Archive | March, 2011

Fragrant Jeera Rice and Then Some

25 Mar

Fragrant Jeera Rice and Then Some

I once caught a fine lady friend of ours scooping out the leftovers directly from the wok I’d cooked this rice in. With her long and dainty fingers.  Secret-eating-lady was back-turned to the kitchen door as I witnessed her hurriedly inhaling; it wasn’t even very much of a secret wolfing as the rest of us were nattering away in her (very) adjacent living room. Clearly, the temptation had taken over and she had succumbed. Sigh. It was quite undignified, but who can blame her?

I’m spending a fair bit of time in the garden these days, in between all of the foodness; I’m welcoming in the spring and summer. I’d hug it/them if I could.  I want it to be beautiful out there, for those many times that I am writing recipes.  I want to look out and see an array of colours and texture all wafting together, harmoniously. Delicious. Yet it is still rather nippy. Sometimes I don’t even notice my nose run.

So to warm myself up and wind down after a good day of grafting, I do what any other self-loving person would do. I eat carbs. I make mental lists whilst pounding down the streets on the way home, fantasising in pictures and sensations of all of the cheesy, bready dishes with mounds of steaming hot jewels of rice that I want to devour at that very instant. Of course the rice has to be steaming and must to be fluffy, well separated and pure for it to do the job.  My husband is quite the connoisseur when it comes to rice. I was once given the ‘wrong’ variety as a freebie. One forkful and that was it, he was done.

This recipe is very popular amongst my friends and family; it’s so easy to put together and you can vary it for your mood. These days I am obsessed with chargrilled artichoke hearts with chilli confetti (of course). I could happily eat a plate full of them mingled in with this rice dish. As its warming up out there, I like to mix the cooled rice jeera rice up with chopped avocado and some firm-ish cherry tomatoes. In fact, I don’t mind it with 5-spiced Pakchoi either thank you very much. For me, I could make a meal of sassed-up jeera-rice, but to take it from an on-your-lap Friday night telly meal, to the dining table you can serve this wonderful rice up with some luscious curry, or use it as a side dish. Right, now where’s the rice.

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

200g uncooked basmati rice (I’ve used Tilda)

2 green chillies

175g finely chopped shallots

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tsp. lemon juice

The spices; ½ tsp. ground nutmeg, ½ tsp. ground mace, 2 star anise, 1 stick cinnamon, 2 cloves, ½ tsp. black pepper, 2 bay leaves, 1 ½ tsp. cumin seeds

Method

  1. Start by cooking the rice. Wash it thoroughly, bring to a simmer and then boil uncovered for about 6-7 minutes before draining it of the starch. Bring it back onto the heat and when it’s steaming on a very low heat, give it another couple of minutes.
  2. Allow the rice to cool and in the meantime get the rest of it happening by heating the sesame oil on a medium to low flame; it will heat very quickly so add the cumin seeds, chillies, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and allow the cumin to sizzle.
  3. Add the onions, pepper, salt, nutmeg, bay leaf, mace, lemon juice and stir thoroughly. Soften the onion and then bring it together with the rice. Gently mix it in and give it a good toss before serving it up.
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MMM Mushroom Manchurian

5 Mar

MMM Mushroom Manchurian

I was a hungry and inquisitive teenager when there was an unexpected eruption of Indian pubs popping open around me; ripe time for new flavours and surroundings. I mean pubs that served Indian Food. On the menu was a whole, liberated jumble of deep-fried breads, dosa’s (probably with cheese) pizza’s (of course with chilli and maybe even paneer) and then chips that had been doused in chilli sauce (I inhale deeply and regretfully at the memory of that tart chilli) and most notably Indo-Chinese Food. All this colourful food whacked sporadically in the middle of a wobbly, red coated table.

I believe this cuisine originates from the Chinese community in Calcutta and is pretty widespread in the big cities of India. Neither Indian, nor Chinese in origin, this variety of food teases with a dance on the tongue and the mind where the routine is actually, oddly familiar but not quite known. Overflowing with flavour and curious modernity, I can see why this type of bite is popular in pubs because it is strong and punchy and ideal with drinks-a-flowing!

Loud and impactful throws of garlic and ginger, cumin and coriander, hot chilli but then wait…5-spice and soy sauce? Don’t worry, the essences collide and then embrace passionately. They’ll intoxicate you into heady state and don’t be surprised if you’re doddering out of the pub afterwards.

Confusing as it is, it’s addictive. It’s the sort of food that hits the spot when you’re famished. Crispy and sweet, spongy and tangy, spicy and…more, more, more…So much so, that even though you are suave, polished and worldly now and even though you eat foods of the world that are cooked for you by a super-chef and presented beautifully in Michelin style…you still come home to Indo-Chinese food, now and again. Like when you were 17 and eating Hakka noodles with your friends.

As always, let me know how you go…

Recipe

Ingredients

250g Mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms)

Oil for deep frying

Ingredients for the batter

150g of plain flour

6 tbsp. corn flour

3 cloves garlic, 5g knob of ginger and 1 large red chilli minced together

Salt to taste

1 tsp. of Chinese 5 spice powder

200ml water

Ingredients for the sauce

3 tbsp. soy sauce

4 tbsp. tomato ketchup (Groan. I know, but it’s necessary in this recipe)

1 tbsp. caster sugar

1 ½ tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 large red pepper, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped

4-5 spring onions, chopped horizontally

1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Method

  1. Heat some oil, in preparation of letting the mushrooms sizzle and swim in it- and that too dressed
  2. Wash and chop the mushrooms into bite sized chunks and set aside
  3. To make the batter, combine the ingredients and whisk together, we don’t want any lumps but it should be pretty thick.
  4. Coat the mushrooms with the batter and drop them, individually into the oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan or else they’ll stick together-that’s not nice. When the mushrooms have achieved a golden brown colour, drain them on to kitchen paper to remove the excess oil.
  5. To make the sauce, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a pan and then add the garlic, spring onions, green chillies and red pepper and stir-fry until the peppers have softened a little; this should take 3-4 minutes. Then add the soy sauce, ketchup, 5-spice, vinegar, sugar and stir through and bring to a gentle simmer, before mixing in thoroughly the mushrooms. Serve immediately to ensure that the mushrooms stay nice and crispy. Try and share, I know it’s hard.