This recipe is one of my personal favorites. It’s from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s book Turquoise (a culinary travel journey through Turkey) and I have to say, I’ve yet to find one bad recipe in this cookbook (and I’m actually gonna try the Circassian chicken in a few days – I’ll try to let you know how that turns out). I read in a review somewhere that it’s a more a ‘coffee table book’ than a cookbook, but I totally disagree. For those who like the Eastern Mediterranean kitchen but still seek some moderation, this is a great book. By the way, if anyone can find me the Maloufs’ other cookbook about Lebanon somewhere, I’d be really happy to know (I found it at a bookshop at the Istanbul airport once and I still regret not buying it since I can’t seem to find it now).
So, here comes the recipe. Preferably, serve with some spicy marinated chicken, lamb kebabs or a Middle Eastern-inspired salad (for example: pomegranate is available everywhere throughout the winter season and a great salad ingredient – I will post my favorite pomegranate salad ASAP!).
Ingredients for 4 to 6 persons ( I count about 50 grams of rice per person):
250 gr basmati rice
500 ml chicken stock (I use water with stock cubes, vegetarians can use vegetarian stock)
50 gr butter
6 fresh medjoul dates, without stone and chopped (if you don’t have medjoul dates, use some more small dates)
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of ground pigment (I use a mixture of mild paprika and chili powder)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (I never measure how much I sprinkle on but I’m guessing it’s more than a teaspoon)
a pinch of spicy pigment powder
a pinch of seasalt (or fleur de sel)
peel of half an orange, in a long strip
2 tbsp of chopped flatleaf parsley
for the nut garnish:
2 tbsp olive oil
50 gr almonds, roughly chopped
50 gr pine nuts
a teaspoon of cinnamon
a pinch of sea salt (I prefer fleur de sel)
How to prepare:
Start with the rice. When I’m preparing a meal with several courses, I always try to think of the rice in the preparations. Washing the rice beforehand actually makes it less sticky, as it removes some of the starch. Put the rice in a large bowl and rinse under cold water. Drain the water, then rinse again (you will notice the water becoming a bit white, try to rinse it until it’s not so white anymore). Do this a few times, then let the rice soak in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse one more time.
Before you start preparing the rice, bring the water with the chicken stock to a boil and let it simmer softly (or prepare the chicken stock, if you’re one of those people with lots of time).
Melt the butter in a large (heavy) skillet. Put the chopped dates in with the spices and pepper and stir until this has become a hot sticky mixture. Stir in the rice until all the grains are mixed with the spices. Now add the hot chicken stock and the seasalt. Bring to a boil, then add the orange peel (I have a tendency to forget this, which is a pity cause it really gives off a nice flavor) and turn down the fire so it simmers quietly on a very low fire. Put a lid on the skillet and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the stock has been taken up (if you notice that it’s about to burn, you can add a little water). I know you’re not really supposed to stir, but I have yet to find the perfect skillet so in my opinion, stirring is perfectly fine to prevent it from burning. When the rice is edibly soft, take the dish from the heat, cover with a clean towel and let it sit for 15 minutes.
For the nut garnish, heat the olive oil in a small skillet and bake the nuts in a few minutes until they’re golden brown. Put them in a sieve to drain. Sprinke with the cinnamon and fleur de sel and shake so that all nuts are covered in spices.
To serve, remove the orange peel from the rice and mix the parsley in with a fork. Put the rice pilav in a pretty bowl and top with the nuts. Enjoy!