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Sunday, May 23, 2004

Is My Email Burning? Rice entries from email.

Three entries came to me via an email, from my friend Vanessa, an Iraqi Kitchri, from Sher, Shrimp Creole, and from Robyn, his mom's glorified rice.

Kichri from Vanessa

Here is a recipe that I haven't made yet, but it is in the queue to be made soon, written very nicely, and very much (I think) in the spirit of your rice blog day. It comes from the published proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery 1984 & 1985 – Cookery: Science, Lore & Books. It is from a paper by Sami Zubaida, an academic specialising in the Middle East, Iraq in particular.

“It is in a particular Iraqi context that we can find a kitchri of speciali culinary interest, and for a reason. Here I have to come down to the personal level. It was a favourite dish of my boyhood in a Jewish household in Baghdad. The Jewishness is significant: kitchri presented a compromise between Jewish dietary laws forbidding the combination of meat and milk, and the overall culture shared by the Jews in which the combination of yoghourt and/or butter with meat dishes was a regular feature. In the general culinary culture (not just Iraqi, but Arab or Middle Eastern) the prototype of a main dish (for lunch or supper) almost invariably contains meat, maybe not very much meat, a handful of mince or just a bone, but meat all the same. Two other relevant components of Iraqi cooking are that food is often prepared with butter, and that yoghourt is often consumed with main meals, as a drink, as a sauce, or just a side dish. These items in combination with meat are forbidden to Jews. Kitchri was the only ‘proper' main dish which had no meat, and as a result all dairy products were lavishly used: not only was it cooked in butter but melted butter was added at the table; yoghourt was used as a sauce and as an accompanying drink; and as an extra refinement fried slices of cheese would also be added on occasion. Kitchri then was a culinary compromise in the clash between the general culture and the sub-culture. It rectified a deprivation and as such becomes a remarkable dish, a candidate for inclusion in the Ideal Cook Book! Let us compose the recipe.

8oz long grain rice (Basmati for best results)
8oz lentils (In Baghdad the small red lentils known here as ‘Egyptian' were used. These are perfectly good and widely available. I have experimented with other varieties which all work, but my favourite is the waxy, slightly oily lentil which I only know under the Indian name of tur dal)
1 tablespoon tomato purée
4-6oz butter or ghee
1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped

For optional garnish:
4oz Haloumi cheese
1 onion
2 tomatoes
more butter

Wash rice and lentils (separately) and soak in cold water, rice for thirty minutes, lentils for one hour. Melt half the butter in a saucepan and gently fry chopped garlic for a few minutes, add cumin and fry for one more minute. Mix in the drained rice and lentils (if using the larger-grained lentils it may be safer to boil them for ten minutes before combining them with the rice) so that the grains are cooked with butter and spices. Add tomato purée and mix. Add water to cover by about half an inch, and salt to taste. Bring to the boil on a high flame. Reduce the flame to medium and allow the liquid to be absorbed. When only a few bubbles remain on the surface, reduce heat to a minimum, cover tightly and allow to steam for about 15 minutes. If you specially like the taste of garlic, fry two or three more chopped cloves in butter in a separate pan and add before serving. Serve on a platter, cut up the remaining butter into pieces and distriubute over the hot kitchri. Serve bowls of yoghourt as side dishes and/or a yoghourt drink made by blending yoghourt with cold water, a little salt and dried mint if available.

For garnish: slice onion in rings, slice tomatoes and cheese. Melt more butter in a frying pan and fry onion rings until soft and slightly brown, add slices of cheese and fry for a few minutes. (Haloumi is ideal for taste and texture – it does not disintegrate in cooking and only melts slightly; a hard Gruyère may be a good substitute.) Finally, add the tomato and fry until soft. Add as a layer over the kitchri on the serving platter.

One of the pleasures of this dish is the aroma of garlic and cumin which pervades the kitchen.”

Shrimp Creole from Sher

SherShrimpCreoleAs I was born on the Gulf Coast, Mississippi to be precise, I love Cajun and Creole dishes. Rice plays a very important part in the cuisine and I grew up eating a lot more rice than potatoes. This recipe, with a few changes, is from Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. ideally, this recipe should be made with the lovely yellow fat found inside the shrimp heads. But, try finding whole shrimp in the Central Valley of California, where I now live! I sure couldn't. If you manage to score some whole shrimp, remove the heads and scrape the yellow fat into the sauce. Yes, do it!!!!!! Pretend it's butter. Then use the heads for your shrimp stock. Also, fresh, vine ripened tomatoes add to the sweetness of this dish, but canned will do. If your tomatoes are very juicy--you may want to reduce the shrimp stock just a little.

It may seem like shrimp is the real star here, and not the rice. But, to me the rice is crucial. It is the backbone of the dish. Each grain of rice is enrobed with the sweet and spicy sauce, tickling your taste buds. Yumm! The rice is so important, my relatives and I have had serious arguments over the type of rice to be used and how to cook it. Good times.

2 pounds large headless shrimp, with shells
2 1/2 cups shrimp stock
1/4 cup oil
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 3/4 cups finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups finely chopped green bell pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1/2 tablespoon dried Thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried sweet basil
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3-4 cups hot cooked white rice

Shrimp stock

Cover at least one pound of shrimp shells (and heads, if you have them) with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 4 hours. Add additional water to keep the shells covered, as it cooks. Strain and use. Freeze any leftover stock for future use.

The Hot Cooked Rice

In the Gulf Coast, people tend to prefer converted rice. However, I love the aromatic Jasmine rice grown near me, which I make as follows:

1 cup Jasmine rice
1 1/2 cup water
salt to taste

Place ingredients in a pot with a tight lid, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to low. Cook for 20 minutes, then turn off heat, and let rice sit for 5 minutes. Don't peek! Then, fluff with a fork and admire the lovely grains. Breath the aroma deep into your lungs. Eat a spoonful and think how lucky we are to have rice!

Preparing the Shrimp Creole Sauce

Peel and devein shrimp and put in the fridge while you make the shrimp stock. Heat oil in a 4 quart saucepan until melted. Add one cup of the onions and cook on high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes more or until onions are a rich brown color. Add the remaining onions, celery, green pepper and butter. Cook over high heat, for 5 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, bay leaf, salt, peppers, tabasco, thyme, basil, and 1/2 cup of stock. Stir and cook 5 minutes on medium. Add tomatoes and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Add remaining stock and sugar and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat off and add shrimp. Cover and let the shrimp sit for about 10 minutes until plump and pink. Mound hot rice on each serving dish and cover with about 1 cup of the Shrimp Creole.

Glorified Rice from Robyn

Here's my recipe and pic.

RobynGloriousRiceI grew up in a family of four kids and a single mom. She loved to cook
but worked all the time. She had little money for extras. When we'd
want a treat she'd whip up a batch of this glorious rice. My kids are
not fans. Neither are my nieces and nephews. But my sisters and
brother are fans to this day.

This is my mom's Glorified Rice.

2 cups of cooked rice, chilled
1/2 pint of whipping cream, whipped slightly sweetened
1 can of pineapple chunks in heavy syrup, drained
18 oz of maraschino cherries, drained
2 Tbs of granulated sugar

Glaze rice with sugar. Add cherries and pineapple. Mix well.
Add whipped cream, stir together. Chill and serve. Feeds 5.


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