Wednesday, 4 May 2011

PILAF, GREEK STYLE (Pilafi - Πιλάφι)

Love this rice dish!  It is a pilaf (pilafi in Greek), meaning it's cooked in broth and has vegetables mixed into it. Various versions of pilafs are popular in the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, Greece. I bet once upon a time there was an original recipe that got carried by ancient traders from Mediterranean coast to Mediterranean coast. People loved it, and adapted it to suit their tastes. So today we have all these rice pilaf variations, and as far as I am concerned they are all great. I never say no to rice! Which I find ironic now that I think of it, because up until the age of twenty or so, I wouldn't go anywhere near it ... Greeks have a plain version of pilaf made with just broth and butter, and then they have this one. It can be served on its own, in which case I can have a whole plateful, or it can be served as a side dish in which case I can have two tablespoons. Correction: three tablespoons. It can also be used as a stuffing. Come autumn, stuff squash with it why don't you? Here's how to make Greek rice pilaf:

Ingredients: 
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, chopped
  • 4 mushrooms sliced
  • 5 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped 
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, roasted
  • 3 cups vegetable broth that has been brought to the boil
  • 1  1/2 cups of rice (raw, white -- I like to use long grain or basmati rice for this recipe)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • a small handful of peeled and roasted almonds for decoration

Directions:
  • If your raisins are really dry, place them in water to cover and let them stay in the water until they plump up and soften.
  • Place the almonds and pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in a preheated 350°F/180°C oven until they are aromatic and golden in colour. Remove them from the oven, let them cool and reserve.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onion until it becomes translucent.  
  • Add the garlic, parsley, dill, lettuce, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the rice, raisins, pine nuts and mix well. 
  • Add the broth and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for about twenty minutes, until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and moist.  
  • Let the rice rest for 5 to 10 minutes. It will absorb any liquid that is left over. You want a rice that glistens and is moist but is not mushy, dry or runny.  
  • Place on a serving platter and decorate the top with the roasted almonds.
Serve and enjoy!