It’s not biryani!

Recently I received several new cookbooks from my family, ones that I have been seriously pining for. One such cookbook is The Jerusalem Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Sunday night I dove into my first dish from this book: a basmati & wild rice dish with chickpeas, currants, and herbs. Except I didn’t have any currants, so I threw some cranberries in there instead. Anyway, Ottolenghi and Tamimi describe the dish as “Sephari-inspired,” and suggest that it can be the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal, or can be paired with chicken sofrito or panfried mackerel. We just ate it, and wished I’d had time to make some pita. I’ll do that next time. Also, I think this dish can be modified a little to make it simpler and to allow for more dishes to join it on a weeknight. It was kind of a lot of steps, and definitely a lot of pots…but worth it. It was delicious! In fact, it’s gone already. I ate the last of it for lunch yesterday.

Anyway, you start by making the rices, both wild and basmati. A third-cup wild rice gets cooked with a lot of water for about 40 minutes, and then drained and set aside. During that 40 minutes you do all the other stuff: make the basmati, prepare the chickpeas, onions and herbs.

They use an interesting technique for making the basmati rice: sautee a cup of rice with some olive oil and then carefully pour a cup and a half of boiling water over it, turn the heat down, cover, and let it cook for fifteen minutes. Then remove it from the heat, remove the lid, put a clean dishcloth over the saucepan, return the lid and let it sit for ten minutes like that.

In a frying pan I heated some olive oil and added 2 tsp cumin seeds and 1 1/2 tsp curry powder. I used Punjabi curry that I had on hand. After a couple seconds, I added a 28-oz can of drained and rinsed chickpeas and some salt. I stirred that all up and heated the beans without overdoing them. Then I put them in a large mixing bowl.

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Then I wiped out the frying pan I used and sliced up half of a very large onion. I tossed the slices with 1 1/2 tsp flour and added them to hot canola oil to fry and brown up. Meanwhile, I chopped up some fresh parsley, cilantro, and dill and added those to the mixing bowl with the chick peas and the rice, which I added as soon as the basmati was done resting.

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I had to pay attention to the onions and keep stirring them. And of course I managed to burn a bunch of them. It happens really fast. They are almost done and perfect and then BAM! …burned. I will be more careful next time I make this dish!

When the onions were done, and some overdone, I added them to the bowl along with some dried cranberries and mixed everything up.

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And then I dished some into our bowls to eat from and we ate it…It was a lot like biryani to me, except a little different.

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Although the wild rice is delicious, I think it could be left out and the basmati increased a little bit to save time on a weeknight and you would still have a delicious, healthy meal. Also I plan to make pita to go with it next time. We both agreed it would have been very tasty pinched between some freshly baked pita. It gets served warm or room temperature like a salad, not hot…so making it ahead and then assembling some smaller accompaniments could also work. Or, just eat it. It’s that good. I can’t wait to make more dishes from this book.

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6 thoughts on “It’s not biryani!

  1. That looks good! I don’t like raisins in hot dishes and would also use cranberries. I can’t remember the time I last had a real currant though– maybe I’d be OK with that. They’re smaller and not as sweet as raisins– right?

  2. It was really delicious…and i’m also partial to cranberries over raisins. I can’t remember the last time I had currants though. I’d be happy to make this again with currants to see what it’s like and let you know how they compare to raisins, Aylin. šŸ™‚

  3. Pingback: Mejadra, not Megadeath. | The Kitchen Billets-Doux

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