Fennel and asparagus pilau

Full of the joys of spring.  Fennel’s fresh aniseed flavour mellows as it cooks to provide a nice backdrop to the asparagus and crunchy broad beans. If you haven’t the tenacity to double pod the broad beans, use peas. I don’t think this pilau needs anything except a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of yoghurt but it would go well with a chicken or fish curry.

This recipe was first written for Associated Press.

Serves 4

  • 350g basmati rice
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 2 red onions, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 green finger chillies, vey finely sliced
  • 250g or 1 medium bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 250-300g asparagus, cut into 4cm pieces
  • 200g broad beans, double podded or peas
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
  • salt
  • A big handful of mint and dill, chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

First, wash the rice until the water runs clear, then leave to soak for 20 minutes. Add the rice to a large lidded saucepan and cover with the stock. Cover and bring to the boil, boil for 2 minutes and then turn the heat down to a whisper and leave to cook for 10-12 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave to steam through until needed.

Heat the butter over a medium heat in a large lidded pan. When hot, add the onions. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the onions are translucent and softening but not yet coloured, then add the garlic and chillies and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the fennel to the pan, stir to mix then add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover. Cook for 8 minutes or until soft then add the asparagus, broad beans, cumin, garam masala and salt to taste (I add 3/4 – 1 tsp) . Stir and cover and leave to cook for another 5 minutes, then take off the heat.

Fold the herbs and rice into the vegetable mixture, you might need to delicately break up the clumps of rice using your hands. Transfer to a serving dish, and serve with wedges of lemon on the side.