Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pea and Broad Bean Chelow

I was recently given the most beautiful book, Saraban; it details Greg and Lucy Malouf's journey through Iran and includes recipes throughout.  It's just about the ultimate in food porn: exquisitely written, rich with culture, history and personal anecdotes, as well as beautiful photography.  I read it in bed at night with a cup of tea, and have been drooling at the prospect of making something from it soon.

The choices were extensive, but I couldn't go past a chelow, a classic Iranian rice dish that features a tah-deeg! It was a completely new way to make rice for me, and much more involved than the usual reduction method I use.  The resultant texture was much more soft and fluffy than any I could ever recall eating.  The tah-deeg literally translates to 'bottom of the pan' (apparently) and forms a crispy shell on the rice that I had to carve through with a carving knife.  It's scrumptious.

You can make a basic chelow or you can mix things through the rice, making it even yummier.  Since our spring vegetables are glorious, I decided to make a pea and broad bean chelow.

  •  300g basmati rice
  • 1kg fresh broad beans in the pod 
  • 600g fresh peas in the pod
  • salt
  • fresh dill, finely chopped
  • dried mint
  • lemon rind
  • 1 clove garlic
  • small knob of butter, melted
  • olive oil
Start by soaking the rice in lots of lukewarm water for about half an hour, swirling it occasionally with your fingers - this loosens the starch on the rice.  Then rinse the rice in cold water.

While the rice is soaking, shell the peas and broad beans.  Blanche them in boiling water for about a minute, then rinse them in cold water.  Then remove the second shell on the broad beans by splitting it down the side with your finger nail, and then slipping the beans out (they'll do this easily).

Now, back to the rice!

Bring a large pot of water (about 2 litres) to boil with several tablespoons of sea salt.  Add the rice and boil for a few minutes, and no more than five.  The rice should have started to soften on the outside and still be hard on the inside, when you take it off the stove.  Again, rinse it immediately in cold water to stop it from continuing to cook.

For the next part, use a lidded saucepan with a nice wide bottom, maybe one that curves up the sides, as this will be the shape of the tah-deeg.  Add a generous pour of oil to the bottom of the pan and a few tablespoons of water.  Place the pan on a high heat.  Once the oil has started to sizzle, spoon rice over the base of the pan forming an even layer.  Mix the remaining rice with the beans, peas, dill and mint, and spoon it into the pan (apparently spooning it prevents it from squashing in the dish, and thus it gets fluffier) into a big rice pyramid.  Using the handle of the spoon, make five or six holes through the rice to the bottom of the pan to facilitate the steaming.

Place the garlic clove and lemon rind on top of the rice mountain.  Then mix the small knob of butter with a few large spoonfuls of water, and drizzle this over the rice.  The butter makes the dish quite rich so adjust to your tastes.  The recipe calls for about 40g, but I would use about half this.  (I was in such a flurry of activity getting all this done before too much steam evaporated, that I failed to take any photos of this bit).

Wrap the lid in a tea towel for an extra seal on the saucepan, and place it on the pan.  Preparing the rest of the rice will take about a minute, so then turn the heat down low and leave it for about 40 minutes.

Once it's done, immerse the pan in a sink of icy cold water.  This sudden change in temperature shocks the rice away from the sides of the pan.  Then, invert the whole pan onto a plate, and feel a thrill of excitement that it actually worked!

You'll need a sharp knife to break through the tah-deeg, and it's just as much fun as smashing the top of a creme brulee, only savoury.  I served the chelow in wedges with chermoula crusted whiting and wedges of lemon, and a really nice white wine my friend Mel kindly behind when she was here the other night.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Prawn and mango salad

Attention, attention: This is the most delicious salad ever, it's super easy to make and it's even good for you. Make it as soon as you possibly can!

  • 8 large fresh prawns
  • 1 large ripe mango
  • Fresh mint and corainder - big bunches
  • 1 red chilli
  • Fresh lime
  • dessicated coconut

Fry your prawns in a little light oil on a medium heat.  Flip them over after a minute and sprinkle the coconut over them so it coats them and toasts gently.

While the prawns are cooking slice the mango into long strips. Then finely chop the chilli and add it to the mango.  Add the mint and coriander leaves, and squeeze half the lime over the lot.

Then place the prawns on top, squeeze the remaining lime over the prawns, and scoff it right down.  This was so incredibly good I'll definitely be making it plenty over summer.

Slow roasted tomatoes

I have been a pretty bad blogger lately.  I could tell you about lingering flues and essays and a seemingly endless number of birthdays and all manner of things that you don't care about, but suffice it to say I have been very negligent of this blog.  I didn't even post about the Parkville Ladies' and Gentlemen's Club.  I do want you to know that I made all those things, and they were all devoured.  Unfortunately I made most of them after midnight on work nights and completely forgot to take photos.

But never fear, I have a plan.  A plan to make up for it.  It involves a flurry of cooking this weekend, all of which I pledge to put up here.  And it starts with these: Slow roasted tomatoes.

  • Vine ripened tomatoes, or any big juicy firm red variety 
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Cracked pepper 
Let's start by saying that this recipe is easy. Stupidly easy. All it requires is that you are about the house, because you want these suckers to cook for a loooooong time.  The longer and slower they cook, the more the flavours concentrate.  You can't really get this recipe wrong, but you can certainly get it right.  The most assured way to kick arse is to use really good quality ingredients.  Since all the flavours are concentrating during the slow roasting, this is one recipe where stand out ingredients will make a big difference.  So try to get extra virgin, cold press oil, a good vinegar, and good quality salt.  Let's face it, these things are all awesome to have around anyway.  The vinegar is the best bit.  It caramelises during the roasting and adds an extra sticky sweetness to the tomatoes.

So, heat your oven to 120 C.  Chop your tomatoes into quarters and place them in a large mixing bowl.  Pour a generous drizzle of oil and vinegar over them, and then add liberal quantities of salt and pepper.  Toss them in the bowl.  My preferred way to do this is to lift the bowl with both hands and swoosh it out quickly, away from my body and flicked upwards - the tomatoes will flip over themselves and coat themselves evenly in the mixture without bruising, and minimising the amount of oil used.  This is also a really good way to oil potatoes before roasting.

Place the tomatoes in lined pans and put them in the oven.  Leave them there for four or five hours. Done. Easy. Delicious. High five.

Use this little morsels in pasta sauces, risotto, on antipasto platters, in sandwiches.  I had some with Persian fetta on a fresh bagel for breakfast, and it was divine.  To store them, seal them in an air tight container and put them in the fridge.