.  The pilaf pictured above is the happy result when the two conflicting desires collide. Serve on an ornate silver platter, with a generous sprinkling of sultanas, toasted pistachios or almonds, crisp fried shallots and a shower of fresh coriander or mint.  Eat, with fingers, reclining on plump silky cushions, surrounded by those candles and a scattering of jasmine and rose petals. To end the meal on a sweet note, nibble on coconut and cardamom candy while sipping on mint tea. Make your SO clean up later; a fair exchange I think, for a gastronomic treat so extravagantly sensuous. 

Preparation: 20 minutes   To cook: 35 minutes   Serves: 4

6 plump green cardamoms
1 cinnamon stick about 5 cm (2 “) long
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 level Tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
4 (about 700 g) skinned and boned chicken legs, cut into large cubes
1 level Tbsp medium hot curry powder
3 teacups uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
4 teacups hot chicken stock
1 ½ level tsp salt (or to taste)

Garnishes (optional)
A handful toasted pistachios or almonds
A handful sultanas (lightly sautéed in butter and drained)
A handful crisp fried sliced shallots
A handful fresh mint or coriander (cilantro)

If using basmati rice, remove any impurities then rinse gently but thoroughly in several changes of water and drain thoroughly. Heat about 4 Tbsp light vegetable oil in a heavy pot that is wider than it is deep.

When moderately hot, add the cardamoms and cinnamon and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the onion, and cook stirring, until limp. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook until fragrant and lightly coloured.

Add chicken and turn up the heat. Turn pieces over to brown evenly. Sprinkle over the curry powder and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir until coated with the spices. Pour in the hot stock and stir in the salt. Bring rice quickly to the boil then lower heat to medium and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated and steam vents begin to appear on the surface of the rice.

Turn heat down to absolute minimum and cover pot securely. Allow to cook for 10 minutes then turn off heat and leave pot covered and undisturbed for 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, gently fluff up rice and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish as desired and serve immediately.