A gentle end to the week
Sometimes, rounding off a hectic week with a trip to a heaving pub is the last thing I want to do. When I want to decompress and put thoughts of the latest experiential or pharma project aside, I turn to this Friday favourite, a simple, soothing pilaf.
If you like the idea of food as therapy, as well as fuel, then this will hit the spot. The list of ingredients is short and contains nothing so exotic that you wont find it in a Tesco Metro or the like on the way home.
Your reward will be a kitchen gently scented with cinnamon and cardamom and a plate of comfort food within about forty minutes. Not that you spend all that time actually cooking: after the first five minutes it takes care of itself, leaving you to take care of the drinks.
Ingredients (for 2)
200g Basmati rice
A small onion
25g Butter
Half a stick of cinnamon
6 cardamom pods
Bay leaf
Dried apricots - about a dozen
350ml Chicken or vegetable stock - a cube works fine
Fresh coriander
Flaked almonds (optional)
Start by measuring out the rice and then wash it in several changes of cold water and leave it to drain in a sieve. Now peel and dice the onion and cut the apricots in half or into quarters, if you prefer. Congratulations, that's pretty much all the chopping done, so up the kettle on. Add the boiled water from the kettle to the stock cube and stir to dissolve.
Put a saucepan on the hob over a medium heat and add the butter.  When it's hot, but not sizzling, add the onions and stir occasionally. As they soften and turn golden, add the bay, cinnamon and cardamom. After a couple of minutes they will start releasing their essential oils, which means it's time to add the rice. Stir it gently, so that the flavoured butter covers the grains and then add the stock. Once the liquid starts to bubble, add the apricots, then cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down to your hob's lowest setting. Your work is pretty much done. Leave the thing to gently cook for 20 minutes. Have a drink, you've earned it.
Once the 20 minutes are up, take the pan off the heat, but do not lift the lid of the pan yet. Wait five minutes. While you're waiting, heat a small, clean frying pan and when it's hot, tip a handful of the flaked almonds (if you’re having them) into the pan and lightly toast them before tipping them onto a plate. Roughly chop the coriander. Lift the lid on the rice and the aroma of the almonds and spices will make your kitchen smell like an upmarket Persian takeaway. The bay, cinnamon and a cardamom pods will be obligingly sitting on top of the dish so you can easily fish them out. Fluff up the rice with a fork and add some of the coriander. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and spoon onto a plate and top with the almonds. Tuck in, the weekend starts here.
If you're lucky enough to have any cold roast chicken lurking In the fridge, you can turn this dish into a meat feast buy breaking the chicken up into pieces and frying it in butter until it picks up some nice golden bits and then add it to the rice when you fluff it up.
26 June 2015