Claudia Roden’s Persian Rice, with Spiced Roasted Aubergine and Dill, Mint and Cucumber Yogurt

On Tuesday, I’d been thinking about Yotam Ottolenghi’s reference to Claudia Roden’s Persian rice that he admitted to ripping off for his Saturday recipe in the Guardian. I wanted to have a look at the original, so I got out Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which first came out in 1968 and which brought Middle Eastern food to Western  home cooks for the first time. My mum recently gave me a duplicate copy she had, and I had not yet used it. Anyway, the results of the method of cooking fragrant basmati rice in Roden’s book were spectacular, as my housemate Chris will attest. It was nutty, and rich and like no other rice we had tasted. 

Roden’s Rice Persian Method (abridged from p. 403, New Book of Middle Eastern Food, Penguin)

Ingredients:

Basmati Rice – as much as you want

4 tablespoons, good quality, unsalted butter

How to make:

Rinse basmati rice well in luke warm water. Leave to soak in water with 2 tablespoons of salt for 1 hour, or overnight. Fill a large saucepan with lots of water and 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to the boil. Drain the rice and pour into the boiling water. Boil vigorously for 4-8 minutes. When it is mostly cooked but still a little underdone and with a bite to it, drain quickly and rinse in luke warm water. Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Add in all the rice and stir. Place 2 more tablespoons of butter on top of the rice, cover pan with a clean tea towel, place lid on top, and draw edges of towel to top of pan. Place on a low heat and steam for 25-35 minutes until cooked with a golden crust on the bottom, but not burnt.

Spiced Roast Aubergine with Tahini Lemon Dressing and Toasted Nuts

Ingredients:

Enough aubergine for however many of you there are.

Mix of spices (e.g. whole coriander seeds, ras-el hanout or cinnamon, chilli flakes)

Small handful (in total) of toasted chopped almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds (toasted in dry pan on low heat until fragrant, not burnt)

Tahini Dressing:

1 dessertspoon tahini

juice ½ lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

salt and pepper

How I made it:

Cut aubergine into cubed-chunks and leave in a colander sprinkled all over with salt for 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place aubergine in roasting dish with sprinkling of coriander seeks, chilli flakes and a good pinch of Ras El Hanout (or cinnamon) – but don’t overdo it on the spices. Drizzle with oil. Place in oven until the flesh is very soft inside (around 30-40 minutes).

Mix dressing ingredients, drizzle over aubergine when cooked, with sprinkling of nuts.

Dill, Mint, and Cucumber Yogurt:

Ingredients:

4-6 tablespoons of thick Greek or Turkish yogurt

Small handful each of dill and mint, finely chopped

½ regular cucumber, peeled and cut into small chunks, or 2 small Turkish cucumbers, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 garlic clove, slightly crushed (to be removed, not eaten)

salt and pepper

How to make:

Mix ingredients together. Leave for ½ hour to infuse in fridge. Remove garlic clove. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt accordingly.

Eaten with:

Have the three mentioned above together, they go very well.


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