This fortnight’s theme for The Cookbook Challenge, Rice/Noodles, threw me through the proverbial loop. Presented me with a quandary. Was a shock to the system. Tested my mettle. And other such well-worn phrases.
You know how, in cartoons, there are often scenes in which the protagonist is faced with a dilemma and – pop! – an angel and a devil appear on his/her shoulder to help with the decision-making process?
Well, that’s what happened to me when I learnt of the Rice/Noodle Cookbook Challenge theme.
“And lo!” the angel cried, the sound of icing sugar falling onto daffodils inherent in its voice, “Thou shalt make a savoury main meal for thy blog, to prove to the world that thou sometimes eats food that isn’t dessert or a nut butter!”
But then, BANG. On my left shoulder appeared a seductive devil, looking like a haughty cross between James Franco (circa Freaks and Geeks) and Iago (circa Aladdin, not Othello).
“So, darlin’,” whispered the devil, the sound of cheap overseas flights and salted pistachios imbued in its voice, “rice and noodles, hey? What about rice pudding drizzled with caramel sauce? Or a cake made with rice flour? Or that Indian vermicelli dessert with dried fruit and cream that you’ve been hoarding? What about trying your hand at some glutinous rice mochi with a red bean centre?”
I didn’t know what to do.
I was lost.
So I did.
I went to my local supermarket, and I bought brown rice. And broad beans. And I think my friendly check-out man had a tear in his eyes when he realised I wouldn’t be hardening my arteries that night.
What to know the most surprising part of all of this?
The brown rice pilaf is tasty, and I plan to make it again. It is deeply, deeply savoury, strong in porcini, stock, and mushroom umaminess, and punctuated with the vibrant green colour and flavour of broad beans.
Of course, I also ate a box of chocolate-covered cocoa nibs straight after this brown rice dinner. But you wouldn’t want me any other way, would you?
Mushroom and Broad Bean Pilaf
From the Family Circle Mini Cookbook: Risottos, Pilafs and Paellas
Serves 4-6 (Lies! Lies! I defy Family Circle and proclaim that this serves 3-4)
Oh, and the amounts below include my doubling of the beans and mushrooms. There were also two rashers of bacon in the original recipe that I left out. But I promise the rest of it is mostly true to the cookbook.
- 10g dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 litre hot vegetable stock (original recipe said chicken stock. I said nay! I shall use vegetable stock!)
- 2 cups (300g) shelled broad beans
- 30g ghee (I used olive oil)
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 300g button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) brown rice
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
1. Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and add 1/4 cup of the hot stock. Soak for ten minutes, then roughly chop the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid. Add the broad beans to a saucepan of boiling water and simmer for two minutes, then peel away their outer skins*. Set aside.
2. Heat the ghee/oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook for five minutes until onion is soft. Add the button mushrooms and cook, stirring, for another five minutes until the mushroom have softened.
3. Stir in the rice, bay leaves, and cinnamon. Add the porcinis with the reserved soaking liquid and the rest of the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45m-1hr. (The original recipe says to simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes. Lies! Lies! My rice was ready, and almost sticking to the bottom of the pan, when I checked at the 50m mark.)
4. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon, stir in the broad beans and stand, covered, for 5 minutes to warm through.
5. Congratulate yourself for having cooked something that can’t, in any way, be classified as dessert. Woot!
* And then, waste not want not, sprinkle the broad bean skins with lemon pepper seasoning and eat them as a snack in front of an early Gilmore Girls episode, stopping halfway through to yell “Get a haircut!” at Dean on the screen.