Category Archives: Rice

Spiced Chick Peas and Basmati Rice

DSCN5847 This is another family favourite, for several reasons. This is student food (or harassed parent food) at its very best. It is very quick to put a nourishing and filling meal on the table. It is dead easy to put together. It is one of those forgiving recipes that you can tinker with to produce different flavours, and it always comes out just hitting the spot. This is a store cupboard special, where the hardest part is chopping up an onion and squashing a clove of garlic.

The recipe is for 4 people, but it is very easy to scale up to account for how many people you are serving.

Time to prepare and cook about 25 – 45 minutes, dependent on the time it takes to cook your rice.



per person 80/100 gm basmati rice

1 large onion, sliced

1 clove of garlic

1 -2 tablespoons olive oil

1 x 454 gm/1 lb tin of chick peas

1 x 454 gm/1 lb tin of chopped tomatoes

1 level teaspoon curry powder/paste or to taste

2 cups frozen peas (optional)

salt and pepper to taste


Put a pan of salted water on to boil for the rice.

Meanwhile slice the onion and put it in to a saucepan with the oil and saute gently for 5 minutes.

As soon as the rice water boils, add the rice, bring back up to the boil and simmer to cook (this is how much time you have left to cook the chick peas and tomatoes!). If you have ample time you can save some money by looking at my suggestions for ‘slow’ cooking here .

Meanwhile add the minced garlic to the onions and saute for another 2 minutes.


Add the chick peas, tomatoes and frozen peas.  Increase the heat to bring to a boil. reduce the heat to simmer.

Add the curry powder and season to taste.

As soon as the rice is cooked, serve everything on hot plates.


Here I have served it with Stir Fried Cabbage (the recipe here) as well as the basmati rice.







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Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Main Meal, Pulses, Beans and Nuts, Rice, Spicy, Student Food, Student Food

Stuffed Sweet Chillis


I originally tried this Spanish recipe from a blog by Frank Camorra. I was unable to buy either the cheese (shanklish), or the grain (freekah) that he used. This for me is a recurring theme. This is after all Northern Italy and I live in a mountain village. If I lived in Milan or Turin, then maybe I could buy them. That said however there are a number of North Africans living in the vicinity and I feel a trip to nearby Biella coming. Biella, the regional capital, is a small city which does have a few ‘ethnic’ shops, which I do from time to time look into, to see what is on sale. Time perhaps to investigate  again.

However, I am not easily put off, and so I substituted with parmesan (although I intend to try feta next time), and a combination of kamut and wild rice. Kamut is an ancient grain, supposedly used in Egypt during the times of the pharaohs, very similar to wheat and has a nutty flavour. Used in this recipe it gives a satisfying texture.

When you buy the chillis, make sure that you buy the straightest available to enable stuffing with ease.

Serves 3 or 6. Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 35 minutes


I large onion roughly chopped

3 sticks of celery cut into 6 mm/ 1/4 inch thick slices

2 or 3 gloves of garlic, minced

200 gm/ kamut or wheat

50 gm/wild rice

2 tomatoes roughly chopped or 225 gm/ 1/2 lb tinned chopped tomatoes

400 ml/water

Juice and grated rind of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

salt and pepper

6 large sweet chillis

150 gm/ 5 oz parmesan roughly grated.


The day before, put the kamut and wild rice in a saucepan, cover with the water and leave to soften overnight or simmer for about 45 minutes if you do not want to wait for another day.

Gently saute the onion and celery for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another 2 minutes.

Drain the wheat and rice and add to the onion,celery and garlic.

Add the tomatoes, lemon juice and grated rind and the herbs.


Simmer for about 15 minutes without covering to allow some of the liquid to reduce.


Meanwhile with a sharp knife cut a 1 cm/ 1/2 inch slot down the length of each chilli to allow ease of stuffing.

Season to your taste and then stir in 3/4 of the parmesan.


Carefully stuff the mixture into each chilli, sprinkle the rest of the parmesan on the stuffing and then arrange in a greased baking dish.

Bake for about 25 minutes in a pre heated oven set at 180 C/350 F/ Gas 4/ Moderate, until the chillis have softened and the stuffing is heated through.

Serve immediately


Here I have served them with the simple addition of boiled potatoes and steamed carrots

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Filed under All Year, Cheese, Main Meal, Rice, Vegetables

Cooking to Save Money and Time


There are times when cooking, that with a little forethought and planning it is possible to save cooking time and also some money. I am not talking just about making sure that the oven is full when you are cooking or that one dish comes out and another goes straight in. That is a given in my book. even though I find it difficult to achieve at times, especially when where bread or rolls are concerned.

No, what I am talking about are the little shortcuts that I have come to use over the years, and what I thought everyone knew about. I recall many years ago when I was a boy scout that one of the cooking tips was, at breakfast time,  to put potatoes in a vacuum flask, filled with boiling water, and come dinner time they would be cooked. To the best of my knowledge and memory no one did it. What follows is a logical extension of that and  will probably horrify the purists and food fascists, but who pays my, and your, energy bills anyway? So here goes.

Rice is added to boiling water and brought back up to the boil, a lid put on and the heat turned off . Then I set the timer for not quite double the cooking time. For 12 minute rice I would ‘slow’ cook it for 20 minutes, then put the heat on again and bring it back up to the boil, drain and serve. For wholemeal or brown rice which has a much longer cooking time it would be to a similar formula. You would have to experiment with your favourite brand of rice to establish the ideal time, but that would be no big deal.

Pasta can be ‘slow’cooked the same as with rice.

Potatoes as I alluded to above can be put into a vacuum flask, however my 1/2 litre/16 fl oz vacuum flask only has an opening of 3 cm/ 1 1/2 inches, but I cut a potato to roughly 3 cm/ 1 1/2 inch chunks, put them in the flask, half filling it. I then filled it with freshly boiled water and set a timer. After 6 hours they were firm but edible. Another hour and they were perfect. So 7 hours and done, but I would struggle to put a meal on the table with the contents of a small vacuum flask. You would need to experiment because different flasks have different rates of heat loss etc and different potatoes would cook faster or slower, but you probably get the idea.


Red Lentils take about 15 minutes to cook, but this can be reduced to 5 minutes by covering with cold water an hour and a half before hand, bring up to the boil and simmer to complete. Care needs to be taken as some recipes specify an exact quantity of water that will be totally absorbed during the cooking cycle, in which case add the specified amount of water.

Green or Brown lentils take about 35 to 40 minutes to cook and soften, but by covering with cold water the night before they will absorb water and soften. At 12 hours they will have swollen and absorbed a lot of water, and they will be soft enough to eat, requiring only sufficient energy to heat them up.

Dried Beans can be soaked in plenty of cold water for 24 hours at least before cooking and reduce the cooking time. Their volume will increase by about 3 times so make sure there is plenty of water. Drain and refill with fresh water for cooking. It is well to note here that the older the beans, the longer they take to cook, so eat your old stock on a regular basis to save cooking time. Also remember that only add salt once the beans have softened to the required degree. If you add salt before they have softened they will never soften by boiling.

Advantages to cooking this way. What this has meant for me is that in some instances I have had to adjust some of my cooking procedures to take into account the lengthened cooking times. So that sometimes I now start with rice instead of the accompanying vegetables, but this is an adjustment that takes very little getting used to. But my actual use of energy has gone down, and I quite like that.

As Kryten, the mechanoid, (see here for explanation of Kryten) in Red Dwarf occasionally said – smug mode!


Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Recipes, Rice, Vegetables

Mejadara – Lebanese Onions, Lentils and Rice


OK  I have entitled it Lebanese, but strictly speaking it is Middle Eastern and depending which area you happen upon, so the recipe and the name will be slightly different. Mejadara is ubiquitous and like pizza, all areas claim it as theirs, well now it can be yours.

It is very tasty and distinctly moreish. It is also very easy to produce and makes full use of the store cupboard and only needs fresh onions to put a meal on the table in about 40 minutes.

This a dish that cries out to be brought to the table on a serving dish, and you could enhance the appearance by sprinkling roughly torn coriander or parsley leaves across the top just before serving.

If you like this and start to make this on a frequent basis you could make a batch of Mejadara Spice and bottle it for future use.

Serves 4. Total time 40 minutes.


250 gm/ 8 oz/ 1 cup  green or brown lentils

2 cloves of garlic crushed

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar

200 gm/ 7 oz/ 1 scant cup  basmati rice ( NB – cooking time in this recipe is for 15 minute rice)

350 ml/11 fl oz/1  1/4 cups hot water



Start off with the lentils as they will need the longest to cook. So put 2 tablespoons of oil in a 2 litre/ 3 pint saucepan, and gently saute the garlic for about 4 minutes.

Add the spices and stir them thoroughly for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the lentils and cover well with hot water. Bring to the boil and simmer with a lid on for 12 minutes.


Meanwhile finely slice the onions. In a large frying pan heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the gently saute the onions for about 15 to 20 minutes until they are caramelizing and turning golden brown.  add more oil if needed. Sprinkle with enough salt to make them slightly salty to your taste.

Back to the lentils. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and taste. It should be slightly sweet to the taste. Add more if you prefer.

Add the rice and the rest of the water to the lentil mixture, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. After 10 minutes check to ensure that there is sufficient water covering the rice. The idea is to complete the rice and reduce the water to almost nothing. Finish cooking without the lid on if necessary.

Stir half the onions into the rice and lentils. Serve onto the middle of hot plates. Serve the rest of the onions on top of the rice and lentil mixture.

You could also top it with several dessertspoons of yoghurt.



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Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Main Meal, Pulses, Beans and Nuts, Rice, Spicy, Student Food


Arancini are one of those delights that one stumbles upon from time to time. It is a classic example of ‘poor’ cooking from the south of Italy. Various regions of Italy claim it as their own, but like bubble and squeak in Britain, it was probably a common sense solution for left over food, and the regions of Italy all have their own versions of it.

Keep that in mind, because in Sicily, they put meat in the mix, and elsewhere you will find different cheeses involved, with a cube wrapped in rice mix, and so there is not really a definitive recipe as such, but more a solution for making the best of what you have to hand.

I have made versions that have dried mixed herbs, instead of those listed below. I have also made some with a distinctly Asian flavour with curry powder in them. All arancini freeze very well, both before the final frying and after, when they just need reheating in the microwave.

Makes 16, to serve four generously.


25 g/1 oz/1 tablespoon unsalted butter
200 g/7 oz/1 cup
rice cooked
500 ml/16 fl oz/2 cups  stock
1 tbsp
olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

salt and pepper
50 g/2 oz/2 1/2 tablespoons grated cheese (parmesan or cheddar)
1½ tsp ground allspice
15 g/1/2 oz/1 tablespoon chopped dill
10 g/ 1/2 oz chopped mint or 1½ tsp dried mint
About 50 g/2 oz/2 1/2 tablespoons plain flour, for rolling
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150 g/5 oz/1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
About 300 ml/ 10 fl oz/1 1/4 cup sunflower oil, for frying
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges, to serve


1.Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat, add the onion and garlic, and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened..

2.Add a little salt, to your taste, and a good grind of black pepper. Cook for five minutes more, stirring occasionally.

3.Drain most of the oil from the pan (alternatively, transfer the mixture to a colander and leave it to drain for a few minutes,

4. Add  the cheese  to the warm rice with the allspice, dill, fresh or dried mint, and some more black pepper. Stir, then

5. Use your hands to shape the mixture into balls weighing about 50g each, the size of small golf balls.

6. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Roll the rice-and-meatballs first in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs, so they’re well coated.

7. Pour enough sunflower oil into a medium saucepan pan so that it rises 1cm up the sides. Put the pan on a medium-high heat and, once it’s up to temperature (test by dropping in a cube of bread: it should sizzle and turn golden and crisp in about 40 seconds), fry the balls in batches for four to five minutes, turning so they colour and crisp on all sides. Transfer to a kitchen paper-lined plate and keep somewhere warm while you cook the remaining arancini.

8. Serve hot with a wedge of lemon on the side, or with a suitable sauce such as spicy tomato

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01/12/2013 · 2:21 pm