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Asparagus, fennel and pea pilau recipe

Award-winning cook, food writer and Guardian columnist Meera Sodha’s recipes are vibrant, delicious and surprisingly easy to make.

Channelling the bright green, fresh energy of spring and early summer – when farmers’ markets and veg patches are starting to burst with seasonal bounty – her Spring pilau with asparagus, fennel and pea is a winner for a light weekend lunch or al fresco dinner.

Meet Meera and discover more about her take on vegetable-led eating in our recent interview.

Meera Sodha sits picking fennel

"In the cut-and-thrust of spring, it can feel that all the vegetables have turned up to the party at once. So the question is not so much which one to eat, but how to hang a few together so they make sense on the same plate. In this simple pilau, the fennel softens and melts into the background, joining the onions and garlic to form a deep base flavour, while the asparagus, peas, broad beans and herbs take a front seat, to keep things light, fresh and sweet." - Meera Sodha


Serves 4
  • 350g basmati rice
  • 600ml vegan vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 red onions, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 green finger chillies, very finely sliced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 250g asparagus, woody ends discarded, cut into 4cm pieces
  • 200g mixed frozen petit pois and broad beans, defrosted
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin 1½ tsp garam masala
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • a big handful of fresh mint leaves
  • a big handful of fresh dill
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve

Top tip - Although Meera prefers home-made, supermarkets make decent garam masalas opt for Bart or Steenburgs. Whichever you use, make sure it’s fresh and doesn’t taste like sawdust. Feel free to add more peas and skip the broad beans if you prefer.


1. Wash the rice in a few changes of cold water until it runs clear, then leave to soak in cold water for 20 minutes.

2. Drain the rice, put it into a large lidded saucepan and pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, cover the pan, turn the heat down to a whisper and leave to cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Take off the heat and leave the rice, still covered, to steam through until needed.

4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, lidded pan on a medium flame. Once hot, add the onions and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until translucent and softening but not yet coloured.

5. Add the garlic and chillies, cook for another 2 minutes, then stir in the fennel and a couple of tablespoons of water, and cover the pan.

6. Leave to cook for 8 minutes, until soft, then add the asparagus, peas, broad beans, cumin, garam masala and salt. Stir, cover again, cook for 3 to 5 minutes more, then take off the heat.

7. Finely chop the herbs and fold them and the rice into the vegetable mixture – you might need to break up any clumps of rice delicately with your hands – then transfer to a serving dish and serve with wedges of lemon on the side.

EAST, Meera's most recent book is out now.

It's ram-a-jammed full of recipes inspired by Bombay and beyond. And vegetables. Lots of vegetables. It's also a Sunday Times bestseller.

Meera Sodha - East - Recipe cookbook front cover

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