Coconut Rice with Sweet Potato and Black Lentils – a taste of southern India

coconut rice
It is the first week of December and already I feel behind. Since November, newspaper supplements have practically dripped with all of the food that editors breathlessly extoll us to make; and my heart involuntarily races at the sight of those excruciatingly detailed checklists that will ‘make Christmas effortless.’ And then there are the actual presents. It is enough to make a sane person go into meltdown.   
Normally by this time most of the presents I intend to buy are stashed haphazardly around the house. Such is the pre-maturity of my usual present buying (July) that I have sometimes even popped little notes in my diary with clues as to where these presents are secreted. But not this year. Continue reading
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An Edible Mosaic Virtual Cookbook Launch, Recipe and Giveaway!

I have a very special post for you today. My friend Faith Gorsky from An Edible Mosaic just had her first cookbook released: An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. I’m excited to be participating in her virtual book launch party and sharing two recipes from the book! If you read me you know that sometimes I will do a kind of ersatz Middle Eastern recipe, according to what I like rather than tradition. But Faith is offering you the real thing, including the Arabic names of each dish.
 
 
The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. As someone who loves a plant-based diet, I was reassured to find plenty of vegetarian dishes, which mostly can be made vegan. 
 
Faith has a pretty unique story. After getting married, Faith spent six months living in the Middle East, where she fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Subsequently, she returned four more times for visits, each time delving deeper into the cuisine and deepening her passion for and appreciation of the region. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. If you didn’t grow up eating Middle Eastern food, it can be a difficult art to master; Faith understands that, and explains complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way. I wouldn’t recommend this book for a novice cook, but anyone else who loves going out to Middle Eastern restaurants, and wants to replicate authentic recipes from this ancient cuisine, look no further. The book is available to order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
 
 
After you check out the recipe below, please head over to Faith’s blog to check out her virtual book launch party to see the other bloggers who are participating. Also, as part of her virtual book launch, Faith is hosting a giveaway of a fabulous set of prizes. Be sure to head over and enter. I also have a copy of her cookbook to give to one lucky reader, so be sure and leave a comment saying that you would like to win it.
 
 
The recipe from the book that I’m sharing with you today is for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, along with a variation for Mixed White and Yellow Rice. The recipe is actually vegan so you won’t have any trouble incorporating it into a vegan or vegetarian meal, but it is just as delicious served with chicken, beef, lamb, or seafood, and it would be really fantastic with just about any curry dish. (In the cookbook, Faith recommends pairing Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce with this rice dish.) Btw, excuse the small images. I am a dunce with technology and couldn’t for the life of me make her very gorgeous photos any larger. If you head over to her site you will see them in all their glory, I’m sure.
 
 
 
 
Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, Pictured with Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce, another recipe from An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair.
 
 
Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
ROZ MLOW’WAN
 
 
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.
 
 
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking
 
 
1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)
 
 
Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
 
Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
 
Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
 
Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.
 
 
OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.
 
 
 
 
Mixed White and Yellow Rice
 
 
 
 
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking
 
 
1½ cups (325 g) uncooked basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
2 pods cardamom, cracked open
2 whole peppercorns
¾ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
1-2 pinches saffron threads or ½ teaspoon turmeric dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
 
 
Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
 
Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan, cover and place over moderately high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
 
Add the rice, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the boiling water to the rice, turn heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. Give it a stir, cover the pot, turn heat down to very low, and cook 10 minutes (don’t open the lid during this time).
 
After the rice is cooked, let the pot sit with the lid on for 15 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork. Transfer 1/3 of the rice to a separate bowl.
 
Stir the saffron or turmeric-colored water into 1/3 of the rice (the rice will turn yellow). Mix together the yellow rice and white rice; serve.

Wild Garlic Pesto Risotto

You will know us by our carrier bags and scissors, our bottoms in the air as we bend low beside forest-lined riverbanks and reach deep into thorny hedgerows, sniffing and snipping. We are the foragers, and it is our time – of year, that is. Yep, it is the start of the Great British freebie-athon known as foraging season. First in line to be picked is wild garlic. Looking a bit like lily of the valley (which is poisonous) but smelling distinctly and unmistakably of garlic you can now find Allium ursinum (wild garlic/bear garlic/ransoms) under the broad-leafed trees that line streams and rivers all over Britain. Although it is free to pick, if you buy the pungent leaves in a greengrocer’s or market expect to pay quite a price. So don’t. Wild garlic season is short but potentially very rewarding for those who bravely take up the carrier bag. Continue reading