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Tilda Vintage Basmati

A special dinner party guest.

We all know that good wine, ham, cheeses and Daniel Craig get better with age, but I’ve just discovered that Basmati rice does too. And what a great find. I was intrigued when I recently opened up a very posh looking box of limited edition Tilda Vintage Basmati rice. The stylish black casing gave it such a special look and quite rightly too. It is a truly delicious ingredient.

Apparently, when rice farmers have a ‘good year’ they usually keep some back for themselves to use on special occasions. The clever people at Tilda have done exactly this with the ‘excellent’ 2006 harvest and boxed it up beautifully.

I must admit I was wondering if there would be a difference to Tilda’s regular dry Basmati Rice, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s even richer, sweeter, with a lovely nutty aroma making it the perfect accompaniment to pretty much anything. The polished dry grains are more refined and there are zero broken grains in the pack, meaning the starch content is even lower guaranteeing a lighter, fluffier texture when cooked.

So since this is extra special rice – I figured it deserves to be treated well and cooked up for a dinner party rather than simply being used as my everyday rice.

For me, planning a dinner party menu is the fun part and I’ll start off by setting a theme or cuisine style. My first thought was to go for an Indian themed menu since basmati is traditionally associated with Indian food. However, to ring the changes I opted for a Middle Eastern menu, which offers such a variety of exciting flavour combinations.

Griddled, spiced Halloumi with tomato, cucumber and mint salad.

This starter is very simple as you can get everything ready, except for the cooking part well in advance of your guests arriving.

To make this I cut Halloumi cheese into slices and marinated it for a couple of hours in a good drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ground coriander and dried chilli flakes. For the salad, I roughly chopped super ripe tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and mixed with loads of fresh chopped mint and a handful of pitted black Kalamata olives.

Just before serving I tossed them in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil. I cooked the Halloumi on an oiled griddle until golden, scattered over some toasted sesame seeds and served with the salad and warm flatbread. Everyone was happy and I was feeling relaxed (probably due to the cocktail I’d had when everyone arrived).

Baked Persian lamb and sweet-spiced Vintage Basmati.

Now for our main course – this is where I really wanted to make the most of the Tilda Vintage Basmati Rice, something that would benefit from the richer, more separate grain. I thought I’d prepare a dish that I could leave to cook while my friends arrived, leaving the serving up as the only thing left to do. I decided upon making a Baked Persian lamb and sweet-spiced Basmati dish.

The nutty flavour and sweetness of the rice would tie in beautifully with the lamb and all the aromatic flavours I intended to use with it. The one problem you can come across when baking/braising rice is that it can become heavy and starchy – but using the vintage rice and soaking it in cold water for 30 minutes before cooking gave impressive results. Everyone tucked in, really enjoying all of the flavours in the dish and luckily for me, there was plenty for seconds. (See below recipe).

The final hurdle – Middle Eastern Chocolate Torte

When I have a dinner party this is one thing I like to know is ready prepared with just last minute finishing off just before serving. This is because by the time it’s dessert time (usually about ten o clock!) I’ve had a bit of wine and don’t trust myself with a blow torch for example, or anything sharp.

I decided upon making a flourless almond based chocolate torte, which is big enough to serve at least 8 people, so plenty for seconds. To add a Middle Eastern touch I topped it with some whipped cream flavoured with a rose liqueur that I’ve recently discovered (a splash of rose water and some icing sugar will also do the trick).

The cloud-like cream was spooned on top of the torte. I scattered over a handful of edible rose petals and some chopped pretty green pistachio nuts. A scattering of pomegranate seeds would also have been nice but I’d used them up on the main course.

I presented my masterpiece on a cake stand and we managed to almost eat the whole lot – saving (luckily for me) a little as an afternoon treat the next day.

All in all it was a perfect dinner party – games started and before we knew it everyone had to leave, leaving us with the washing, which we left until the next morning (naughty us!).

Remaining Vintage Basmati Rice.

I only used 350g of the 500g bag and rather than save it for my next dinner party I thought I’d treat my husband and I to it the following evening.

It was a Sunday and I made us a South Indian chicken curry (perfect comfort food). It’s mildly spiced, so I thought I’d add some additional flavours to the rice to compliment the curry. After soaking the rice in cold water for 30 minutes, I rinsed it until the water ran clear under the cold tap. I then cooked the rice using the covered pan/absorbtion method (http://www.tilda.com/our-rice/cooking-basmati-rice) and added a pinch of salt, few cardamom pods, a stick of cinnamon and a pinch of dried flaked chilli.

The results were amazing. It had a lovely aroma, distinctive spiced flavour and the rice was really fluffy. It was just what we needed and this time we did the washing up before we went to bed.

Baked Persian lamb and sweet-spiced Vintage Basmati.

Serves 4-6

350g Tilda Vintage Basmati Rice

900g diced lamb leg

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 onions, finely sliced

2cm piece peeled root ginger, grated

3 cloves garlic, crushed

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

1 litre hot lamb stock

75g dried cherries

50ml pomegranate molasses, plus extra to serve

100g toasted pinenuts

100g fresh pomegranate seeds

1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the rice in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse in a sieve with cold water until the water runs clear.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan ovens/gas 6.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole and cook the onion for 10 minutes until softened and golden. Increase the heat and add the garlic, ginger and lamb. Fry until the lamb is browned all over. Stir in the spices and cook for about 1 minute before adding the drained rice. Stir until coated in the spices then add the stock, dried cherries and pomegranate molasses. Bring to the simmer and cover with a lid.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until the stock is absorbed into the rice, and the lamb is meltingly tender.

Run a fork through the rice to separate the grains, which will be lovely and fluffy and season with salt and pepper. Stir through the toasted pinenuts and serve onto plates. To finish off, scatter over pomegranate seeds, chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Turkey Kedgeree

SPICED TURKEY KEDGEREE

I love to make this on boxing day for brunch. It’ s a perfect way to use up any leftover turkey without having to go to too much time and effort, and is full of delicious flavour.

Serves 4

300g Tilda basmati rice

upto 350g  cooked turkey – torn/cut into strips

250ml milk

2 onions, finely chopped

75g butter

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger

2 fresh red or green chillies (green ones are a lot milder), de-seeded and finely chopped

1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)

small bunch of coriander or parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 free range or organic eggs, hard boiled

coriander and sliced spring onion to garnish

Cook the basmati rice according to the packet. Either leave to cool, or speed the process up, by cooling under the cold tap. Darin well.

Cold leftover turkey can be a little dry, so put it in a saucepan with the milk. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave for 5 minutes.

In a frying pan, melt the butter and slowly cook the onion with the cumin, coriander, ginger, chilli and mustard seeds, until the onion is lovely and soft but not browned.

Remove the turkey from the milk and add it to the onions along with the rice. Stir over the heat until the rice has heated through again. Add the milk, coriander and seasoning. Stir to combine and serve with the eggs, chopped coriander or parsley and spring onion to garnish.

Serve straight away.

In the Mood for Holiday Food

IN THE MOOD FOR HOLIDAY FOOD

Hooray – I’ve booked a summer holiday and am off to stay in a villa in Andalucia with my family in a few weeks. Can’t wait. I love Spain and their delicious cuisine.

We’ve chosen go self-catering in a villa, as in my opinion they’re best sort of holidays. My husband and I have two small children that require a whole pile of organizing, and if we’re stay in a hotel just getting them dressed to go to the restaurant each night is a challenge in itself, let alone trying to make it to dessert before they turn into little monsters.

With the option of sitting down and enjoying a chilled out meal in the comfort of our own villa, at a time that suits us seems to be the best solution. It’s also a brilliant way of getting to cook with some delicious local ingredients, which for me makes the whole experience an exciting challenge.

Of course, holidays are all about relaxing so when it comes to the actual cooking, simple to prepare dishes are essential, keeping time in the kitchen to a minimum. I have recently written some holiday food recipes for villarenters.com for their new collection of Gastro Villas. It’s well worth visiting the site, whether you’re looking to book a holiday or to check out some of my holiday food recipes, for Spain, France and Italy.

Oh – and of course I mustn’t forget to say – your weekly alcohol allowance is on hold when you’re on holiday, so make sure you enjoy the fantastic wine matches selected by my good friend the wine expert Susie Barrie from Winchester Wine School.

Below is one of my favourite Spanish dishes including wine matches from the Villarenters site, that I made for Susie and her fellow wine expert husband Peter Richards a couple of weekends ago which went down a treat. I will certainly be making it again when I am on holiday.

SEAFOOD PAELLA

Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off this recipe, there is very little preparation to do. If you don’t have a paella pan, a large frying pan will be fine. However , it’s well worth picking a paella pan if you ever see one on your travels as they are really cheap, come in all sizes and are light weight enough to take home.

You can cook the paella on the hob or you can even place the pan on the barbecue outside.

serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 red pepper, sliced

300g paella rice

1 large glass of white wine (about 250ml)

a large pinch of saffron strands

1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika or standard sweet paprika

1 litre hot fish or chicken stock

500g shellfish such as mussels and/or clams, cleaned

8-12 raw large prawns

2 small-medium squid, cleaned and cut into rings

100g frozen peas, defrosted, or fresh green beans chopped

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan or a very large frying pan. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper, and sauté until the onion has softened.

Stir in the rice for a minute or so until it is coated in the oil, then add the wine, saffron, paprika and enough stock to cover the rice (about two-thirds of the measured quantity). Stir well and bring to a simmer. Allow to gently cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add some more of the stock if it is being absorbed too quickly.

Stir in the mussels, clams, prawns, squid, peas and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the remaining stock, cover tightly with foil and leave to gently cook over a low heat for about 10–15 minutes, until the rice is tender and the seafood is cooked through (the mussel and clam shells should be open).

Sprinkle over the parsley and place the lemon wedges on top and serve.

PS…

To clean the mussels and clams, wash and scrub under cold running water, discarding any open shells that don’t close when tapped. It is also worth remembering that any shells that haven’t opened once the paella is cooked, should be discarded.

If you want to make a Paella Mixta, then add 100g of thickly sliced or chopped chorizo and 4 boned and roughly chopped chicken thighs to the sautéed onion. Cook until the chicken is golden. Add the rice and follow the recipe as above, cutting down on the quantity of seafood.

Susie Barrie’s wine selection…

Wine Option One:

Albariño is the ultimate Spanish seafood white. Deliciously crisp and herbal in style it will perfectly off-set the richness of the rice and bring out all of those enticing flavours of the sea.

Wine Option Two:

A grassy Verdejo from Rueda is the Spanish equivalent of a punchy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and it has just the right mix of crunchy, green flavours to complement this Spanish seafood classic.

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