Posts Tagged ‘rice’

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Doing the wild thing

October 15, 2010

I could spend all day admiring the glossy black spikes of wild rice.

Aren’t they stunning? Like dropped sea urchin spines, or an echidna’s shrugged-off party frock.

There’s something tribal and daring about the look of this rice family’s younger punk sibling, which is apparently not rice at all but a type of aquatic grass,  from the genus Zizania.

I haven’t used it terribly often – have you? – but I love the chewy texture and nutty flavour that comes when the grain splits as it cooks. The stuff I buy comes from North America, where several Zizania species are native. Other species are native to different parts of the world (like China), and there is even a completely different wild rice plant, Potamophila parviflora – not available commercially, which is unsurprising given our water problems – native to  Australia.

I’m told it takes about 45 minutes of boiling for wild rice to properly cook, and in truth I’ve never really measured the time but just drained it when the kernel splits to reveal the white inside – the shorter the cooking time, the chewier the texture.

You may remember that my favourite quinoa salad, a bastardisation of a quinoa dish by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi, includes wild rice.  And I’ve used it in stuffing for chicken, with nuts and dried fruit. But I would love to hear how you use wild rice, so do share your ideas.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an easy rice and lentil side dish I made the other night to accompany some chermoula-barbecued salmon fillets (more on chermoula soon). I just threw this together and liked it so much I’m going to do lentil and rice combinations much more often. We did cheat a bit with this, having brought home a container of seeni sambol, the deliciously sticky, jammy, spicy Sri Lankan caramelised onion sambal from Kammadhenu the other night.  This stuff is the business, to add a kick to any dish you like, from soup to rice to whatever. If you can be bothered making your own, I bet it would be amazing. But otherwise you could just fry some onion till very dark and stir through this pilaffy number at the end.

  • ¼ cup wild rice
  • ½ cup Basmati rice
  • ¼ cup Persian red lentils
  • ¼ cup currants soaked in red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon seeni sambol or 1 whole onion, sliced and fried till very crisp and dark
  • 1 tablespoon torn mint
  • sale & pepper

Cook the rice and lentils in three separate pots of boiling water till tender (the wild rice will take up to 45 minutes), then drain and mix.

Stir through the currants, sambol or onion and mint, check seasoning and serve.

Now your turn. What do you do with this dark and spiky little number?

 

 

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Leek chic

September 21, 2010

When Senor came home from a garage sale one day grinning and brandishing a battered copy of this book, I cheered. It’s a classic, as many of you well know, but one I had never gotten round to looking at. It went on the cookbook shelf – and was promptly forgotten, till last night, when I finally dipped in.

I had a hankering for something spicy and easy and lentilish for dinner, and became very taken with the sound of Charmaine’s Sri Lankan Paripoo, which is a lot less rude than it sounds. Basically, this is red lentils cooked in coconut milk with lemongrass,  spices (turmeric, cinnamon, dried chilli) and loads of almost black-fried onion, plus some pounded dried shrimp in place of the Maldive fish, which I didn’t have and in fact till that moment had never heard of. Luckily, our freezer yielded some dried shrimp (triple-bagged) and I used Persian red lentils in place of Asian ones. The Persians are lovely – a tawny pink version that otherwise in shape and size look very like the French-style blue lentils I use in almost all other dishes. I  am sure Sri Lankan purists would paripoo-pooh my choice of pulse, but phooey to them. It was grand.

Now the lentils were very fine indeed, but what really rocked my world was this easy leek accompaniment. I don’t know how it works, but this really simple dish gave the lentils – and the accompanying rice pilau from the Pakistan pages of the book (just to show what a complete cultural philistine I am) – an amazing zing.

The finely chopped leeks are simply slowly sweated down in some oil with chilli powder, more pounded shrimp, salt and turmeric. That’s it – and yet, somehow, this all merges and melds into a sticky, slightly jammy, sweet, sharp and spicy little sambal that I think would go perfectly with many different kinds of curries & rice dishes.  Charmaine doesn’t call it a sambal, so it’s probably completely wrong to describe it like that. It’s simply called Leeks Fried with Chilli – or Leeks Mirisata – but its texture is so jammy that it’s almost like a chutney rather than a separate vegetable dish.  And because she emphasises using the green part of the leek as well as the white, it ends up a delicate pale lemony yellow. Beautiful!

Whatever it is, I am in love.  And I bet you will be too – the recipe is right here, just below the lentils. The quantity in the recipe seemed huge, so I halved it and that was plenty for the the two of us, with a goodly amount leftover for lunch too.

V: Interestingly, I had a little Twitter chat today about this with @KathrynElliott from the fab blog Limes & Lycopene, which our shucking pal Julie put me on to ages ago. Kathryn (who you’ll have met here in the comments sometimes) says Charmaine’s Complete Vegetarian book has a version of Leeks Mirisata  which simply leaves out the Maldive fish/shrimp. Then I recalled our Hamish’s suggestion that umeboshi plums could make a good substitute for anchovies. Kathryn thought this a fine idea, and then her pal Lucinda (from Nourish Me and – stay with me –  the other half of the very cool online mag An Honest Kitchen ) weighed in via Twitter (@LucyNourishMe) to say:  “A finely chopped piece of umeboshi, some garlic and shoyu is a grand anchovy sub. Stinky and rich enough.” So there you are – if I were doing this leeky thing veg style, I would definitely have a shot at getting that combo in somewhere. And shoyu, I learn, is similar to tamari.

Phew. Took longer to type that than make it. So go to it – happy eating!