Sweet Potato and Mushroom Pilaf

I believe that food not only provides us with sustenance, but memories as well. For instance, some of us might associate barbecued ribs with a favourite grandparent, because Grandpa used to make the best ribs during your childhood.

For me, this Sweet Potato and Mushroom Pilaf kept me going during a period of unemployment a few years ago. It was a particularly tough time in my life, and I was eating canned food and other very basic foods in order to make my rent payments. During that time, I cooked this dish fairly often as the ingredients were cheap and I didn’t have to feel like I was merely surviving with baked beans on toast.

Thankfully, I’m now in a much better position financially, but I still like to cook this dish whenever I’m pressed for time. It’s quick to prepare, tastes great, and since it’s a one-pot meal, cleanup is straightforward. And whenever I make this dish, I give thanks that I’ve come a long way since the first time I made it.

This is a very versatile dish, and you can use your favourite herbs and spices in lieu of the ones suggested.

Sweet Potato and Mushroom Pilaf

Serves 2, as a main

1 cup rice, washed and drained
1 medium-sized golden sweet potato, peeled and cubed
5 button or field mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
1/2 inch (1cm) piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
3 cloves
1 stick cinnamon

2 tbsp butter or olive oil
pinch of salt
1 cup water
fresh mint and sliced chillies, for garnishing (optional)
ground white or black pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat. Add the spices, onion and ginger and cook until fragrant and the onion has softened.

Add the rice and fry for about 3-5 minutes, coating the grains with the butter and spices.

Add the water, salt, peas, sweet potato and mushroom to the pot and cover. When the water boils, turn down the heat to low and continue cooking, covered, for another 10-15 minutes until the rice is cooked.

Stir the pilaf and allow to stand for about 5-10 minutes to allow excess moisture to evaporate. Serve hot, garnished with fresh mint, chillies, and pepper to taste.