Persian style Masoor Pulao

PERSIAN STYLE MASOOR PULAO: A real crowd pleaser & a treat for the eyes and the stomachs!
Thanks are due to my friend Tarannum Shaikh’s mother who regularly satiated my lust for masoor pulao! And to Nindi Sahni whose Persian style of ‘dum’ biryani lent a new flavor to my plain masoor pulao!

INGREDIENTS
Whole masoor dal, Long grained Basmati Rice, Large Brown Potatoes, Onions, Bay Leaves, Chili powder, Garam Masala (Fresh), Ready made garam masala, Fennel Powder, Clove powder, Fresh Yogurt, Sliced pistachios.

RECIPE
1. Soak ¾ cup of whole masoor in warm water for at least 2 hours. Then cook it in a pressure cooker or on the stove with just enough water till the dal is al dente. Do not overcook! Drain off all the water and keep aside.
2. Roast 1 cup of long grained basmati rice in 1 tablespoon of ghee till the grains are lightly golden brown. Take off the fire and cool completely. Take a big glass bowl, add the rice and 1 ¾ cups of water. Put it in the microwave and cook for 12 minutes till the rice is almost done, but not quite.
3. Roast 2 tsps each of cummin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, whole black pepper, 1 tsp each of fenugreek seeds (methi), cloves, cardamom seeds, cinnamon sticks. Grind them up to a coarse powder and grate some nutmeg to the mixture, keep aside.
4. In a pan, heat up oil and add 1 teaspoon of cummin seeds and 3-4 bay leaves and saute lightly. Add a cup of very finely chopped red onions and saute till the onions turn soft and translucent.
5. Add 1 tablespoon of red chili powder, 1 tsp each of fennel powder, clove powder and salt to taste.
6. After they are all mixed well, add the cooked masoor and mix everything well. Turn off the heat and add the freshly ground garam masala.
7. Peel and thinly slice 1 large baking potato (I used the mandolin to do this job!).
8. Take a wide bottomed thick skillet or pan and add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Start by arranging the potato slices in a circle going slightly up the sides of the pan, slightly overlapping each other.
9. Spoon the masoor mixture on the potatoes and then top it with rice. Add a few spoons of fresh yogurt on the rice. Sprinkle a few slivered pistachios on the rice. Repeat alternating the layers between masoor mixture and the rice and pistachios.
10. Line the lid of the pan with foil and tightly seal the pan and start the cooking the pulao on medium-low fire and leave it on for about 35-40 minutes.
11. Just before serving, uncover the pan and place a large serving platter (it should be larger than the mouth of the pan) and invert the pulao swiftly on to the plate!
12. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve piping hot with raita and papad!

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