Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Spiced Rice with Raisins, Coriander and Almonds

I have been flipping through a new cooking book we borrowed from Oliver's mother called World Vegetarian Classics. The book gives great insight on vegetarian cuisine around the world, and shows how each and every culture has embraced vegetarian cooking and made it an essential part of its culinary traditions. I am enjoying reading about the different recipes in the book (which are divided by geographic locations) and have a list of recipes I am dying to try. Tonight, Pacha Rice was on the menu.

I remember how puzzled I first was when I moved to Canada and met vegetarians. For some reason, I had never been exposed to this lifestyle in France and had quite a few questions about it. French cooking is so much based around meat and fish, that I couldn't imagine a meal without them on the table. I am now quite aware that there are as many ways to be vegetarian as there are ways to cook pasta, and as many vegetarian meals as there are meat-based ones. I have made a point of knowing how to cook great vegetarian food and not to reduce non-meaty cuisine to steamed vegetables and salad. Even if you're not a vegetarian, it is a worthwhile challenge to limit yourself in the kitchen. When you have too many options open to you, it's sometimes hard to know what to make and what to choose. Cooking vegetarian food has obliged me to really look for flavor and to make all the ingredients complement one another.

This rice dish, I suspect, will be a keeper. Made primarily in Egypt, Pacha rice consists of an interesting combination of crispy noodles and spiced tender rice, with almonds, herbs and spices.



For 4 people

1 1/2 tablespoon of butter

1 shallot, diced

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme

2 tablespoons of fresh coriander, chopped plus a few to garnish

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric

1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, crushed

1/2 cup of golden raisins

1 1/4 cups of basmati rice

2 cups of water

One handful of vermicelli, broken into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup of blanched almonds, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large saucepan with a lid, heat the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the shallots and garlic and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the spices, herbs and season with salt and pepper for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the raisin and the rice, and stir again until the rice is golden. Pour in the water, bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat so that the rice simmers gently and leave to cook for about 15 minutes. (The amount of water and the cooking time will depend on the type of rice you use).

In the meantime, heat a knob of butter in a pan, and add the almonds. Once gently golden, add the small pieces of vermicelli directly to the pan (not cooking the vermicelli helps make them really crunchy). Remove after a couple minutes when the noodles are golden.

Stir the almonds and vermicelli mixture into the rice, and sprinkle with coriander leaves. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

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