Tahiri, another dish that came to us from the Muslim traditions of Delhi, is a pilaf made with fresh peas. As peas were available to us only in the cold winter months, this dish, rather like the risi e bisi of Venice, is a beloved seasonal delicacy, always made with the finest Basmati rice to complement the sweetest of fresh peas. There are many recipes for this dish, all with the slightest of variations.This particular one is yellow in color as it has some turmeric in it. I make this tahiri with frozen peas since they are available year-round and their quality is good and unvarying.
Wash the rice in several changes of water. Drain. Then leave it to soak for 30 minutes in water that covers the rice generously. Drain again, and leave in a strainer set over a bowl.
Put the oil in a heavy, medium pan and set over medium heat. When it is hot, put in the bay leaves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and cumin seeds. Stir once or twice, and add the onions.
Stir and fry until the onion slices turn reddish brown. Now add the drained rice, the teaspoon of salt, and the turmeric. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir the rice in very gently, almost folding it in as if it were a soufflé, and fry it for 2 minutes without breaking any of the grains. Now add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn the heat down to very, very low. Cook very gently for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the peas according to package instructions and drain. Lift the lid of the rice pan and quickly put the peas in. Cover immediately and let the rice rest for 10 minutes. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer the rice to a serving dish, breaking up all lumps with the back of the spoon and mixing the peas in gently as you go.