I’ve been very slack lately in cooking in general, but especially in branching out and trying new things. It is definitely a season when I am leaning towards my comfort foods (tonight for dinner: macaroni and cheese with peas–the way my mom has always made it–and garlic mashed potatoes), and not very excited about dishes that make me think. However, with a bag of slowly wilting carrots in the refrigerator and and inkling to eat some meat, I pulled this Persian pilaf out of my main cookbook, Ms. Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. (Maybe I never mentioned it before, but when we moved to the Middle East I only brought two cookbooks with me. Two. I realized that perhaps this was not normal when I read A Crafty Lass‘s account of paring down her cookbook collection before moving internationally.) Anyway, this pared with some roasted vegetables was good as a main dish, and could easily be made according to vegan or vegetarian standards.
Havij Polow (serves 6)
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1/3-1/2 cup butter or vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds carrots, coarsely grated or cut into little sticks
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar, or more (optional) (but good, in my opinion)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional) (again, you should add this)
- 1 tablespoon rose water
Wash the rice in warm water and rinse ina colander under the cold water tap.
Fry the onion in 2-3 tablespoons of the butter or oil until soft and golden. Add the grated carrots and saute gently for 10 minutes. Add sugar and cinnamon and cook 3-4 minutes longer.
Boil the rice in salted water in a alrge (9-10 inch), heavy-bottomed, preferably non-stick saucepan for about 10 minutes, until not quite tender and still a little underdone. Drain and mix with the remaining butter or oil, keeping aside 2 tablespoons. Heat the 2 tablespoons butter or oil in the bottom of the pan, then spread alternate layers of rice and sauteed carrots, starting and ending with a layer of rice. Sprinkle rose water over the top and cook over very low heat for about 30 minutes. The rose water, a relic of early-medieval times, gives a subtle perfume to the dish. (Note from me: I always panic at around minute 25 of cooking the rice, thinking that it must be burning, and turn it off then. Big mistake…the end result is supposed to be a layer of crusty golden rice, but if you remove it from the heat too soon it’s more like greasy golden rice, and not so pleasant to eat.)
Note: for meatballs, season 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (I used beef) with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix well and knead until smooth and pasty. Shape into marble-sized balls and fry in a little oil for about 8-10 minutes, turning them over, until browned all over but still pink and juicy inside.
To serve: Turn the pot of rice upside down onto a platter on top of the meatballs, so that the meatballs are buried. If you have achieved a good crusty golden layer of rice, that would traditionally be removed and served separately, as a delicacy. Then the remaining rice and carrots would be stirred together. (Clearly, I did not follow any of these steps myself. Just telling you how it’s supposed to be done.)
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Carrots, Claudia Roden, Cookbook, Cooking, Grains, Meat, Middle Eastern Food, Onions, Persian, Pilaf, Rice, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian
I am happy to report that after what seemed like a very long, hot summer, I am sleeping under a blanket once again, enjoying the feel of my cold nose peeking out above the covers. After all, it gets down to 72/73F in my bedroom at night—chilly! But apparently the real cold is yet to come; yesterday the neighbors were admonishing me that we need to hurry and buy a heater, because the temperature will start dropping fast and before I know it, there will be rain and even snow. Life in non-insulated buildings with drafty windows can become very difficult in winter for those of us who are most sensitive to the cold.
One way of dealing with this? Spend a lot of time in the kitchen, preferably concocting things full of spices and butter and meltingly soft vegetables. Today I wandered around the market gathering things that may not be at the height of their growth season right now, but are definitely appropriate according to my internal sense of what to be eating in autumn. This evening, as Maghrib (sundown) happened just before 6:00 p.m., I was at the stove putting together one of my favorite fall dishes, a Moroccan-style vegetable tagine. (I have no idea where I got this recipe…I found it somewhere on the internet three or four years ago. My apologies to its creator.) It is fragrant and sweet and savory and full of nutrition and makes me feel like I have a warm blanket of happiness wrapped around my internal organs.
MOROCCAN VEGETABLE TAGINE
(makes 4 large servings or 6 small)
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tsp. turmeric
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 c. water
- 1 lb. pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 14 oz. cooked chickpeas
- 2 tsp. harissa (I used 1 ½ tsp. Sriracha instead)
- ¾ c. raisins, dried cherries or dried chopped dates
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat oil and add the onions. Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 2 minutes or until aromatic.
Add the carrots and water, stir well, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin/squash, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, harissa, raisins, and honey; cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with couscous.
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Tagged Arab, Autumn, Chickpeas, Cooking, Couscous, Grains, Legumes, Middle Eastern Food, One-pot, Onions, Pumpkin, Recipe, Spices, Sweet Potatoes, Tagine, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian
It starts off well..
I know it is fall. The thermometer may (rightly) insist the high temperatures are still in the 90s, but something has definitely shifted. Three indisputable proofs:
- My kitchen has suddenly been overrun by an invincible army of ants. I kill them, there’s already more coming. I clean my counters and sink 17 times a day, so they make their way into the cupboards. And the silverware drawer. And my (closed) food processor, too–how do they do that?!? Outdoor critters moving inside is a sure sign of approaching coldness.
- For three days, the sky was overcast, the wind blew and we had dust storms requiring multiple house cleanings. Yes, it was still hot, but it even rained once. There is a saying that, literally translated from Arabic, is, “September’s tail is wet.” Meaning: it rains at the end of September. After the first fall rain is when the olive harvest traditionally starts, although for the past several years much of the region has been suffering a drought causing the harvest to come later.
- I have an incurable desire to bake. I am so done with salads and fruit and tangy yoghurt dressings. I want things with wheat and butter. Preferably wheat, butter and chocolate, but I do manage to restrain myself. Occasionally. Still, my body is going into winter fat storage mode. This time of year I am less of a hummingbird and more like a bear preparing for a long hibernation.
Seems like everything is under control...
So the aforementioned Roasted Pumpkin Soup was accompanied by my traditional Baking Powder Biscuits, which is one of those things everyone should know how to make. I attempted to jazz them up with some corn and caramelized onion, which turned out to be a good idea but was poorly executed. The sad result? Some serious burnage that rendered the entire batch inedible, although Hungry Husband gamely tried to rescue them with a spoonful of cinnamon syrup. It’s not a combination I would have though of, but he’s brave that way, and even more of a stickler than I am about the evils of wasting food. He said it was “better” with the syrup; however, in the end even he passed on seconds and they went into the trash.
Lesson learned: set the timer!
BAKING POWDER BISCUITS
- 3/4 c. milk
- 2 c. flour
- 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
Sift the dry ingredients together. Cut in the shortening, and then add the milk slowly, stirring. It is a sticky batter but knead it lightly, to the best of your abilities. Drop the batter in spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes in a preheated 475F oven.