Archive for the ‘Rice’ Category

Thinking of you, US of A,

with your Freddie Mac, and your Fanny Mae.

I’m no Du Fu. But seriously, since food-inflation has neared 10% in the UK, our household has only been eating meat every second night. We also eat a lot of cured pork, which is cheap because it goes farther in smaller quantities. I estimate that we save about £15/week ($25USD), or about £750 in 2008, this way. In other words, my inborn meanness is partly responsible for all the lentils ’round here.

So in the face of the many Louisianan jambalaya recipes calling for chicken and shrimp and pork and alligator and all sorts of protein extravagances, this is a solely-sausage jambalaya, with gluten-free free-range pork chipolatas on offer (on sale) this week. Chipolatas are a thin sausage, and browning them also cooks them through, so out of the pot they came as soon as they looked good. I sauteed onion, celery, and garlic, and flavoured with oregano, thyme, paprika, and some dried chipolte innards. In went red pepper, the rice, and a can of sieved tomatoes. Now, Emeril would probably disapprove (and I’m okay with that), but I keep the lid off the pot while the rice cooks. This is because with the lid on I can’t see what’s going on inside, and what’s going on is usually burning. So I stir and I monitor and I add broth as needed until the business is done. I sliced my browned sausages the size of shrimp, chucked them in, and, um, well, bam (lower case ‘bam’, very meek and sideways-glancing).

PS. Anybody else remember that annoying chain restaurant in Edmonton years ago that made all the staff yell “Jambalaya!” whenever it was ordered? What am I saying?: it was a chain: it probably embarrassed people from Vancouver to Winnipeg.


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Thayir sadam, or (yogurt) curd rice, is a delicious chilled rice dish common throughout southern India, and it is a great strategy for preserving leftover rice for the next meal. Thayir sadam can be made quite thick and chunky, as I have here, or mashed to the pudding stage, or thinned with milk through to a near-liquid stage resembling the yogurt drink, lassi. Moreover, thayir sadam can be flavoured any way you might like it, with whatever whole spices and powders are to hand. It is highly adaptable, a make-ahead dish that can last days in the fridge, and is easy to pull out as the starch of a main meal or as a snack. I’ve been enjoying it this week for breakfast, although I admit the heat of the chilies is not a great partner for coffee.

The success of thayir sadam owes a lot to the food chemistry involved. The first imperative is to work with hot rice (this is where the ‘keep warm’ function on your rice cooker earns its keep). The straight-chain starches of long-grain rice set very hard if they do not have sufficent water molecules among them as they cool; you’ve noticed this with leftovers, I know. Coating rice in a wet sauce (milk, then yogurt) before it cools will ensure that there is ample water present to run interference between the amylose starch molecules and keep the grains reasonably soft. This recipe is for long-grain rice, but shorter-grained rices (like sushi rice) respond even better to cooling or indeed even freezing. My second suggestion is to choose a fuller-fat yogurt, such as a “greek-style,” which is still mostly water but does come with some fat (typically about 10% by weight). The spices involved in this salad, especially the chilies, can curdle dairy product just like heat can, but incorporating fat in the mix will offer some protection, this time by interfering with proteins rather than starches. If all you have in your fridge is skinny yogurt, then I suggest mixing a little ghee or melted butter (maybe a tablespoon’s-worth) into the rice after adding the yogurt (not before, or you’ll coat the grains and prevent the water from softening the cooling rice). So much science in a little bowl of rice…

This salad is best a little warmer than refrigerator-temperature, but a little chiller than room-. In other words, pretend it’s a blush. Come to think of it, a rose d’anjou wouldn’t be a bad wine match. Serve as a starch with an Indian meal, where this cooler temperature will be a contrast and a surprise. Or have it for breakfast with orange juice, if you like a little spice in your morning.

Tamil Rice and Yogurt Salad (Thayir Sadam)

10 minutes from cooked rice; serves four

2 cups hot cooked long-grain white rice, such as basmati
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup fuller-fat yogurt (Greek-style)
1/2 tsp salt
2 fresh green chilies
1″ peeled fresh ginger
1 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp gluten-free asafoetida powder
small handful of dried curry leaves (about a dozen)

1. Mix the milk with the rice, then the yogurt, then the salt. Consider if you might like it wetter, with more milk, bearing in mind that it will set somewhat as it cools.
2. Mince the chilies with their seeds. Finely grate the ginger, keeping the juice. Mix all of this into the rice.
3. Heat the oil in a small heavy frying pan over medium flame. Add the mustard seeds and when they stat to pop add the asafoetida and the curry leaves. Off-heat roll them around for a few seconds more and stir them into the rice.
4. Refrigerate. To serve, let warm just a little and taste for salt.

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gallopinto.jpgGallo Pinto is the speckled rooster, the omnipresent beans-and-rice dish for Nicaraguans, a comfort of every day, sometimes at more meals than one. Nextdoor, the Costa Ricans have a speckled rooster of a different colour, made with black beans, but the red rooster belongs to Nicaragua. Unlike a pilaf, the rice in this dish is cooked on its own before meeting the other ingredients, much like a Chinese stir-fried rice, and this makes the texture of the final product easy to control. The flavour of this version of beans-and-rice is deep, round and nutty; nuttiness is a wonder of lightly seasoned beans.

Millions of Nicaraguans will eat gallo pinto today, no doubt expressing a host of variations on the core recipe. Personally, I think this dish is best kept simple, so where one certainly could add so many regional spices, I just use bay and garlic, lots and lots of garlic. The ratio-of-consensus in traditional recipes comes in at 6 cloves of garlic for every cup of dry beans. so to that I defer. I admit there is much personal preference in this: I find that if any bean dish is complicatedly seasoned, the round flavour of the bean disappears entirely. Besides, I can’t imagine that any dish made daily in a household, a dish made to accompanying everything else, should be terribly complicated. Because the beans need to spend mellowing-time with the garlic, and because canned beans are never as purely flavoured and often mushy to boot, it is worth cooking your own from dried. Where I would have preferred to use the small Mexican red bean, I had to use kidney beans because they are far easier to find in the UK. Kidney beans are larger, and so they make for a clunkier photo, but they are still mesoamerican beans, and still delicious.

For breakfast, serve with sour cream and a cup of good coffee. Later on in the day, gallo pinto complements a fruity Nicaraguan stew.

Nicaraguan Red Beans and Rice (Gallo Pinto)

90 minutes, including 75 minutes simmering; serves four

1 cup dried red beans (Mexican or kidney), soaked all day or all night
1 dried bay leaf
6 cloves garlic
1 cup long-grain white rice
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced

1. Drain the beans, place them in a saucepan, and cover with water by a few inches. Bring to a boil and skim the foam. Toss in the peeled garlic cloves and simmer them together, uncovered, until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 75 minutes (if your beans are older it will take a little longer).
2. About forty-five minutes into the bean-simmering, rinse the rice grains several times and cook as per usual.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy pan and saute the onion gently until soft and golden.
4. When the beans are tender, drain them, reserving the liquid. Remove the garlic and bay.
5. Add the beans to the sauteed onion and stir. Add the rice. By the spoonful, add just enough reserved liquid to colour and moisten the rice, but not so much to cause clumping and goopiness. Easy does it.
6. Salt to taste.

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plov.jpgPlov, the Uzbek pilaf and unofficial national dish of Uzbekistan, comes in many versions, but it is usually rich with meat, sweet with a great deal of onion and shredded carrot, and spiced heavily with cumin. But many additions are possible, and everyone’s grandfather makes the best. Although not the traditional rice, basmati works well here because its grains stay distinct rather than gumming together, and most people have it in the cupboard. Like shurpa, the meat needs a good (and careful) searing to build flavour and then a good (and gentle) simmering to become tender. The saffron puts a unexpected floral note over it all, but the plov is still tasty without it. I suggest a garnish of cilantro rather than a fruit (eg. raisins, dates, pomegranate seeds) because I find it already sufficiently sweet with carrot, but you might like the acid of a little fruit on top of this rich dish. Plov may be garnished with many things, or left bare for that matter. This plov is simple but not light, so even a small serving feels like a large one, but it tastes even better the day after, which is quite remarkable for a rice dish.

Serve green tea, black tea, or with a red Rhone. Starters could be salads or soup.


1 hour 45 minutes, including 1 hour simmer plus 20 minutes steam plus 10 rest; serves 4

3 Tbsp canola or sunflower oil (ie. high smoking point)
1 lb lamb leg, cut in 1/2″ cubes
2 onions, diced
5 carrots, shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
2 cups lamb or beef broth
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well in a strainer
pinch of saffron

1. Blot the cubed lamb with paper towel and heat the oil over high heat to just smoking in a wide and very heavy pot. Add the meat in one layer and allow it to begin browning. As it browns, turn the pieces so they cannot burn. Remove the meat.
2. Sear the onions in the hot oil until they have begun to brown as well. Add the carrot shreds and fry these for a few minutes as well, until they start to brown. Take care not to burn, though, by controlling the heat.
3. Add the garlic, cumin and paprika and fry for a minute. Return the meat.
4. Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce and leave to simmer, covered, until the meat is tender, about an hour.
5. Taste for salt, and adjust if need be. Add the basmati and enough water to cover the rice. Do not stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat for simmering, cover and leave for 10 minutes.
6. Dissolve the saffron in a few tablespoons of hot water. Lift the lid on the plov and dribble the saffron water over it without stirring. Replace the lid and continue to cook for ten minutes.
7. Taste to check that the rice grains are cooked, or perhaps just a little al dente. Turn off heat and leave to rest for ten minutes.
8. To present, spoon out the rice first as best you can, onto a warm platter, them the meat pieces on top. Finely chop some cilantro and sprinkle over top.

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