Middle Eastern Crispy Rice

Do you ever have leftover cooked rice and turn it into your own version of Chinese fried rice with some sliced omelette, spring onions and maybe a few frozen peas?

This recipe is the Middle Eastern equivalent. Delicious on its own as a simple Sunday night supper, or as a side dish.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin
4 Tbs dates or raisins, chopped
3-4 cups cooked and cooled long grain rice
2 Tbs coconut flakes or chips
2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
Salt to taste
2 Tbs fresh chopped coriander
Juice of 2 limes or one lemon

In a large non-stick frying pan, heat 1 Tbs olive oil over medium heat then add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft. Add the ginger, turmeric and dates or raisins and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Remove to a bowl.

Add the remaining Tbs of oil to the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high. Mix the cumin into the rice then add to the pan and flatten it all over the base with a spatula. Let it cook for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Keep checking till it’s ready. Turn the rice over in sections (as much as you can fit on the spatula) so you get small clusters sticking together. Cook the other side of the rice until golden brown and crispy. Add the date mixture and the coconut flakes and cook for a minute or so, stirring. Mix in half the mint and season to taste with salt. Tip into a warmed serving dish, garnish with the coriander, the remaining mint and drizzle with the lime or lemon juice.

Serves 4

Note: the cooked and cooled rice is best made the day before and refrigerated, so this recipe is perfect for leftover rice.


Turkish Green Rice

Cappadocia, in the middle of Turkey is well worth a visit. We stayed in Göreme in a cave hotel which had been carved out of the rock, but was nonetheless very comfortable.

Over the centuries the inhabitants of this region have carved out shelters, houses, churches and monasteries from the rocky outcrops, which are often described as fairy chimneys. The geology and history of the area is fascinating and in order to see the terrain from above we went on a balloon flight at dawn. One hundred and twenty balloons all taking off at about the same time is a sight to behold.

A Turkish passenger on our inward flight asked for a drink which the flight attendant poured from what looked like a two litre bottle of milk, but as he poured I could see it was much too thick to be milk. When I asked if I could “have what he’s having” the flight attendant looked sceptical. He said that usually only Turks asked for Ayran and I might not like it, so he gave me a little to try before filling up my glass. It’s basically plain yogurt watered down to pouring consistency, with a little salt added. Full of probiotics it’s really good you, so I drank it all the time while we were there. Delicious.

This was our third trip to Turkey and we felt perfectly safe. The people are friendly and helpful and the food is simple, but healthy and delicious. Lots of kebabs and grills, as well as vegetable dishes, salads and traditional casseroles cooked slowly in sealed clay pots. Thick yoghurt drizzled with local honey was my favourite dessert.

This rice recipe is from the inflight magazine on Turkish Airlines. It makes quite a lot so you may want to halve the recipe. Serve it with kebabs, hummus, Turkish bread and a salad of diced tomato, onion and cucumber.

2 cups long grain rice such as Basmati
1 packet frozen spinach or 1 bunch fresh spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
50g butter
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Tbs each finely chopped parsley and mint
2 Tbs pistachio nuts or pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan

If using fresh spinach, remove leaves and discard stalks. Wash thoroughly. With just the water clinging to the leaves, place spinach in a large saucepan, cover and cook, stirring from time to time, for a few minutes or until wilted. Place in food processor and chop finely. You will need a generous cup or more of this chopped spinach, or use thawed frozen spinach. Quantities are flexible.

Heat butter in a large saucepan and cook onion until soft, stirring from time to time, and allowing it to brown slightly. Add rice, spinach, water, salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid. If not quite ready, turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to continue cooking in its own steam. Stir in the chopped herbs. Check for seasoning and if liked add another knob of butter. Garnish with the toasted nuts.

Serves 6-8

Mum’s Kedgeree

Kedgeree was a popular Anglo-Indian breakfast dish in Victorian England, introduced by army officer’s wives returning from India. The main ingredients are rice, fish and eggs. Some versions add curry paste and other ingredients, but when we were growing up my mother made a very simple kedgeree which I still make.

Before I married I lived in a little bed-sit in Geneva which only had two hotplates and no oven. I could get home from work, absolutely starving and have a bowl of kedgeree ready in 20 minutes.

Filling and satisfying, for me it’s pure comfort food. It’s easy to eat with a fork in front of the TV with a glass of chilled white wine. The perfect dish for a quiet evening at home when you don’t want to spend much time cooking and don’t feel like anything heavy or spicy. You can use smoked fish or canned salmon or tuna instead of the prawns. But for me the prawns really make the dish, so I always keep some handy in the freezer.

The second kedgeree recipe uses the same basic ingredients of rice, fish and eggs, but is more complicated and spicy. Equally nice, just totally different.

1 cup long-grain rice (such as basmati or jasmine)photo
2-3 eggs
250-300g peeled cooked prawns
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
25g butter, cut into small pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley or coriander

Put the rice on to boil and the eggs on to hard boil. I have been known to throw them all in the same pan, for speed! When cooked drain rice thoroughly and place in a warm serving bowl. Add butter and stir till melted. Then add the eggs, peeled and roughly cut up, the spring onions, prawns and season to taste. Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped herbs.

Serves 2

Asian Kedgeree

Asian Kedgeree1 cup long grain rice (such as basmati or jasmine), cooked
1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1-2 tsp grated ginger
½ small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp brown sugar
100g smoked trout, flaked
½ cup canned corn, drained
About 1 Tbs fish sauce – to taste
Scrambled egg topping:
1 Tbs vegetable oil
2-4 tsp curry paste or powder, to taste
2 tsp brown sugar
½ small red chilli, finely chopped
2-3 tsp tamarind paste, to taste
2-3 tsp fish sauce, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
To serve:
1 small Lebanese cucumber, peeled and cut into ribbons (discard seeds)
2 Tbs cashew nuts or peanuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
Chopped fresh coriander and lime wedges

Make scrambled eggs first. Heat oil in a small frying pan and cook curry paste for a minute, stirring. Add sugar, chilli and tamarind paste and cook for 1-2 mins. Add egg and cook until lightly scrambled. Lastly add fish sauce to taste and remove from heat.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook spring onions, ginger, garlic and chilli stirring for 1-2 mins. Add rice, sugar, trout and corn. Cook for 1-2 mins or until heated through then add fish sauce to taste. Divide kedgeree between two serving bowls, top with the scrambled egg and garnish with cucumber, nuts, lime wedges and coriander.

Serves 2

Variations: use frozen corn or peas instead of canned corn. Cook in boiling water for a few minutes then drain. Use smoked salmon, canned salmon or tuna instead of the smoked trout.

Note: if you can’t find tamarind paste add a good squeeze of lemon or lime juice instead.