Spinach, Cilantro Pesto Pilaf with home made cottage cheese

Pilaf is a dish in which rice is cooked with subtle  aromatic spices and sometimes in a flavored seasoned broth. 

Some recipes also create a browned rice by introducing delicately fried onions, and some vegetables and added broth. The rice cooks in the spices and onions if it is added and gets a lovely pale browning .

The simplest pilaf or pulav as it is popularly known in Asian regions is a great one pot meal as it has the aromatic spices blending with rice cooked to a  lightly grained texture.

As I am constantly seeking to enhance any  dish I whip up  with some healthy ingredients , I most often veer towards the humble but ever so loaded with nutrients spinach and any of its varieties.  I keep a well stocked refrigerator of the baby spinach greens.

It has now become a matter of routine 
to add some fistfuls of baby spinach in most dishes  and lately we have been using the spinach, cilantro pesto for dishes other than pasta.

I tread cautiously on this addition to the pilaf I was planning to cook , then decided boldly as all the ingredients sounded good and I knew instinctively it would work. It turned out right and I felt I could have added a bit more of the spinach, cilantro pesto to the pilaf. A little more spike to the pesto would have tasted great. But this was for a s school lunch box , hence I decided to keep the spices to a minimum.


12 to 15 cubes of home made cottage cheese/paneer 

2  cups  Basmati rice or any long grained rice will do.
3 cups water.
1 tsp of grated ginger.
2 cups fresh paneer / Indian home made cottage cheese or store bought.  cut into cubes (you could saute in butter to get a better flavor)
1 green chilli, slit length wise
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds or cumin seeds if you prefer.
2 cloves cardamom
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 clove, 2 bay leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon ghee/ butter
mint leaves for garnishing
salt to taste
 2 tbsp of spinach , cilantro pesto which is made by blending spinach leaves around 1 1/12 cups  with some cilantro leaves, 2 pods of garlic, 1 green chilli, and some walnuts.


Cook the Basmati rice with the required amount of water and cool it.
In a wide bottomed pan, first put 1 tbsp of butter/ghee/oil, when heated ,  put the cumin seeds to lightly brown , Add the green chilli, grated ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and add the rice, Stir well and add the salt and the spinach pesto.  Add another tsp of butter if you wish and cook covered till the rice absorbs the spices .

Meanwhile cube the cottage cheese , around 12 pieces and lightly shallow fry them till golden and add it to the covered rice.

The Pilaf is done when the rice is nicely coated with the spices and becomes aromatic.
Remove from the gas and garnish with mint leaves.

This can be served with fresh yogurt  or any raita of your choice.


The Pilaf can be made by adding some vegetables like juliennes of carrots, thinly sliced onions, cooked green peas.