Rice pudding with cardamon and rosewater

A wonderful desert that is easy to make and just perfect if you have some leftover rice. The taste is a delight, like walking in a scented garden.

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I used cooked rice with raisins. The raisins can be added during the preparation if you prefer, and dates as well.

For one cup of prepared rice with raisins:
1- Place the rice in a large pot and cover with milk. (I only use whole milk) Bring to the point of boiling, then lower the flame.
[At this point you can add some raisins and/or dates cut in small pieces.]
2- Add a pinch of salt, the seeds of seven cardamon pods and half a cup of brown sugar, or less if you prefer (you can always add some later). You can replace the brown sugar with honey as well (maple syrup might change the taste too much). Use less honey as it has a “sweeter” taste than brown sugar.
3- Mix from time to time while it cooks. Let it cook for about 20 minutes.
4- Add one tablespoon of rosewater at the very end and mix.

Place in the fridge. It should be eaten cold.

Rice and lentils with dates and raisins

Rice with lentils is one of those dishes that in any culture, brings the memory of home whether you call it Addas polo in Farsi or Arroz con lentejas in Spanish. Here is a most delicious Iranian version with a topping of onion, dates and raisins. The sweet and sour combination is a delight.

The original recipe as seen in this book, calls for cooking the lentils and the rice together, and for adding walnuts. Here I have not used walnuts thinking that it would make the dish too heavy, and I cooked the rice and lentils separately. I also changed a few spices.

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For the lentils
1- Wash one and half cup of brown lentils and let them soak in water. Since San Miguel is almost 2’000 meters in altitude and it takes longer for anything to cook, I let them soak all night.
2- In a large pot, place some olive oil, one teaspoon of cumin, one teaspoon of cilantro seeds crushed, a little bit of cinnamon grated, one teaspoon of turmeric, one teaspoon of black pepper crushed and some fresh ginger root smashed or grated. When the spices start giving their aroma, add the lentils with the water and add more water to make sure all the lentils are covered.
3- Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until the lentils are done. About 25 minutes.

For the date and raisin topping
1- Slice half a red onion in very thin slices. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt and a little bit of flour.
2- In a small pan, place a little bit of oil and fry the onion slices until they take a gold color. Add a handful of golden raisins and a handful of dates previously cut in small chunks.
3- Mix well and allow the mix to cook on very low fire (so it does not burn) for about 10 minutes.

For the rice
1- Cook one and half cups of Basmati rice as you would normally do.
2- When the cooking is done, take half a cup of the cooked rice and mix it with three tablespoons of Saffron liquid (recipe here). Return the now yellow rice to the white rice and mix.

To serve: place the rice is a bowl; add the lentils then some of the date and raisin topping. Place a bowl with yoghurt, cumin, fresh mint and cucumbers on the side.

Saffron, lime and yoghurt marinated chicken

Another delight with saffron inspired by a recipe in this book “The Saffron Tales”!

I served it with potato Kuku (recipe here) and a yoghurt salad with cucumber and mint (recipe here, minus the garlic, as there is enough of it with the chicken). I used free range chicken and it was delicious!

I prepared the chicken in cubes from breast filets, and you can also prepare this dish with chicken parts (with bones and skin). The trick to make it really tender is to let it marinate for at least four hours. In my case, I leave it all night, preparing it just before I go to bed and cooking it in time for lunch.

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For two filets of chicken breast
1- Prepare the chicken: cut and clean, and set aside. If you are making it with whole pieces, make sure you discard the excess fat and place some cuts in the meat so that it takes in the marinade.
2- In a bowl mix: three quarters of a cup of Greek styled yoghurt, two garlic cloves crushed, a teaspoon of brown sugar (this helps bring all the flavours together), half a teaspoon of turmeric, the juice of one lime, two tablespoons of Saffron liquid (recipe here), two tablespoons of light olive oil, and some salt and pepper to taste.
3- Place the chicken pieces in a glass (not plastic!) container and make sure they are all well coated. Cover and place in the fridge. As I wrote earlier, let it stand for at least four hours.
4- In an oven baking dish, place the chicken pieces without any excess yoghurt sauce, and cook for 40 to 50 minutes in a 180º c. oven. Mix from time to time so that the pieces cook evenly. All the liquid should have evaporated by the time it is done.

Serve topped with freshly chopped cilantro, accompanied by rice or potatoes, and a nice cucumber salad.

Yoghurt salade with cucumbers and raisins

This dish is widely served across the Middle East and South Asia. According to traditional wisdom, its cooling ingredients, especially the yoghurt, cucumber and mint combination, helps with digestion and to off-set any negative effects from eating a spiced dish. I serve it at home with almost everything!

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For one cup of Greek styled yoghurt
1- Wash and peel a cucumber, preferably organic. Slice in the middle and take out the seeds scraping them with a small spoon. Then cut the cucumber in small cubes.

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2- Mix in with the cup of Greek styled yoghurt: one glove of garlic smashed, salt and pepper to taste, a small handful of raisins (preferably golden), the cucumber cubes and  handful of fresh mint leaves. You can also use dried mint if you do not have any fresh one.

Serve in a bowl to accompany the main dish. 

Note: I often use plain natural yoghurt and it is as delicious!

Potato Kuku

Inspired by a recipe from this book “The Saffron Tales,” this is a great way to prepare potatoes. These tasty delights are known as Kuku in Farsi, and are traditionally fried. By using a muffin tray, the Kuku come out fluffy and very light.

You can serve them to accompany a main dish at lunch (as I did with a fish filet broiled with ginger and sesame seeds); or as a light dinner with a yoghurt, cucumber and fresh mint salad on the side.

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For 500 gr of small potatoes
1- Wash the potatoes well and place them in a large pan with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until a fork can pierce through them. I always cook potatoes with their skin as it contains half of their vitamins.
2- While the potatoes are cooking, fry rapidly a very small red onion and when they become translucent add two cloves of garlic smashed. If the potatoes are still not done, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
3- In a small bowl mix: half a tablespoon of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, some pepper and salt, and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Set aside.
4- In another bowl, whisk rapidly three organic eggs.
5- Finally, chop some fresh cilantro and set aside.
6- Now drain the potatoes, wait for them to cool a little and peel. Mash the potatoes and set aside.
7- Pre-heat the over at 180º C.
8- Mix in with the potato mash: the flour mixture and mix; the eggs and mix; and finally the cilantro and two tablespoons of Saffron liquid (recipe “Preserving Saffron” here).
9- Place one large tablespoon or a bit more in per paper lined compartment of a muffin baking dish, as you would do for regular muffins. Bake for 25 minutes reducing the oven temperature to 170 C.

To serve: take out each little Kuku from its paper wrap, and place on a serving plate. For the left overs, keep them in a sealed container in the fridge and just heat them up in a toaster oven. They are also delicious at room temperature.