¼ teaspoon yellow food colouring
¼ teaspoon red food colouring
2 cups basmati rice
1 tablespoon vegetable ghee
2 teaspoon finely chopped onion
6 green cardamoms
1 by 2 inch (5cm) stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
3 cups cold water
½ teaspoon salt
Mix each food colouring with about a tablespoon of water, keeping the two colours separate, and set aside.
Pick over the rice carefully for any stones and wash thoroughly in several changes of water. Leave to drain in a colander or large sieve.
Meanwhile heat the ghee in a heavy pot, and fry the onion until just translucent. Add the cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves and cook for one minute.
Add the rice to the pot and mix well to coat all the grains with the ghee.
Pour in the water, add the salt, stir and bring to the boil. Once boiling turn the heat to very low and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid.
Switch on the oven to preheat to gas mark 3 (350F or 170C).
After five minutes stir rice gently with a fork or a wooden spoon. Cover again for a further three minutes.
After this time stir the rice again, but very carefully to avoid breaking the grains which will by now have become softer.
The best way to do this is to slide the spoon down the side of the pot and gently lift the rice at the bottom to the top.
Cover again, and repeat this procedure after a further two minutes. This method ensures that all the rice cooks evenly and you don’t get a soggy mass at the bottom for the pot whilst the top layer remains under-cooked.
Now take one of the food colourings and make two lines of colour across the rice. Repeat with the other food colouring and make two lines down.
Replace the lid and place the pot in the oven for 15-20 minutes to finish cooking the rice and set the colours.
Remove the rice from the oven and transfer to a suitable container layer by layer to avoid breaking the rice. Fluff up gently with a fork to distribute the coloured grains equally.
Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate for up to three days.
When re-heating, the ideal way is to use the microwave oven. If using a conventional oven, remember to cover the rice to prevent it drying up.