Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's Biriyani-Pilaf Fusion Night!

I'm working on two fairly long posts on two tough topics: cultural appropriation and sexism in the workplace for female expats - but it's going to be another week at least before either is published. I'm thinkin' I might actually do a 2nd draft of each, which will be a big change from my usual habit of "blurble on and on following my thoughts and hit 'Publish'." :)

In the meantime, enjoy this awesome recipe for fusion brown rice biriyani-pilaf - one of the many foreign dishes I routinely cook in Taipei with ingredients available locally.

(Serves 2)


1.5 cups brown rice, pref. organic
6 dates, pitted if possible
A cup of nuts (cashews are best but almonds or peanuts would do)
One large carrot
Small chunks or slivers of pre-cooked meat (cured pepper beef or ham, pre-cooked beef liver or pan-cooked mutton or chicken in spices would all do - I totally used the last nub of cured pepper ham in our fridge) - optional
2 heaping teaspoons ground flaxseed
Finely sliced and grated orange peel
1 tbsp ginger, cut into coins or crushed
As much garlic as you can stand
olive oil
Sesame oil (optional)
ground cumin, black pepper, turmeric, coriander seed, paprika, allspice (about 1 tsp each, give or take for taste and freshness) - all available at Trinity Superstores near City Hall MRT or at Jason's or even Wellcome - you don't need all of these spices, it's really to your taste. You only really need the cumin, pepper and turmeric
Salt to taste
A dash of cinnamon (optional)
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
lemon juice to taste (about 1/5 cup for me)
2 tablespoons butter (optional)


Begin the cooking of your brown rice (this takes time - for every cup of rice use 2.5 cups water and a dash of salt) - You can use white or basmati rice but I try to be healthy with the brown

Julienne your carrot - I have a julienne peeler that I got as a Christmas gift and love so YAY - including the skin
Chop up your dates
Chop up your optional meat
Put nuts, dates, carrot and meat (already cooked if not cured) into a bowl and set aside

Sliver or crush your garlic
Measure out your spices
Coin or crush your ginger
Sliver or grind your orange peel

Put as much olive oil as you think you'll need into your pan - I use a wok because I'm awesome. You don't need extra virgin olive oil as the flavors in that cook off most of the time - but you can drizzle a little extra virgin over it when it's done.

Add dry spices, ginger, garlic, orange peel, turn on low heat and cook until lightly roasted and it smells awesome.

Add lemon juice, allow to heat up a bit and then dump in the carrot/nut/meat/date mixture, cook gently on low-medium heat until it smells good and looks just lightly cooked (you don't want it getting too soggy)

Add brown rice which should have already been cooked and mix together stir-fry style. When everything is well mixed and colored with the spices (should be yellow from the turmeric), add a tiny bit of sesame oil (good for you!) and monter a buerre (bad for you but oh so good) with the butter. Mix in flaxseed quickly (very very good for you) and serve hot.

If you want to do even better, substitute 1/3 of the rice with cooked yellow lentils, mixed right in (or just add lentils) - don't overcook them to soup consistency; you want them cooked so that they retain some structure and cohesion but of course soft enough that they are pleasant to eat, and lentils taste great with the spices in this recipe!

You can also customize this recipe with vegetables you like by adding or substituting: bell peppers, tomatoes, well-chopped spinach, cauliflower, onions and mushrooms all work a treat.

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