Monday, March 19, 2007

Pilau Rice

Have got to a point where the freezer seems to be permanently full. Of good things it must be said but full, always full. So I am trying to use what is there ahead of buying more at the market. This works to an extent but not always as planned. This week I took out some veal bones to thaw and thence to make a blanquette only to be unable to get fresh veal at Borough so I bought a kilo of beef instead to make an ultra rich daube and have enough now for three meals, two lots of which will go back into the freezer. Probably use the space where the bones had been.

After our evening class boning and rolling bits of lamb and pork we brought home lots of lovely meat which went, of course, into the freezer. Another of my plans this week involved using the lamb shanks we'd separated off from the shoulder in class to make a pilau for Sunday supper and leftovers cold with a boiled egg or some cucumber and yoghurt for lunches for a few days. Almost genius - but not quite. I made the stock then cooked the rice with onions and spices and the meat from the shanks and finally studded it with bright peas and toasted almonds and garnished it with boiled eggs and a side dish of cucumber with yoghurt and chopped coriander. The result was nice - not a whole hearted endorsement I'm sure you'll agree. It lacked sufficient depth of flavour and a half remembered complexity from the last time I made it. Cold next day was better, but still ever so slightly disappointing. Though it undoubtedly provides a challenge to do it better next time, and there will certainly be pleasure in researching another version, it infuriates me to make a dish that is only fair to middling. I want all my food to be amazing. Have to keep working at it I guess. Please help me if you can.

Pilau Rice

2 meaty lamb shanks
4 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
10 whole black peppercorns
4 1/2 tspns salt
1 onion, peeled
3 whole cloves
2 1/2 cups basmati rice
5 tbspns ghee
1 large onion, finely sliced
1/4 tspn saffron strands, soaked in a tbspn of boiling water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tspn garam masala
1/2 tspn ground cardamom
1 tbspn rose water
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 cup dry fried almonds
1 cup hot cooked green peas
3 hard boiled eggs, halved

Make a strong, well-flavoured stock by simmering the lamb shanks in water to cover, with cardamom pods, peppercorns, 2 teaspoons salt and the onion stuck with cloves. Bring to a boil, skim then simmer for around 2 hours. Cool slightly, strain stock and measure out 4 cups. Strip the meat from the bones, breaking it into small pieces and put to one side.

Wash rice thoroughly and leave to drain in a colander for an hour. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan (rinse out the stock pan and use it to cut down on the washing up) and fry the sliced onion till softly gold. Add saffron, garlic and ginger and fry for a minute, stirring. Add rice and fry for 5 minutes over a moderate heat, stirring with a metal slotted spoon to avoid damage to the grains. Add hot stock, garam masala, cardamom, remaining salt, rose water, sultanas and reserved meat and stir well. Cover pan with a tight fitting lid and cook over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Do not open the lid or try to stir the mix during this time.

When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and stand, uncovered for 5 minutes. Fluff up rice gently with a fork and garnish with almonds, peas and eggs and serve with cucumber in yoghurt and coriander and some papadoms.

I think some more fried onions, more ginger and the addition of some cinnamon stick to the cooking rice would help to make this a tastier dish.

My only complete success last night was removing something from the freezer that wasn't turned into something that needed to go back into the freezer!

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