Rose Harissa and Pea Pilau with Crunchy Burnt Onions

Max Nye

Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 35 minutes

6 Serving

Rice pilaf with tomatoes, peas, and onions from the Baghdadi Jewish community of India

Photo by Armando Rephael

Indian Baghadi_rice and peas pilaf
Photo by Armando Rephael

In the late 19th century, Max Nye’s great-great-grandfather moved his family from Baghdad to what was then Kolkata. They became part of a community called the Baghdadi Jews of India, which created a unique cuisine that blends Indian flavors, Iraqi recipes, and Jewish customs.

In London, where Max and his family now live, he serves dishes from the community like this rose harissa and pea pilau at Rosh Hashanah and will include it in his upcoming cookbook “Hammis Your Onions – Family Recipes from an Indian-Jewish Kitchen.”

To learn more about Max, his community, and his Rosh Hashanah table, read the full story on the Jewish Food Society’s recipe archive.


  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 5 cardamom pods (optional)
  • 4 cloves (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon
  • 3 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 5-6 teaspoons of rose harissa paste

¼ cup roughly chopped dill


  1. Start by preparing the rice. Wash thoroughly, then leave it submerged in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes. Once ready, drain.
  2. While you wait, finely dice 1 ½ onions and thinly slice the remaining ½ onion.
  3. In a large pot, heat 1 ½ tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Saute the diced onion, cardamom pods and cloves (if using), bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks for 6 minutes. Add the salt, stir briefly, then add the rice, peas, harissa paste, and dill.
  4. Stir quickly for 1 minute ensuring the rice does not stick, then pour in 2 ½ cups of water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Give it one final stir, then cover and reduce the heat  to low. Simmer for 10 minutes without taking the lid off, then remove from heat and let stand undisturbed for 10 more minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
  5. While the rice cooks, heat the remaining oil in a small skillet over high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook for 8-9 minutes, until the onions are medium-brown and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  6. To serve the rice, sprinkle the fried onions over top to give it a little crunch.

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