Guest Post: Wild Mushroom Pilaf With Whole Spices and Saffron by Smita Chandra

We’ve got a guest in our kitchen today… The adventurous Smita of Curry Twist! We are excited to welcome Smita, a woman who loves to recreate world cuisine in her own kitchen. Today she is sharing a tasty mushroom recipe she discovered while in Italy! 

Hello everyone, my name is Smita Chandra. I am the author of 3 best selling Indian cookbooks and a mobile app called Easy Tandoori. I am also a recipe developer for Kraft Canada and a cooking instructor for Toronto area cooking schools. I love to travel, explore new cuisines and write about my experiences in my blog ‘Curry Twist’, on my website.


I am thrilled to be sharing my experiences and recipe with Mushrooms Canada and being part of their blogging community. Thank you!

My mushroom story: 
Beautiful Lake Como in Northern Italy has many charms to recommend it – a picturesque lake rimmed with mountains, a delightful old town with narrow streets, perfectly preserved medieval churches and bustling cafes from which to watch the world go by. But when I heard we were going there, my first thought was we could get a glimpse of George Clooney! He is said to have a house there.

Lake Como turned out to be everything it had promised to be, but ….no George Clooney! Oh well. It more than made up for that loss by the quality of its cuisine. We discovered a restaurant that was advertising fresh porcini mushrooms as part of its mushroom themed menu. I had never had fresh porcini mushrooms in my life and couldn’t wait to rectify this shortcoming in my upbringing. Our host came by with a rustic basket filled with fresh porcini mushrooms. He made a big production of allowing us to choose our mushrooms for our appetizers. Thoroughly enjoying ourselves, we each chose a big one and waited in anticipation for it to arrive.

We could smell it even before it came to our table. The stem had been sliced lengthwise and sautéed while the cap had been scored crisscross then seared in lots of really good olive oil till it was crisp on the outside and seductively meaty on the inside. It was surprisingly filling for just one mushroom but not nearly enough to satisfy our sudden addiction!

An outstanding wild mushroom risotto, imbued with the earthy taste of mushrooms followed next. It reminded me of a mushroom pilaf I often make for my family. The aromas of basmati rice, whole spices and saffron mingle especially well with those of sautéed mushrooms.


Wild Mushroom Pilaf With Whole Spices and Saffron

I have used an assortment of mushrooms in my recipe in appreciation of the wonderful flavours we savoured in Lake Como. However, if you happen to come across any fresh porcini, add them to make this pilaf extra special!

1 cup basmati rice
¼ cup unsalted butter
4 each: whole cardamom and whole cloves
1 inch stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cups thinly sliced assorted fresh mushrooms such as white button, crimini, shiitake and oyster
1/4 tsp saffron strands
Salt to taste
1 ½ cups water

Place rice in deep mixing bowl and rinse 3-4 times till water runs clear. Cover rice with water and soak 15 min. Drain well in sieve. Reserve.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and cumin seeds. Sauté for 30 sec or until spices are fragrant. Add onions, sauté for 5-7 min or until onions are slightly softened and lightly browned. Add mushrooms, sauté for 5 min or just until they start to release their juices. Add salt, saffron, drained rice and water, sauté very gently to combine.

Bring contents of the saucepan to a boil. As soon as the mixture starts to bubble, cover pan, reduce heat to very low and cook for 20 min without uncovering the pan in between.

Let rice rest for 5 min before transferring gently to a serving platter.

Serves four


Thanks so much Smita for being our guest! Follow Smita’s food and travel adventures on her blog and be sure to follow her on Twitter!



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