Spiced Pilau Rice

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As winter is officially here and the nights are drawing in so our diet begins to crave more hearty filling food. Stew and warming curries get given centre stage during the winter months, well at least they do in my household. I realise that I have never posted a pilau rice dish, which would be a great accompaniment with a wide range of curries. Plain basmati rice is all very well but if you delicately spice it and accompany it with some nuts or fruit, it just adds a lovely new fragrant dimension to the meal and really only takes a couple of extra minutes to prepare.

I find my spiced pilau rice is really versatile as it works equally well with Middle Eastern dishes as well as Indian curries.

 

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The three C’s are wonderful spices: cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick and give a warming aroma to any dish. I also have a particular weakness for cardamom in sweet dishes, but that’s for another post. Star anise not only looks inviting but also has a delicate aniseed smell and taste and is used a lot in Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. The queen of spices is saffron – one of the most expensive so it is used sparingly, hence only a pinch used in this dish. If you do not have saffron you could use a generous pinch of ground turmeric instead, which will give a yellow hue.

 

 

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I used blanched almonds this time, but depending on what is in my cupboard I may use cashew nuts or even unsalted peanuts. If you are serving a more Middle Eastern dish then pistachio nuts would also work really well.

Let me know how you get on. Send me a photo of your dish and accompanying curry to my twitter account and I will retweet it to all my followers. Is there any particular pilau rice that you make at home? How does if differ to my spiced pilau?

 

 

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Spiced Pilau Rice

serves 4

1/2 tbsp ghee/butter

7cm cinnamon stick, broken in two

2 star anise

4 cardamom pods, slightly opened

3 cloves

190g basmati rice (Approx one handful per person)

350ml cold water

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp hot milk

1 large pinch of saffron (or ground turmeric)

1 tsbp rose water

2 tbsp blanched almonds or cashew nuts

1. First rinse the rice a couple of times with cold water so that the water runs clear and not cloudy. Drain and set aside. If you have time then soak the rice in cold water for 10 minutes then drain.

2. Heat the milk and then place the saffron in the milk. Give a good stir. Leave to soak whilst you prepare the rice.

3. In a pan heat the ghee or butter and when it is melted add the star anise, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle away for half a minute, before adding the drained rice and salt and stirring together. Add the cold water. As a rule I always make sure that the water is about 1/3 of your smallest finger above the rice. Stir and then let the rice come to the boil which will take a couple of minutes.

4. Once it has come to the boil, turn the heat down and place the lid on the pan. Let the rice gently cook and steam away for 8 minutes. By this time small holes will have appeared in the top of the rice. Turn the heat off and leave the lid on the rice so that it can steam for a further 10 minutes.

5. In a small frying pan dry roast the blanched almonds or cashew nuts for a couple of minutes so that they begin to bronze.

6. Place the saffron milk and rose water over the rice and then gently fluff it up with a fork.

7. Scatter over a platter with the nuts over the top.

Serve with any Indian dal, vegetable, meat or fish curry. It also works really well with Middle Eastern meat or fish dishes.

 

 

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Prague Adventures and Spiced Mulled Wine

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I’ve been on a little jaunt across to Prague since my last post. As is customary around this time of year my family like to spend a few days somewhere really cold where we can wrap up warm (I wore five layers most days), visit the christmas markets, eat lardy food and soak up a bit of culture. Prague hit the spot and besides I have always wanted to return as my last visit was interrupted the whole time by work calls from London. This time I vowed to turn off my phone and all communication with the outside world.

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The best way to explore any city is by foot or bike, although across cobble stones the former mode of transport is by far more advisable. So for three full days we walked around the old city across the bridges, through the various squares, visiting the cathedral, churches and palace and taking in some art – both old and new. Our days of walking were interspersed with tasty pit stops. My girls loved to eat these wonderful hot pastry rolls that were dipped in cinnamon sugar.

Whilst Mr B and I enjoyed sipping some festive mulled wine/gluhwein/vin chaud/glogg. Nothing beats drinking mulled wine when the outside temperature is close to zero. It warms you up from the inside out and gives you that renewed energy to keep exploring a little longer in the cold elements.

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It’s brilliantly easy to make yourself and is a great winter warmer for the holiday period. Over the Christmas break you can guarantee that I for one will be drinking a glass or two after our Boxing day walk. The warming smell of the cinnamon and cloves bubbling away in the red wine on the stove evokes so many happy memories.  I recommend using the cheapest bottle of red plonk that you can get your hands on – save your Chateaux Margaux for another occasion!

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Spiced Mulled Wine

Serves 6 (a couple of glasses each!)

2 bottles of cheap red wine

150g (or 100g if you prefer it less sweet!) caster sugar

1/2 freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tsp cloves

4 cardamom pods

2 sticks of cinnamon split in two

100ml port (optional)

a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp allspice

200ml water

orange peel strips to serve

1. In a large pan add the caster sugar and half a pint of red wine and stir until completely dissolved.

2. Add the remaining ingredients aside from the orange peel strips and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

3. Strain the liquid before serving and gently pour the hot spiced mulled wine into individual glasses or mugs and add a orange peel strip to each one.

You can make in advance and then reheat when needed. You can also store in the fridge overnight to be reheated the following day.

Note: If you have some muslin cloth you could add all the spices to this cloth and then simply remove before serving, instead of straining. 

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I bid you all a very happy Christmas and will be back with my next post in the New Year. Thank you for always stopping by and supporting me with your comments and likes over the last couple of years. Merry Christmas to you all.

Torie x

Take a sneak peek at a few of the other sights we saw in Prague below.


Curried Potatoes and an Award

There has been a whirlwind of activity in my household this week, getting ready for our departure to Hong Kong for the Christmas holidays. Big A and little Z breaking up from school and I have been doing last minute Christmas shopping – all done now, big sigh of relief – on top of that the ‘outlaws’ are spending this week with us, which means there is a lot of feasting and fragrant Indian cooking smells coming from the kitchen. A sprinkling of Christmas drinks with the traditional mulled wine (blog post for christmas 2013 I think) and carol concerts have added to the Christmas spirit and excitement.

Out of the blue this morning I received a ‘Blog of the Year Award’ from the lovely Charu who writes Soul of Spice, and whose blog I enjoy following immensely.

As part of the honour I must bestow the award on others that stand out for me. It’s a tough call as there are many strong contenders out there, but there are two obvious ones for me:

1) The Garum Factory. Written by husband and wife, Ken and Jody who are based on the east coast of the US.  Importantly the recipes are temptingly delicious and ones that I actually want to cook (mainly savouries, which suits my palette) The photographs always inspire me to try and improve mine ;o) and the narrative is always very amusing. I also mentioned The Garum Factory in a past post here

2) The other one I always enjoy reading and perusing over is The Hungry Australian written by Christina. She always seems to have a million things going on at once (running Eat Drink Blog conferences, the food blogger hop, writing articles for magazines, being a good mother, wife etc)  but is consistent at posting interesting blog posts with bright, impressive photos and interesting recipes, many with an Asian twist – which is  a winner in my book.

So I pass on the honour to both of you. Congratulations.

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The rules to accept this award:

1. Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award
2. Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.
3. Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award – and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)
4. Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them
5. You can now also join our Facebook page – click the link here ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience
6. As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

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Yes – that’s right – there are stars to collect! Unlike other awards which you can only add to your blog once – this award is different! When you begin you will receive the ‘1 star’ award – and every time you are given the award by another blog – you can add another star! There are a total of 6 stars to collect. Which means that you can check out your favourite blogs – and even if they have already been given the award by someone else – you can still bestow it on them again and help them to reach the maximum 6 stars!

We all love potatoes right? So I thought that a new way to cook them might appeal to you all, hence the curried potatoes recipe below. I am sure I am not alone in saying that potatoes and rice are the two staples that you will always find in households, so if you want to cook an easy, cheap and quick supper making this dish, along side a dal for example, makes a really filling and tasty supper/lunch.

Curried Potatoes

Serves 4

2 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable oil if you don’t have mustard oil)

500g small potatoes (I use Charlotte, but new would be good too)

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green chilli, chopped in half

4 inch piece cinnamon bark, broken into pieces

3 curry leaves

2 cloves

1 tsp turmeric

150 ml water

1 tbsp yoghurt

1/2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt (to taste)

1. Boil the potatoes until they are softened – this will take around 10 minutes. Drain and place to one side.

2. In a pan gently heat up the mustard oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds and stir for 10 seconds, then add the chilli, cloves, salt, sugar, cinnamon bark and curry leaves and stir once again.

3. Add the onion to the pan and stir into the spices. When they have softened and begin to bronze add the turmeric followed by the potatoes and stir in together so that they are properly coated in the spices.

4. Place the water and yoghurt in the pan and gently simmer  with the lid on until the water has almost completely been absorbed.

Serve immediately with some Indian bread, such as luchi or paratha. It would also go very well with a cinnamon and ginger dal


Lamb Keema Masala – one pot dish

A lot of time has been spent indoors recently due to the unpredictable weather. There is something rather homely and comforting to be inside a warm house as the rain storm causes havoc outside. We’ve had over two weeks of rain, virtually non stop, so I am guessing that the hosepipe ban for the south of England must surely have been lifted or at least close to being lifted. My garden is so lush and green to the extent that it is looking positively tropical.

So when the rain ceased slightly I made a dash for my local ethnic food stores to gather supplies in order to make some tasty dishes for the coming days. Upon returning home laden with exciting vegetables, spices, meats and fish, I decided to prepare Keema Masala for  supper. Keema Masala is in many respects the Asian version of chilli con carne or bolognese, hence it is very straight forward to make. The word ‘keema’ derives from the ancient Turkish word for minced meat and the ‘masala’ is the blend of spices that make up the dish, namely the garam masala.

I tend to eat mine with flat bread or naan and mop it up this way, but eating it with rice is equally pleasurable. I like to compliment the dish with some homemade raita to help balance the spice from the keema masala. It works a treat.

Lamb Keema Masala

Serves 6

1.5kg minced lamb (or beef)

3 tbs vegetable oil

1 and a half red onions, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3 fresh green chilli, chopped in two

5cm ginger, grated

6 black peppercorns, whole or ground

6 cloves, whole or ground

5 cardamom pods, whole or ground

3 bays leaves

3 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp ground almonds

2 tbsp tomato puree/or 2 fresh tomatoes chopped

50 ml boiling water

2 tbsp natural yoghurt

handful of fresh coriander to garnish

1. Warm the oil in a pan and then add the onion and garlic. When it begins to darken after 3-5 minutes add the ginger, green chillies black peppercorns, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves and gently fry all the ingredients for another couple of minutes.

2. Add the remaining spices: ground coriander, turmeric and cumin as well as the garam masala and stir thoroughly and then add the ground almonds and tomato puree/fresh tomatoes along with 50 ml of boiling water.

3. Place the minced lamb into the pan and stir into the fragrant ingredients. When the lamb has become brown add the salt and natural yoghurt. You will need to stir it frequently at this stage so that the mince does not clump together.

4. Leave to simmer for 25 minutes. You can cook it earlier in the day and reheat it when you are ready to eat.

Note: You may find you need to add a very little boiling water when reheating it. 

5. When served garnish with fresh coriander.

Homemade Raita

7 tbsp yoghurt

1/2  cucumber, grated

1/4  tsp salt

3/4  tsp ground cumin

pinch of paprika

pinch of black pepper

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and then place into a small serving bowl.

2. Serve chilled.


Beat this Borscht

I hadn’t planned on posting this Borscht recipe on my blog. I’ve cooked Borscht numerous times in the past and it’s always been…well…..fine…but never really much more than that. I then found a new recipe in my soup bible called ‘500 Soup Recipes’, ok my secret’s out, I AM A BIG SOUP FAN, but those who follow me I think you kind of already new that, right?

Anyway, this Borscht recipe is different from all the other Borscht recipes I’ve cooked in the past, namely that it is not smooth. Instead the beetroot are cut into thick strips, rather like chips in fact, along with the carrots and celery and because of this and the muslin bag full of herbs and spices, gives the soup an added dimension that really makes it a winner. I have followed the recipe loosely but the end result got the definite thumbs up from both myself and Mr B.

Beetroot is easy to find at this time of year and since I had just over half a dozen in my fridge that were beginning to look a little bit sorry for themselves, I decided to dedicate a recipe solely to them, well almost solely! The colour is a brilliant deep crimson and stains like crazy, so unless you like living on the edge, definitely don’t wear white when eating or cooking this dish.

As its January Mr B and I are on a bit of a health drive so we didn’t bother with the sour cream, with scattered dill or chives on top. It would have probably made a prettier photograph, but hey my waist line is thanking me for it.

Give it a try and please let me know how you get on, I’d love to hear what you think. Do you prefer it to the smooth variety that is more ubiquitous?

Borscht

Adapted from 500 Soup Recipes by Tim Smart and Bridget Jones

Serves 4-6

7 medium/small uncooked beetroot, peeled

2 carrots, peeled

2 celery sticks

2 tbsp butter

2 onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

4 tomatoes, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 large handful of fresh parsley

2 cloves

4 whole peppercorns

2 pints of vegetable stock

75 ml cider vinegar, or to taste

sugar, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

1 muslin

1. Peel the beetroot and carrots and cut into fairly thick strips. Also cut the celery into bit sized pieces. Heat the butter in a large pan and when it is melted add the sliced onion and stir on a low heat for 5 minutes.

2. Now add the beetroot, carrots and celery and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the garlic and chopped tomatoes. Stir into the other vegetables and leave to simmer for a further 2 minutes.

3. Using a large piece of muslin, place the bay leaf, fresh parsley, cloves and peppercorns into the centre and tie the four corners together with a piece of string. Place the muslin  into the pan with the end of the four corners sticking out over the top of the pan slightly. Add the stock and make sure that all the vegetables and muslin pouch are submerged as much as possible. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

4. Discard the muslin pouch and add the cider vinegar. Pour in a little at a time and taste so that it creates the right balance of sweet and sour. Add a sprinkling of sugar if necessary. Season, stir and then ladle into bowls. Add a dollop of sour cream on top with either dill or chives.