Spring Pilaf with Asparagus

PREP TIME: 15mins


A quick and easy family meal celebrating the wonderful abundance of Spring.

Spring has finally sprung in Cape Town and I decided to celebrate this with a quick one-pan rice pilaf which I served with garlicky Tuscan kale.

I love how this dish makes a great side then following day when I served it with a tenderstem broccoli and bean dish.

In this dish there is really no limit on how much green veggies you want to add, please feel free to add more asparagus, peas and/or broad beans to you liking.

Broad Beans: Young tiny bright green little broad beans are okay to eat whole but the larger beans would need to be podded from the tougher outer layers. More on that in my essential cooking skills page here.

Seasonal Swaps: Feel free to add more veggies to the rice dish, chopped mange tout or sugar snaps would works well, added towards the end. Fresh or frozen (defrosted) peas or broad beans can be used. You can chop and change this dish according to the seasons, for instance in Autumn you can add roasted butternut and Tuscan kale.

Make Ahead: The dish can be made up to 3 days ahead although I think some veggie might lose their vibrancy. Only add the herbs once you are ready to serve the dish.

Serves 4 (with leftovers)

Serving Suggestion:

So good with lemon & garlic greens (here) on the side.

What you'll need:

A very large casserole dish for all the veggies and rice to fit into.


  • 300g basmati rice
  • 550ml veggie stock
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 red onions, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 green mild chillies, very finely chopped (opt)
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off, stalks chopped and spears kept in tacked
  • 200g broad beans or fresh or frozen peas (defrosted) I used about 200g peas and 100g podded broad beans.
  • handful fresh mint leaves (no stalks), finely chopped
  • handful dill leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch spring onions, trimmed, white and green parts chopped
  • 3 lemons, zest and juice
  • salt & pepper
  • crumbled feta to serve
  • cooked & podded broad beans to garnish


  1. Rinse the rice until it runs clear and soak for 20 minutes if you have time (opt). In a medium saucepan add the rice and cover with the stock and 2 pinches salt, simmer gently, with the lid on, for 12 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the rice, covered to steam.
  2. Heat the oil in in large casserole dish with a lid, add the fennel seeds and cook until fragrant, 3 minutes, add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt, cook the onions, covered & stirring occasionally, until caramelised and ‘jammy’, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, chilli, spices and another teaspoon salt, stir until fragrant, 3 minutes.
  3. Add the fennel and 4 tablespoons water, cook, covered for 8 minutes until the fennel is soft, everything should smell fragrant and delicious by now.
  4. Add the asparagus and peas and cook, covered for 5 minutes. The veggies should be a bright green.
  5. Mix the rice in portions into the veggies, taste and season with the zest of 2 lemons, a generous squeeze of lemon juice, salt (it might need a teaspoon more salt) and lots of pepper. I love to add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil as well, at least 1/4 cup. The key to a delicious dish will be the seasoning.
  6. Finally add the spring onions and fresh herbs, serve with lemon wedges and feta on the side. Enjoy!
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