Koshari rice with butternut squash and sunflower seed dukkah

December 7, 2020 at 11:20 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, Grains, Pasta, Winter recipes) ()

This is another recipe we selected from Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson (page 231). The header says that Koshari rice is an Egyptian method of cooking rice along with lentils and small pasta, but this recipe doesn’t call for any lentils and uses wheat vermicelli instead of a small pasta. The butternut squash is simply coated in ground cumin and ground coriander and roasted in the oven until tender. The Sunflower seek dukkah is a mix of sunflower seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and sesame seeds.

I really liked this dish! It was homey tasting but different than our normal food. The combination of the rice and toasted vermicelli with the slightly browned onions, cinnamon and bay leaves was delicious. I served mine with lentils on the side, and next time I think I would just try adding lentils to the dish. The butternut squash was a nice accompaniment, but not essential. The dukkah was good, but made a ton. I think I would probably halve or even quarter the amount of dukkah, unless you want it around to put on other dishes.

Derek also liked the dish, but slightly less than me. Alma (at age 5.75) wouldn’t eat any of it. The rice and vermicelli part is really quite plain tasting, so I thought she would eat it, but she didn’t like the texture. The butternut squash turned out too soft for her. (She’s quite picky about butternut squash—it’s got to be perfectly cooked or she doesn’t like it.) And the dukkah she wouldn’t even try. Sigh.

I think I will look around to some other koshari rice recipes, and try a few more variations.

Update April 5, 2021:

The original recipe I described above has three parts: the roasted butternut squash, the koshari rice, and the sunflower seed dukkah. Today I decided to try to find a koshari recipe that includes lentils. But when I went looking I couldn’t find anything that obviously looked right. I ended up choosing this online recipe, but it has you cook the onions and lentils separately from the rice/noodles, then mix everything together at the end. That seems like a pain. So instead I made a combination of the online recipe and the koshari rice portion from the cookbook.

The online recipe has you cook 2 large onions separately in 2 Tbs. olive oil, then use 3 Tbs. butter (40g) for the vermicelli and rice. Home Cookery Year has you saute 1 large onion first and then add the rice and vermicelli to the onion, without adding any additional fat. The amounts of rice are about the same but Home Cookery Year calls for way more vermicelli (185g / 6.5 oz vs. 50g / 1.75 oz) and double the broth (800ml vs. 400ml). Both call for cinnamon but the cookbook calls for 1 cinnamon stick and the online recipe 1.5 tsp. cinnamon. The online recipe adds 1/2 tsp. nutmeg whereas the cookbook calls for 2 bay leaves. Here’s my attempt to combine the two recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced [I used one very large onion, about 11 oz diced, maybe 2.5 cups diced]
  • 4 oz. wheat vermicelli, broken into 5cm (2 in) pieces
  • 1 cup basmati rice (about 185g  / 6.5 oz) 
  • 2 bay leaves, scrunched a little
  • 1 tsp. salt [I reduced this since my broth was salted]
  • 600 ml hot stock or water [I used a mix of the lentil cooking liquid and a homemade veggie broth]
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1.5 tsp. cinnamon [I used 1.5 tsp.]

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the rice well in cold water and leave to drain.
  2. Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a heavy casserole pan over moderate heat. Add the onions and fry for 10 to 12 minutes, until soft, translucent, and just beginning to turn brown.
  3. Add the pasta and toast in the pan for about 3 minutes, until the pasta turns golden brown. Add the rice, bay leaves and cinnamon and stir to coat the rice evenly with oil and continue cooking for another minute or two to bring out the flavor of the spices.
  4. Add the teaspoon of salt and all of the hot stock or water, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, cover with a lid and simmer for about 12 minutes. At this point all the liquid should have been absorbed.
  5. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, place a folded kitchen towel over the top of the pot and return the lid. Leave the rice to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. (The towel absorbs the steam coming off the rice so it can finish cooking without extra moisture dripping back on to the grains- this makes it nice and fluffy)

Notes:

This combined recipe worked fine. The rice and vermicelli was cooked well, but somehow I didn’t like it as much as last time. Not sure why. We still had leftover dukkah from last time, so that was the same. And I served it with lentils again. Maybe next time I will omit the nutmeg and use the cinnamon stick? Or add more onions? Maybe I was just missing the roasted butternut squash? This recipe made quite a bit, and it’s quite heavy on the noodles. I think next time I will use less noodles, maybe just 2 or 3 ounces instead of 4? Butternut squash season is over, so I served it with roasted cauliflower and israeli salad. I loved the israeli salad with it. The bright, fresh, lemony flavor really helped balance out the meal.

The cookbook says to serve it with yogurt seasoned with salt and garlic, and chopped parsley. I think that would also have gone well. The online recipe has you make a tomato sauce. Apparently this is quite typical as a bunch of online recipes add this component. But it just seemed like one more step, and I didn’t have the energy. Maybe next time.

Again Alma wouldn’t touch the dish. Nor would she eat the plain lentils. She just had roasted cauliflower and Israeli salad for dinner.

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Red lentil and roasted carrot soup with za’atar

November 8, 2020 at 4:02 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, Other, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

This is another recipe from the cookbook Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson. I chose it because I had a lot of carrots to use up, and because I have very few recipes that call for zaatar. The recipe is pretty simple. You toss carrots and onions with ground cumin and coriander and olive oil, then roast them in the oven in a covered roasting tin until tender. Meanwhile you cook the red lentils. When the veggies are cooked you puree them with the cooked red lentils. The final soup is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar.

The recipe calls for 500g carrots, which sounded like a lot, but actually was only like 3 of my very large carrots. I decided to make 1.5 times the recipe, but when I went to start the lentil I discovered I actually only had 300g of red lentils, enough for slightly more than 1 recipe (which calls for 250g). So I used mung dal for the last 100g or so of red lentils. I don’t know how that changed the flavor. I quite liked the recipe. The soup by itself I found rather plain and uninspiring, but when drizzled with olive oil and za’atar it really popped. I loved the herbal note the za’atar added.

Alma begged me not to make this dish, and refused to even try it at first. So I put hers through a sieve. (My stick blender didn’t get the soup all that smooth, and the little textured bits bothered her.) Then she said she *loved* it, even though she wouldn’t let me add any olive oil or za’atar to hers. She had two small bowls of sieved soup, but then when I served leftovers for lunch a few days later she refused to have any.

Derek said he thought the base soup was fine…. pleasant. Not thrilling but solid. He said it tasted like something he’d get at Cafe Schrill. He wasn’t so excited about the za’atar on top. He didn’t disliked it, but he didn’t think it added all that much. Weird. He rated it a B.

I think this is a nice mostly-pantry-ingredients recipe. Carrots aren’t strictly pantry ingredients, but I usually have them around, and all of the remaining ingredients truly are from the pantry. This soup would make a nice starter before some very tasty but hard-to-make-a-lot of recipe, or before or tasty but lighter main dish.

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Sesame fried tofu, bok choy, and quick pickled carrots

November 1, 2020 at 11:05 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Tofu) ()

A friend gifted Derek a copy of the cookbook Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson (thanks Satnam!) and I went through it on Friday and chose a couple of recipes to try. The first one we tried (for lunch today) was a recipe for sesame fried tofu, bok choy, and quick pickled carrots.

Overall, the results were mixed.  Derek felt it mostly tasted pretty good (though a bit like something you would get at an upmarket “healthy Asian” fast food place, “healthy Asian” is a joke — it involved 6 Tbsp oil for what is supposed to be a “light lunch”).  I felt it was too acidic and unbalanced and somehow made me feel icky afterward (a bit like the Ottolenghi recipe with soba, mango, and eggplant that everyone raves about).  Alma barely touched it (but we kind of expected that).  We both agreed that the fried tofu didn’t have much flavor on its own had a distinct note of raw cornstarch.  It mostly just tasted crunchy.  Our usual method of sauteing tofu in the pan would have been preferable.  This could indicate we did something wrong, but since the frying instructions were not detailed, it’s hard to know what.

We had some issues with the recipe:  1. It seemed to call for a huge amount of cornstarch and sesame seeds.  We were not surprised when the tofu ended up tasting like cornstarch and somewhat raw sesame seeds.  2. It said to drain the carrots after adding some salt, but no water came out even after letting it sit for quite a while.  And even after adding the lime juice the carrots didn’t really taste pickled to me. They just tasted like grated carrots with lime juice on them. 3. The recipe called for “2 bok choys, halved” but we had enormous bok choys from our CSA farm (about as big as Derek’s head!), so it was hard to know exactly how much to use or how to cook them.  4. We didn’t know what light soy sauce was (so we our regular soy sauce and cut the amount in half and it was still plenty salty), and we didn’t know what “runny honey” was, so we just used regular honey.  5. The recipe called for 3 Tbsp oil for frying the tofu, but this mostly got absorbed by the first batch, so we had to add additional oil for the second batch.  Also, we didn’t have sunflower oil, so used olive oil. Could this have affected the absorption?  Seems unlikely.

Overall, Derek thought the combination of flavors was good and would make it again except with our normal sauteed tofu preparation.  I thought the flavor profile was broadly similar to the “tofu steaks” and bok choy dish from Peter Berley, but I much prefer that recipe.

If we were going to try to make the sesame crusted tofu again I think I would toss it with just a little big of cornstarch (not 100g!) and sesame seeds and bake it on a pan in the oven.

The recipe says to serve it with avocado (optional), but we didn’t have any. I doubt the addition would have changed my overall opinion.

Derek: 3/5
Rose: 2/5

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