February 11, 2010

A Poor Man's Meal...

If you are new to this blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

In my last recipe, we went refined and disgustingly bourgeois using a few expensive items.

Tonight it's the opposite. It's cheap and easily affordable for most. I did say most, because there are still millions of people who go to bed hungry every night. Hence all the more of a reason to feed a hungry person...

The recipe am about to give you is called Mudardara or Mujaddara, am never sure which is which, one is lentils only and the other is rice with lentils. Mine is Rice with Lentils.

This is a meal that you find mainly in Ze Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. The Egyptians have their own version of it and they call it Kosharee. However the Egyptians in addition to the rice and lentils, add pasta. A real carbs bomb!

Before I give you the recipe, we need to have a serious discussion about rice - what kind of rice you use.

There are several types of rice: short and long grain.

I use short grain for Risotto, soups and rice puddings and for long grain I always use BASMATI. This dish needs the long grain one.

Whatever rice you are going to use, do me a favor - DO NOT USE this plastic, tasteless, unhealthy, rubber, para-boiled stuff called Uncle Ben's. This thing is an insult to rice and to cooking. So para boiled rice is OUT.

The second thing you need to learn about Rice is to wash it, thoroughly wash it.

How many a times I have seen people just open a bag of rice and cook it just like that. Horror of horrors !

Rice needs to be washed more than once, because you need to get the starch out and the only way to do that is by washing it in cold water. And if you can soak the rice in cold water beforehand for at least 30 mn that is even better. Your rice will not stick and will come out fluffy.

So whenever I give a rice recipe the above two points are a must. To recapitulate 1) no Uncle Ben's and 2) wash several times and soak in cold water.

Now for tonight's main dish.

For two persons you will need

- 1 cup of long grain rice, preferably Basmati
- 1 cup of Green or Brown lentils. I go for brown myself.
- 2 large onions
- at least 1 cup of olive oil (for this recipe you really need to use OLIVE oil)
- salt, pepper
- Keemun (not Cumin)

Someone asked me what is the difference between Cumin and Keemun/ Kamoon ?
To my knowledge Cumin is cumin seeds and Keemun or Kamoon is a different spice. You can find the latter in Arabic or Indian grocery shops in powder form.

Boil the lentils until half tender. You need to keep the lentils in at least 1 to 1 1/2 cup of its water. Meaning that the water level must not go down below that because you will need that water to cook your rice in.

Once your lentils are half cooked, a little more than half cooked, you throw in your 1 cup of washed rice. you mix gently, you add your salt, pepper and a good dose of keemun at least 2 tsps.

Once you have mixed you do not touch it anymore, otherwise it goes all mushy.

You let it boil once and then you lower your heat to a minimum, until the rice absorbs all the remaining lentil water and is cooked. If you feel you need to add more water because the whole thing is drying up and your rice is not cooked yet, do so, but do not stir.

Now while your rice and lentils are gently cooking...

You chop the onions in rings, half rings preferably
you get a big frying pan
and one thing about olive oil, you do not heat it beforehand because it loses its properties.
so you pour your olive oil and your onions together and fry until your onions are golden brown.

You strain your onions and retain the olive oil.

By now your lentils and rice are well cooked. Pour the olive oil on top of your lentils and rice and mix gently it once, with a fork, you need to make sure the whole thing does not become too mushy.

Serve by topping your fried golden brown onions on top of the lentils and rice.

This is nicely accompanied by a green cabbage salad, dressing for which I will give you now

olive oil
fresh lemon juice
and 1 small garlic crushed
green cabbage is raw and chopped

I also serve yogurt in a separate bowl as it goes nicely with the lentils and rice.

Bon appétit or Sahtain as we say in Arabic.

February 7, 2010

Totally Refined....for Starters.

If you are new to my blog, please read my welcome note first.

I admit it, I like the good life...nothing ostentatious, but nonetheless delicately refined...so in that sense am a disgusting bourgeois woman...

Even in times of trouble and tight budgets, allow yourselves a refined treat...

Bearing that in mind, let me share with you today's recipe. A simple, easy, tasty, exotic starter which will highly impress your guests, if you are in need to make an impression.

In fact, it is 2 starters that go well together but not a must. This is not engraved in hard stone, more like in tender clay...so do stick to the two together for the ultimate effect.

Starter 1 for two.

2 good size pieces of smoked salmon
1 small onion
1 Tablespoon of capers (optional)
1 tablespoon of fresh Dill
coarse ground pepper
1/2 (a little less)of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
2 slices of lemons cut in half.
2 lettuce leaves

Cut the salmon in thin slices, do not chop,
slice onion into rings
mix lemon juice with sliced salmon, make sure you don't put too much lemon juice
place your salmon on lettuce leaves, cover with onion rings
top with a little bit of capers
grind some pepper on top
sprinkle your dill not chopped
and decorate with your lemon slices.

Starter 2 for two

water cress
grated fresh carrots
1 grapefruit
1 avocado
1 small tin of crab meat (optional)
a little salt
pepper a dash
olive oil
a tsp of lemon juice

mix your water cress and carrots
mix grapefruit (the inside obviously) with crab meat make sure to keep grapefruit juice you will, need it for the dressing
slice your avocado
place your watercress and carrot mix, top it with your crab and grapefruit mix, decorate with avocado slices
mix about 1tbs of olive oil with grapefruit and lemon juice, add pepper and salt and pour it over your salad...

Serve starter 1 and starter 2 with some hot toast.

If you are wine drinker, I am assuming you would have chilled your crisp dry white or rosé by now...Perrier will do too...not quite.

Et voilà.

Bon appétit.

February 1, 2010

A Great Sedative...

coldFirst you need to read my welcome note.

You will not believe it, but Aubergines have sedative properties and not only that -- they are damn too tasty too.
I know this is not the season for aubergines, or betinjan as we call them in Arabic, but aubergines are readily available throughout the year with all these green houses around.

I was debating as to which aubergine recipe I should share with you, I want to start with simple ones first, and maybe work my way to more complicated ones.

So today's recipe is Aubergines in Yogurt as a starter/hors d'oeuvre.

My God, just thinking about this dish makes me mellow as if I have received a good dose of tranquilizers or maybe a joint - alas I don't smoke weed or hashish...I opt for aubergines instead.

You will need for the full effect : for two persons :

- 1 big aubergine or two smaller ones.
- vegetable oil - sunflower or corn is best for this dish
- 1 big clove of garlic
- dried mint
- fresh mint to decorate
- salt and pepper
- 1 to 1/2 standard cans of yogurt and do spare me the low fat stuff.

1) Wash aubergines (obviously) and peel them in thick stripes. retain that lovely violet black skin. How to explain that now...hmm - make it look like a zebra with thick stripes.

Slice aubergines in rounds -- not too thick and not too thin . Too thick will drink up the oil and too thin will make them lose their taste and dry them out. Salt them and it is important to wrap them in a cloth. The cloth will absorb the humidity, because aubergines drink up whatever you give them. So wrapping them in a cloth will absorb that. Meanwhile...

2) Heat the oil in a big frying pan- aubergines when fried need space. And be generous with the oil and heat it well as aubergines are big drinkers. If you are not into frying, you can bake them in the oven and brush some oil on top, but the taste will not be the same...

3) keep the heat steady, you want those aubergines to become golden and not burn...

4) once that is done, place the aubergines on several layers of kitchen paper towels, to absorb excess oil

5) prepare your yogurt sauce. mix yogurt with crushed garlic and about 1 tsp of dried mint leaves and a bit of pepper.

6) place your aubergines in a deep dish and cover it with your yogurt sauce, decorate with fresh mint leaves.

Serve with hot Arabic bread.

Enjoy and  feel that chill out effect....