Pick through 1 cup of dry split peas, simmer them for 20 minutes in 1 1/2 cups of water, rinse under tepid water and drain. Set aside.
Sautee two onions, then add your cubed (1" or 2cm cube) lean meat (beef is fine in the recipe - and lamb loses much of its flavour), til the meat is browned....
Add 2 Tbsp tomato paste, 3 or 4 dried limes, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Mix this about and then add 1 1/2 cups of water. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the split peas, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, or until they're just tender. If you can't find dried limes, add the juice of 1/2 lime just before serving and stir it in.
Slap it on some Persian rise (with tadigh), sprinkle fried shoe-string potatoes on top (or use "Hickory Sticks"). Serve with optional sumac and some pickled vegetables.
For traditional Persian rice:
Rinse good quality basmati in six changes of water - really get all the starch off.
Soak this in ample cold water (three inches more water than rice deep) with 1/2 Tbsp of sea salt. Let the rice soak for two hours.
Drain the rice in a sieve, and using the same pot, bring several cups of water to a full boil. Add 1 tsp of sea salt. When the water is very hot, add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, then drain it again through the sieve. Run tepid water over it to stop it cooking.
Rinse out the pot and dry it briefly. Add 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp butter, and put it back over the heat. Carefully separate the bottom half of a piece of pita bread. Discard the top - you want a thin circle of bread. Put this down into the butter/water mixture and carefully pile the rice on top.
Wrap the pot lid in a tea towel, and cover the rice until steam builds up, then switch the heat to low and let it cook for 30 minutes. Serve the rice into bowls and plunge the pot into cold water. The pita bread layer should come unstuck - this is the tadigh. Break it into portions so that each guest gets a bit of it. It's crunchy and buttery, and delicious.
Serious Persian cooks will insist on adding some saffron-soaked rice to the top of the dish for colour and a hint of saffron flavour.
There's a local Thai restaurant chain here that makes fairly impressive food. Some independent Thai places make slop, so as in all things, I'm a bit fussy. I've been trying to master what I think is the local chain's best dish. Tonight I got very, very close, and it's easy:
Have everything prepared beside your wok, and have some rice timed to be ready at the same time. Make sure none of the ingredients are more than 1/2" (1cm) thick - not julienned, but sliced thinly.
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 chicken breasts, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced into thin wedges
4 celery sticks, cut on the diagonal
1 cup of cashews
6 bird chiles, stems removed
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
4 Tbsp chicken stock
1/2 tsp sugar
Make the sauce well in advance.
Once the rice is done, heat the wok over high heat. When it's very hot, add 2 Tbsp peanut oil. Toss in the cashews and chiles, and stir fry - keep them moving until the cashews have browned slightly. Don't let them burn. Remove the cashews and chiles to drain on paper towel.
Into the same hot oil, add the garlic, and toss to cover it. Add the chicken slices, and stir fry for about 3 minutes - until all the pieces are well coloured on the outside.
Add the celery to the wok and stir it in for 30 seconds. Then add the onion, bell pepper, and sauce. Stir fry until the onion is slightly translucent - don't let the veg go soft.
Add the fried cashews and chiles back, and stir fry for another 30 seconds, until the cashews are heated through.
Pour this beside (not over) the rice, and give the stir fried items a good grind of fresh black pepper. Serve immediately, and warn guests not to eat the chiles.
8 oz boneless and skinless chicken (breast or thighs, cut into strips)
20 canned straw mushrooms
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1 stalk lemongrass (cut into 3-inch lengths and pounded)
6 kaffir lime leaves (lightly bruised to release the flavor)
6 slices galangal
8 bird’s eye chilies (lightly pounded)
3 tablespoon fish sauce
2 1/2 tablespoon lime juice (or to taste)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Add coconut milk, water, lemongrass, galangal, chilies, kaffir lime leaves into a pot and bring it to boil. Add straw mushrooms and chicken and boil it on medium heat for a few minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add lime juice and fish sauce to taste. Add chopped cilantro before serving.
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