I only just spotted this linky to share your favourite family recipe with Britmums and Tilda rice as part of Tilda's initiative with the United Nations World Food Programme to donate 300,000 meals to mothers in Bangladesh.
Quite simply there were two reasons why I HAD to join in - even though I have less than a couple of hours to write this blog post (sounds easy - but anything on the computer seems to take me several hours to do).
1) When 1 person in 7 battles with hunger EVERY DAY - then if there is anything that can be done to reduce the number of people going to bed hungry, then I am fully in support of raising awareness of it.
2) In our family, we LOVE rice. Having an Iranian mother meant that I pretty much grew up on a diet of rice. Our plates would be filled with rice at virtually every meal as kids.
I have so many regrets about things I never asked my mum before we lost her unexpectedly and suddenly 10 years ago - one of those regrets is that I never learnt how to cook Iranian food. But I did pick up a few rice secrets which I am going to pass on to you now...so ssshhhh! And then I'll end this post by telling you my very favourite rice recipe.
Make cooking rice easy
I know that there are fantastic ways of cooking rice using a rice cooker or on the hob and for really special occasions (which I will mention in a moment) it is worth doing that but to help incorporate rice into your everyday meals, here's the easiest way to cook it.
|Soft and fluffy Tilda basmati rice - you can't tell it was cooked in the microwave!|
- Measure out the amount of rice you want to cook (1 cupful per two people is usually the perfect amount)
- Wash the rice in cold water (we always use basmati rice as you just can't beat basmati rice).
- Tip away the excess water. Place the rice in a large microwavable bowl and then pour on a drizzle of olive oil.
- Boil the kettle then pour enough boiling water to cover the rice by about 3cm. This bit takes a little bit of trial and error to get right but once you do your rice will be cooked to perfection every time.
- Pop it in the microwave for around 20 minutes. If you only have a small amount of rice to cook (e.g. 1 cupful) then you will need to cook it for less time (perhaps 16-18 minutes), if you have more rice (e.g. 3-4 cupfuls) then you will need to cook it for a bit longer (perhaps 22-24 minutes).
- Once your microwave beeps - it is ready! How easy is that! Now you can have rice with every meal.
An Iranian rice secret - "Tahdeeg"
This is not so much a recipe in itself, but if you learn to cook this, you will be SO popular. The "Tahdeeg" is so unique and special that I don't think there is even an English word for it. It can best be described as a crispy base of rice from the bottom of the rice pan.
It is not the healthiest part of the recipe as it is the part that soaks up the oil but for an occasional treat it is just one of the most amazing things you will ever taste.
Now to get a crispy base to your rice, you will need to cook it a more traditional way rather than in the microwave but I cannot emphasize enough how it really is worth the effort for a special occasion treat.
- Measure out the required amount of basmati rice and leave it to soak in cold water for a couple of hours. This is supposed to make it easier to cook and less likely to break those delicious strands of basmati rice. Then rinse.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the rice to it and bring quickly back to the boil.
- After a couple of minutes of this rapid boiling, the rice should be soft on the outside but firm in the middle. At this stage strain the rice and rinse it with tepid water (if you rinse out the pan you boiled the rice in with cold water and use this, it turns tepid). Ideally, you need a very fine holed colander so that the rice doesn't strain away through the holes or get compressed together in a wire mesh type sieve (But I end up using a wire mesh type as I never kept my mums rice colanders).
- Return the empty pan to the hob. Add in a splash of oil and a few tablespoons of water. When this gets sizzling hot, spoon in the rice gradually (so that it doesn't all tip in and get compressed in one go). Build up the rice until it looks like a mountain shape.
- If you want to make a bread or potato based tahdeeg then when the pan is at the sizzling hot stage place a layer of bread or thinly sliced potato at the base of the pan before spooning in the rice.
- Once you have your mountain of rice, use the end of a wooden spoon to poke three holes reaching down to near the bottom of the pan. This helps the steam be released into the rice.
- This is the bit that will sound particularly weird but it was a familiar sight in my home when I was growing up. Take a clean tea towel and wrap it tightly around the lid of the pan. Place this firmly onto the pan to prevent any steam from escaping. The tea towel will absorb excess moisture to stop it dripping into the rice and making the rice soggy. Place on the hob on a high heat.
- Without lifting the lid too much (you don't want the steam to leave the pan), take a peek after a few minutes to see if it is steaming. When it is steaming, reduce the heat and leave to cook for up to 30 minutes (again it depends on the amount of rice. 30 minutes is about right for about 4 cupfuls of rice which should serve about 6-8 people according to my guesstimate).
- During this time the tagdeeg will be forming at the bottom of the pan.
- Once the rice is ready, you need to prepare the sink with an inch or so of cold water. Then place the pan into the cold water. This will make the tahdeeg easier to remove.
- Your rice is now ready and once you have spooned out the rice from the pan you can gently remove the tahdeeg. Ideally if you have used a non-stick type pan, it should come out in one or two pieces making it look amazing too.
- Final instruction here is to use all your willpower to avoid nibbling all that tahdeeg before it reaches the table because it really is delicious.
My jewelled rice recipe.
3 cups basmati rice (feeds a family of four)
1 large carrot
1 orange (you need the zest)
small handful currants
small handful of pistachios (replace with peas for families with young children)
small handful of almonds (replace with sweetcorn for families with young children)
a handful of barberries (available in ethnic food stores - the recipe will still work if you can't get hold of dried barberries or you could use cranberries instead if you like)
a few strands of saffron
3-4 tablespoons of water
Butter to lightly fry with
A teaspoon of sugar
Saffron is an amazing spice and, with its heavenly aroma and unique flavour, it doesn't surprise me that it is considered more valuable than gold. Just a few strands of this amazing spice, ground with a pestle and mortar and mixed into a few tablespoons of hot water and a teaspoonful of melted butter is enough to colour and flavour a whole panful of rice. You really do only need the tiniest amount - literally a few strands.
There was a time when it would have been really hard to get hold of the ingredients for this dish but nowadays with many ethnic foodstores around, you should be able to get hold of even the more unusual ingredients.
The great thing about this dish is that served with lean chicken or fish, it makes for a healthy meal and all the colours in it really appeal to all the family. It also helps children get used to different flavours and textures. For young children you can omit the nuts and replace with peas and sweetcorn to keep all the nice colours in it.
So here's my favourite rice recipe.
- You can either make the rice using the special occasion rice method with Tahdeeg for more special occassions or use the microwave method for an everyday meal.
- Cut some very very thin strips of carrot, fry lightly for a couple of minutes, add a little sugar then add a little water and leave to simmer.
- Peel some orange zest strips using a peeler and add to the above carrots.
- Soak the almonds and pistachios and then cut into thin slivers and add into the above pan.
- Soak some currants in water so that they absorb enough water to puff up and add to pan.
- Wash and fry some barberries (in a little butter), then add to the main pan.
- Using your ground saffron/hot water/melted butter mixture, colour patches of the rice. It will look an amazing yellow colour. Then gently layer in the pan of 'jewels' onto a serving plate (carrot, barberries, nuts etc). Be careful not to be 'mixing' or 'stirring' as this can break the rice. It is just a gentle layering that is needed.
- If you have made tahdeeg, serve it separately on another plate.
- Your finished rice will look an amazing colourful centrepiece on your table and will taste great served with chicken or fish.
This post is part of the #FaveFamilyRecipes Competition with BritMums and Tilda Rice. Every pack sold will provide a meal to an expectant mum in need in support of the World Food Programme’s Mothers Helping Mothers initiative in Bangladesh.