Butternut Squash and Date Pilau

Pilau is a tantalising rice dish that is cooked in with stock and, in our case, vegetables. These days a lot of Indian food is easy to make vegan, and the pilau is no exception. This one has the earthiness of butternut squash, in combination with the sweetness of dried dates and cranberries (or raisins, if you prefer).

There are no shortcuts with a pilau. If you want the grains of rice to separate, you have to wash and soak them well before you cook them. Ask ten different cooks how to do this and you’ll get eleven different answers. The method I’ve used is to soak the rice in cold water for about half an hour, then wash in two changes of water and drain. This always works well for me.

Prep time: About 30 minutes. Cooking time: About 35 minutes.

Serves 3-4



1 heaped tbsp coconut oil

1 tbsp cumin seeds

3 whole cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

½ medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into small dices

1 small red onion, sliced

100g pitted dried dates, roughly chopped

15g dried cranberries (or raisins)

25g toasted flaked almonds, plus extra to top

250g (raw weight) basmati rice, soaked, washed and drained as described above

400ml hot water from the kettle

1 carton coconut cream

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp salt


Heat the oil in a large frying pan (or wide, shallow pan) that has a lid, then fry the cumin, cardamom and cinnamon stick for 60 seconds, moving frequently and being careful not to burn. Now add the butternut squash and fry for another 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they have started to soften.

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Add the onion and the chopped dates and cook for another 3 minutes. Throw in the cranberries and almonds (leave some aside to top the dish at the end) and cook for a few minutes more, until the onions have started to cook through. Now put in the drained basmati rice and stir in until the rice is completely coated in the oil. While you are doing this bring the kettle to the boil for the hot water.

Pour the 400ml of hot water into a measuring jug, then also add the coconut cream, turmeric and salt. Stir until blended, then pour into the pan with the rice. Bring back up to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes, then turn down the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes. Now turn off the heat but leave the lid on. Rest the rice for a further 5 minutes before forking through. Top with the remaining toasted almonds prior to serving.


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